But some days it's nearly impossible to get anything done. More
than any Mac I've owned, this MacBook regularly experiences
freezes, crashes, and restarts that often seem to be related to
memory issues. It's been nearly impossible to pinpoint a pattern,
but I assumed it was something installed on my machine by my
company. After reading numerous reports this week about similar
issues, I'm not so sure.
When Gregory McFadden tweeted that Control Center was
using 26GB of the 64GB of RAM on his new MacBook Pro, the
screenshot looked very familiar. While Control Center never ate up
that much RAM for me, I regularly spot spikes when using Safari and
Photoshop Elements and have seen more sporadic issues with Mail and
other apps. Sometimes the issues cause slowdowns that work
themselves out in a few minutes, other times my machine locks up
and forces a restart it.
I now keep Activity Monitor open while I work and it's
rare that the memory pressure monitor isn't yellow or red. Like
most Mac users, I tend to keep several apps idling in the
background—Mail, Music, Safari, Outlook, Word, etc.—but with the M1
MacBook, I often need to quit apps to free up application memory.
Closing Safari tabs is a regular task necessary to free up memory
and keep my machine running smoothly.
Activity Monitor often shows my memory pressure in the red.
That's extremely similar to the MacBook Pro and Monterey issues
I've read this week—except I'm still running Big Sur. That leads me
to believe it's a bigger problem that wasn't as widely reported
until now. Perhaps it's because developers tend to be more
hyper-aware of things like this or it's exacerbated by the extra
RAM in the new MacBook Pro, but the number of people experiencing
this issue appears to be growing. And I hope Apple is
When the M1 chip was released, Apple changed the way we think of
RAM on our Macs. As in the iPhone and iPad, the memory was now
affixed on the same package as the system-on-chip. The M1 Pro and
M1 Max with higher memory options, but the M1 tops out at 16GB and
As our own Jason Snell wrote back when the M1 was released, that tidy
system has benefits: The M1 processor's memory is a single pool
that's accessible by any portion of the processor. If the system
needs more memory for graphics, it can allocate that. If it needs
more memory for the Neural Engine, likewise. Even better, because
all the aspects of the processor can access all of the system
memory, there's no performance hit when the graphics cores need to
access something that was previously being accessed by a processor
core. On other systems, the data has to be copied from one portion
of memory to another—but on the M1, it's just instantly
Warnings like these—which I received while I was writing this
It's possible that macOS isn't managing this unified memory
structure properly, and will continue to allocate RAM beyond what
is available without freeing up RAM that is no longer needed. This
is commonly referred to as a memory leak. Performance gradually
deteriorates until you need to either wait for the RAM to clear,
force-quit the app, or restart the machine.
Sometimes a warning will appear when no single app is even using
that much memory and other times apps are seemingly using way more
memory than is available. I've seen single websites report using as
much as 20GB of RAM for no discernible reason, crippling my
Safari sites spiking
memory use happen on a regular basis.
Maybe now that it's more of a widespread issue, Apple will
figure it out. We've reached out to Apple for comment but haven't
heard back, and it's entirely possible that Apple fixes it in a
future version of macOS without ever addressing the issue publicly.
That's what happened with the excessive SSD usage earlier this year, though
that Applr says that was a data reporting error and not an actual
problem. The memory bug is an actual issue that needs to be fixed
as soon as possible.
In the meantime, there are a few ways to mitigate the issue. The
first is to be vigilant. As I said, keep Activity Monitor open, and
when you see an app's memory usage creeping up, address it. You can
also use a third-party memory cleaner that lets you quickly clear
RAM. Running that periodically will help keep your resources
available. And finally, stay up to date with the latest version of
Big Sur or Monterey, as a fix will hopefully arrive soon.