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Apple Mac OS X hints and tips

Solve memory fragmentation problems

Most people have heard of disk fragmentation, but what about memory fragmentation? That's mentioned much less often, so what is it?

When you run a program it is read from the disk and is stored in the Mac's memory. Open another program and it is stored in the next free space in memory. The next program is stored after that, and so on. Now suppose you quit the first program. What happens is that there is now free space where the first program used to be in memory. If you then try to start a large application, it might be too big to fit in the space left by quitting the first program and too big to fit in the memory that's remaining.

Even though you have sufficient RAM to run an application you can actually get an error message that states that you don't have enough memory to continue.

This happens on the hard disk drive, but a disk can break up a large file and store the parts in different locations. This isn't possible with a program running in memory and it needs to have a continuous block of memory to work in. If there isn't a large enough continuous block then an error message is displayed.

There are several solutions and you could quit every application that is running to free up memory. You could also shut down and restart OS X. To avoid the problem and prevent it from occuring, load the applications you want to keep first. Some tools and apps you need all the time so you keep them running and just minimise them when you aren't using them. By loading them first they grab a chunk of memory.

Programs that you are likely to quit soon should be loaded last, so that when you quit they don't leave gaps in the memory and the last item is removed rather than one in the middle of memory.



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