Increase Your Mac's Power with Apple RAM
Apple RAM is what determines the power that hides beneath this unassuming little fruit symbol. [Image by Mike Baird via Flickr]
This Mac is getting on my nerves. That’s right, I said it.

This Apple Mac mini is getting on my nerves. It’s driving me crazy. I bought it configured with enough Apple RAM — or so I thought — to be able to serve up something extra special for those in the community who subscribe to my mastermind group. Unfortunately, that’s not going to happen just yet, so I’m glad I didn’t hint at or make any announcements about what I’ve been planning. The reason? Not enough Apple RAM.

What Happens when You Don’t Have Enough Apple RAM?

If you have a Mac, you might be aware of the Activity Monitor utility. If you’re not, launch it right now so you can begin familiarizing yourself with it. The Activity Monitor utility comes with every version of Mac OS X, and it is located in the Utilities folder in Applications (except on Lion Server, where it’s found in the Utilities folder in Launchpad). I suggest dragging Activity Monitor to your Dock so that you’ll have easy access to it. In any case, once you have it running, click on the System Memory tab. This will display a bunch of useful information about how your Mac is using its memory. Look specifically at the items labeled “Page outs” and “Swap used.” If you’re seeing anything other than “0 bytes” displayed there, you may need more Apple RAM.

Paging is a common term to describe how the memory is managed on your computer. Basically, it’s a form of virtual memory, in which disk storage is utilized when your computer has run out of physical random-access memory. It’s like drinking near-beer when you’ve run out of the real thing: it’ll help give you a taste of what you need, but without the kick that makes it worthwhile. Low-alcohol beer is designed to be a temporary replacement for the real thing, only really good for designated drivers. When you really want to have a good time, you want the real deal. The same goes with any form of virtual memory: if you’re finding that your Mac is experiencing a high level of paging regularly, you should begin to think about buying some more RAM in order to speed things up. Otherwise, your system isn’t going to perform as it should. It may even slow down to a crawl, requiring you to reboot your system. That’s exactly what’s been happening with my Mac mini, which is running the newest version of Lion Server.

The Solution: Buy More Apple RAM

I already had another Mac mini when I picked up the new one. My other Mac mini is packed with a full 16 gigs of RAM and SSD storage. It basically kicks butt, and I have no complaints with that Mac mini. But since that mini is already being used to serve up my live stream, I wanted another one to be able to perform some other tasks that require a Mac running Apple’s server software. I underestimated how much memory the machine would need, however, and I went cheap. The current four gigs of Apple RAM aren’t nearly enough for the machine to handle all of the functionality I was hoping it’d be able to do. It’s a fine Mac — I wouldn’t have invested in another one if I hadn’t been happy with my other one — but it simply needs more memory. So now I’m waiting for more Apple RAM to arrive so that I may resume the testing I’ve been planning — without having to reboot my mini every few hours.

Take it from me and don’t go cheap on the RAM. I know I’ve said that an SSD is the best investment for a Mac. Well, call me wrong on this occasion. Without enough RAM, you’re still going to have problems, regardless of how fast your SSD is. You don’t have to believe me, but I know it to be the truth. That said, in most cases an SSD replacement for your hard drive will do the trick. But when you’re serving up the multimedia I’m serving (using Lion Server), I’ve discovered that I need as much physical memory as my mini can take. In this case, I’m maxing it out to 16 gigs — just like my other mini.

Do you disagree? Have you run the latest version of Lion Server with four gigs of Apple RAM and found that you don’t mind having to reboot your system every now and then in order to clear the memory? Let me know. I’m a believer in maxing out your RAM — at least in this case.