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How to determine how much memory a program is using

Computer memory aka RAMEach software program on a computer will use different amounts of memory when it is running, either actively or when idle. The packaging or website for the program will provide details about the minimum and recommended amount of memory a computer should have to run the program. However, the exact amount of memory the program uses will change depending on how it is being used. To determine how much memory a program is using at any given time, follow the steps below.

Microsoft Windows users
Linux users
Apple users

Microsoft Windows users

  1. Press Ctrl + Shift + Esc on the keyboard to open the Windows Task Manager.
  2. In the Task Manager window, click the Processes tab, if not already selected.

Windows 7 Task Manager

As can be seen in the above example picture, on the Processes tab, you'll see each of the running processes including how much memory they're using. For example, the highlighted firefox.exe is using over 1GB of memory.

Tip: Clicking the Memory column title allows you to sort the programs by how much memory they're using. In the above example, we're sorting the programs from the most used memory to the least used memory.

Linux users

Linux users can use the top command to display their current total, used, and free memory, as well as list each PID and the amount of memory used by the PID.

Linux Top memory usage

Apple users

Mac OS users can see how much memory a program is using in the Activity Monitor. Follow the general steps below to access the Activity Monitor in Mac OS.

  1. In the Mac OS main menu, select Applications > Utilities.
  2. Click on the Activity Monitor utility in the list.

In the Activity Monitor utility, you can see the name of each Process running (in the Process Name column) and how much memory each process is using (in the Real Mem column).

Additional information

  • See our memory definition for further information and related links.