I have just turned on my PC and have two applications running; Thunderbird and Firefox. Whatever else is running is part of Ubuntu's feature set (as well as a few indicators).

This has been ongoing for weeks, so I'm not sure if it's normal behaviour or not.

Right now, my memory usage indicator says that Ubuntu is using 41% of my 6GB of RAM. I haven't even opened Gimp or my other day-to-day things. I'll be buying another 6GB of RAM, this week, so that I don't run out when using Gimp or Openshot, for example.

An overview of my running applications shows that Nautilus is using the most, yet it isn't even open. This seems a little excessive, or am I missing something?

screenshot of running applications


Try running the command free -m in a terminal, and look at the second line. It shows memory usage minus memory used for caching. For instance, my basement server has the following memory usage:

                   total       used       free     shared    buffers     cached
 Mem:               2003       1663       340          0        601        462
 -/+ buffers/cache:            599       1404
 Swap:             9536         21       9515

My server uses 1663Mb memory, but only 599Mb is allocated by processes. The rest of the memory is used by the kernel as cache, so 1404Mb is free to use. Remember that totally unused memory is wasted memory. If memory is not used by processes, it should be used to cache disc etc. For instance, if you close Firefox, the program could be kept in memory so it starts faster the next time you need it. If the memory is needed by an application, it will be allocated without the need to swap it to disk.

Another thing that your screenshot doesn't tell you is how much memory is used by shared libraries, code shared between different processes of the same program etc. For instance, the different gwibber-service processes probably share much of the memory. If you want the whole picture, you need to look at virtual memory, resident memory, shared memory etc (available in the preferences).

As long as you don't feel the sluggishness of the machine swapping out memory to disk, you don't need to worry at all.

  • Okay great. So what you're saying is that using lots of memory is fine, even if it reaches 99%. Yes? But the memory usage increases as I use, say, Gimp or Openshot. When using Openshot, it gets very near to 100%. What will happen if that happens? – Gonzoza Mar 27 '12 at 10:19
  • When actual memory usage (without any cache) reaches 100%, least used parts of the memory will first be written to the swap partition. This will make the system significantly slower, but you will not loose any data. If you fill the swap as well (or just don't have any), the kernel will start killing processes until enough memory is freed. – Egil Mar 29 '12 at 14:46

The most likely reason that nautilus is open is that it is used to draw the Desktop- any icons you have on the desktop, as well as the wallpaper (I think) are being handled by nautilus. However, its memory usage does seem pretty excessive. All the other services seem to be more or less within a normal range, although I'm not sure why there would be so many gwibber processes.

Have you set your desktop to do anything out of the ordinary, like displaying the contents of your home folder, or using some kind of animated background? What happens to the nautilus process if you run killall nautilus in a terminal? Does it consume the same amount of memory when it starts back up?

  • My desktop wallpaper is a photo from my Pictures folder. I simply opened the photo and selected "set as desktop wallpaper". I then used Ubuntu Tweak to make the same photo the login wallpaper so that my desktop is consistent. I did that "killall" command in Terminal and Nautilus vanished from the System Monitor processes and memory usage dropped by 5 or 6%. Right now, 36% of memory is being used. Any further advice? – Gonzoza Mar 27 '12 at 7:02

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