General Question

blippio's avatar

Items on desktop resident in RAM on OSX?

Asked by blippio (398points) April 3rd, 2008

I know that on a PC, every file/folder you have on your desktop is taking up memory from your RAM, effectively slowing down your system. Is that true in OSX ? (I don’t think it is)

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6 Answers

b's avatar

Not necessarily. “Keep you room clean” I always say. It takes longer to load you system with many items on you desktop. But I don’t think they sit in your memory like it does in windows. I could be wrong on that count. The best way to tell is put a lot of crap on your desktop and see how much system resources your finder is taking up. Then remove all that stuff and see if the finder is still hogging as much memory.

paulc's avatar

You’re oversimplifying how RAM is used by an operating system which is by no means a simple topic. Without getting too technical I’ll just say that the number of files you have does not affect RAM usage. If you have 10,000 things on your desktop it might take a while for your OS to boot up but once it has, those items, generally, don’t occupy vast amounts of RAM since they’re just references to the files.

cwilbur's avatar

Every file or folder on your desktop does take up some RAM, because the computer has to keep track of its clickable areas and its visual representation. However, we’re talking on the order of dozens of bytes here, not more than that.

So, pedantically, yes, the more things you have on your desktop, the more memory you use. But the actual effect is not likely to be perceptible unless you’re talking about thousands of items.

bob's avatar

Hmm. Actually, I’ve read some sources that say that files on your desktop in OS X will, in fact, use significant amounts of RAM.

1: “Apparently the things represented on your desktop use a good chunk of cached memory. It also seems that it is CPU intensive to draw the icons for the things that reside on your desktop. So, moving things to somewhere other than on your desktop is an easy and free way to pick up better performance.”

2: “The current way Apple implements desktop icons is kind of silly. Each icon is actually a full screen sized window, that takes up quite a bit of RAM. This translates into the more icon you have on your desktop, the less RAM you have available for other applications. In fact, if you have over a couple hundred icons on your desktop, your system could slow to a halt!”

I can’t vouch for the accuracy of those sources in particular, but I’ve heard this before, and the explanation sounds reasonable.

blippio's avatar

wow… thanks bob. time for some desktop cleanup!
(yes my laptop has been running like shee-yat.)

cwilbur's avatar

@bob: point 1 is reasonable, but point 2 is nonsensical; there’s no benefit to maintaining an entire screen-sized window for an iceon that’s at most 128×128 pixels.

Of course, a great deal of the advice on both pages you link to is nonsensical, so I’d say that #1’s correctness is similar to that of a stopped clock, if you look at it at the right time.

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