How to determine how much memory a program is using

Updated: 11/16/2019 by Computer Hope
Computer memory aka RAM

Each program on a computer uses different amounts of memory when it's running, either actively or when idle. The packaging or website for the program provides system requirements 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 change depending on how it's being used. To determine how much memory a program is using at any given time, follow the steps below.

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 10 Task Manager

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


Clicking the Memory column title lets you 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 utilize the top command to display their current total, used, and free memory. It can also list each PID (process identifier) and the amount of memory used by it.

Linux Top memory usage

macOS users

macOS 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 macOS.

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

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