How much RAM do you really need?

MacBookPro M2’s have just been announced. I will wait a while before buying, however I’m curious. If you have more 32GB of RAM, what are you using it for?

I will do: Photo, Video and some Audio editing. I code occasionally, but mostly for fun.

(Along with always running DevonThink, PathFinder, Obsidian, …)

I’m planning to buy an M2 Mac mini. I don’t tax my machines with video editing but based on my experience with the M2 MacBook Air, I think the mini will last for many years. With that in mind, I will likely get the 32 GB, future proofing it until I get the M8 or M9 to come…


It is pretty sad, that the Mini only gets 32GB max. while the MBP gets up to 96GB!

I always take the most available RAM, and 32GB seems pretty low on power compared to the systems I had in the past, so I think I wait some more time, to get a system with a higher RAM.
And yes, I don’t need, and like Laptops… :wink:

I’m always sitting around 45-50GB of usage on my 64GB M1 Max machine. Once in a while I hit swap.

For me, the worst offenders:

  • Docker and my VMs
  • Figma
  • web browsing

WindowServer also uses up a fair bit of RAM, but I have a lot of windows open.


I’m definitely going against the grain here. I’m a scientist who works in sales, and most of my work is done using Chrome browser, and a couple statistical software packages to crunch data. I have an M2 MBA with 16GB for work on the go, but my primary at-home machine is an M1 Mac mini with just 8GB of RAM, and it suits me just fine for my needs. The M-class chips are really speedy, so I don’t feel like I’m missing anything on either device for now.


Running multiple VMs goes through RAM very quickly. It got 32GB with my M1 Max MBP because I thought it would be a secondary computer. It turns out that it’s so good that I use it as my primary and kind of wish that I’d gotten 64GB.

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(1) Extra RAM helps if you keep a lot of apps open for multitaskign

(2) Some Mac software specifically is designed to take advantage of RAM i.e. Panorama

(3) You cannot add more RAM in the future -even if you do not need it now, you might regret that choice in the future

I have an M1 Max MacBook Pro w/ 64GB RAM. I do nothing graphically intensive and seem to always be hovering around 39GB to 45GB of RAM usage–more when I’m working in virtual machines. I use Citrix Viewer to log into my work Windows machine remotely, but that does not seem to add that much burden to the memory footprint. I have a ton of big apps running at any given time, I guess.

Also, despite all that, my memory pressure hardly ever (maybe never) grows beyond the first green line.

How much RAM has become difficult to answer with so much potential in desktop ML models/apps and how widely usage of them is spreading right now. I’m not confident saying more casual users don’t need much in system resources anymore, but I also don’t know the answer. 96GB can easily be filled; that’s for sure.


I’ve been the happy owner of an M1MBA (8/512) for 1.5 year and although I love my machine, I’m definitely feeling the difference in RAM compared to my old MBP TB 13” (16/512). It suffers when I connect it to a 4K 32” monitor and do some photo editing with it.

My next machine will have at least 16GB of RAM for my laptop and maybe even 32GB for a desktop Mac Studio as a home server and workstation. MacOS tends to use more RAM if available anyway, it speeds up the applications and make switching between them a breeze.

I have 64GB on my M1 Max and I use 40-50GB most of the time.

I’m doing software development, data analysis, and machine learning, so I need that much.

I think for an average user 16GB is sufficient.


I don’t think you can tell how much you actually need until Activity Monitor reports your memory is filling up and memory pressure rising.

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I’ve always purchased what I think I’ll need for the next 2 - 3 years. Future proofing doesn’t always work out.


More than I have no matter how much it is, apparently, thanks mostly to Adobe.

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Hah. They’ve depreciated, but you really shouldn’t sell those back to Apple. Even these eBay prices (sold only, >$10k) are a little low (probably depressed to reduce risk because it’s such an expensive item to sell remotely and to a stranger.)


One of the commonest misconceptions is that your memory shouldn’t be heavily used (I’m not saying that you were saying this). Your OS is built to use your memory to it’s fullest, if you’re running at 110%+ constantly, then you have a problem, if you’re at 98%, then you don’t have a problem.


I upgraded my 2012 Mac Mini 16GB of RAM to an M1 with 8GB around a year ago. My intention was to have it for Affinity Publisher projects and as a server file server. I tend to leave Safari, Mail, Messages, Music, Notes and the TV app open on it. On the occasions that I’ve used it there was no problem running those apps and Publisher to work on a project.

On the M1 iPad Pro my budget only allowed for 8GB and I suspect that the iPad does a better job with memory management than the Mac. I routinely run 10-15 apps bouncing fairly often between them during the day and there is no slowdown or reloading that I can observe. Safari holds tabs with no reloading. I guess these apps are light weight compared to some scenarios but I suspect my use case is fairly common. On any given day: Safari, Mail, Numbers, Publisher, Textastic, Reeder, Messages, Files, Slack, Mona, Notebooks, Photos, Music, Podcasts, Notes, Home… I’d guess were I to be working with LumaFusion or DaVinci Resolve I would be pushing the hardware more.

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I used to use my 2015 MBA as a desktop replacement with a 27” monitor. It would occasionally slow down due to memory pressure. I relegated it to travel duty when I got my M1 iMac with 16gb. Never any memory issues with the iMac. Since my travel needs are very light the MBA does fine since I usually single task on it due to screen real estate. If I had to replace the MBA I would go with 16gb.

Yes! Yes! Yes! Unused RAM is a sign of an underused system or really bad OS design.


Some background that I see I could have mentioned. My current machine is 13” MBP M1 with 16GB of RAM and 1TB SSD. I’m upgrading (in June maybe) because the SSD is too small and I have a small fleet of external SSDs. I constantly see “yellow” memory pressure from the task manager. In addition I’ve suffered thrashing on 3-4 occasions (thanks Lightroom). So I know I will do 32GB.

So the only question is 32GB or 64GB which of course requires the M2Max processor. My light dev work is to create simple stuff in JavaScript. I will not run many (if any) VMs. Aside from Video editing, the craziest thing I have done to consume CPU - run my teamsgame ( as MonteCarlo sim for >1, 000, 000 rounds. Other than I don’t do real development work anymore.

So I was genuinely curious if anyone who doesn’t use VMs benefits from the $$$$$ spent on M2Max and 64GB RAM. Don’t worry this time I will buy 4TB of SSD.