I have plenty of disk space!

Mac Format - - APPLETALK -

Q When pro­cess­ing raw files in Pho­to­shop, it brings up the mes­sage ‘Your Mac startup disc has no space for ap­pli­ca­tion mem­ory’ and I have to force-quit. I don’t have any­thing else run­ning at the same time and I have an iMac with 16GB RAM, a 256GB SSD that shows 100GB free, plus a 2TB HD. I have noth­ing in the trash and don’t un­der­stand why this is hap­pen­ing. Kev Rayner

A OS X uses the startup disk to hold data from your cur­rently run­ning ap­pli­ca­tions that hasn’t been ac­cessed for a while. This is a com­pletely au­to­mated process and you can’t turn it off. The OS con­stantly swaps por­tions of data in and out of the disk in or­der to keep the things you are most likely to want in phys­i­cal RAM, since this is much faster.

Un­like most other UNIX-based op­er­at­ing sys­tems, OS X only uses the startup disk for this and will al­low this vir­tual mem­ory to grow as much as needed, to the phys­i­cal limit of the drive. When OS X can’t ex­pand the amount of data in vir­tual mem­ory, it con­cludes that the drive must be full and throws up the warn­ing mes­sage.

In your case we know the drive def­i­nitely isn’t full, so some­thing else must be caus­ing it to fail. Faulty disk per­mis­sions can some­times do this, and it’s an easy fix, so re­pair per­mis­sions on the startup disk from Disk Util­ity. If this doesn’t help, you may have a fault in your phys­i­cal RAM. I have seen cases where a sin­gle faulty bit on one of the RAM mod­ules causes a vir­tual mem­ory swap to fail, er­ro­neously trig­ger­ing this mes­sage. Or­der a re­place­ment RAM mod­ule from www.cru­cial.com and swap each of the RAM sticks in your iMac in turn un­til the prob­lem goes away.

Fi­nally, it’s also worth check­ing your Pho­to­shop plug-ins. A bug in one of these can cause the amount of mem­ory Pho­to­shop uses to steadily grow dur­ing your ses­sion, and this can make tran­sient mem­ory er­rors like this more likely. Try dis­abling your plug­ins one at a time in Pho­to­shop.

Bizarrely, faulty RAM can some­times look like a prob­lem with your hard disk.

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