At the most basic level, your Mac has two types of storage. The first we all know and love or loathe; flash-based SSD in most Mac notebooks (fast and expensive), and the hard disk drives (slower and less expensive). The second is RAM; the random access memory that OS X and applications use to get things done. Generally speaking RAM is expensive and through the years Apple has been somewhat stingy with the default amount of RAM in a Mac.
That stinginess has bred a cottage industry of very popular memory cleaning apps. What they do, in general, is much the same thing as quitting an app that isn’t being used, and returning the RAM to other running apps which may need or benefit from access to more RAM.
Many of the memory cleaners are free, and some cost a few dollars, but most do exactly the same thing, though in slightly different steps. RAM being used by apps that are not using it gets cleaned and made available to apps that need it.
One of the more popular utilities which claims to clean memory is called Memory Clean. Creative name, no? Open up the app, click on the Clean Memory button and it makes a little more RAM available to other apps.
For Macs which have maxed out RAM already, particularly older model Mac notebooks, Memory Clean can help speed up an application by freeing up just a bit more RAM that was being used elsewhere.
My Mac app of choice for cleaning does double duty. It’s called Dr. Cleaner and it’s free. What you get is a double dose of cleaning– both RAM and disk drive (doesn’t matter if your Mac has an SSD, hard disk drive, or a Fusion Drive).
One click will optimize your Mac’s RAM which reclaims unused memory from other apps. There’s a neat real-time memory status bar in the Mac’s Menubar which displays current RAM status. One click will also optimize the Mac’s disk storage by cleaning out logs, cache files, unwanted downloads, email cache, and a bunch of temporary files which take up more space than you may realize.
Dr. Cleaner also has a built-in reminder to clean the Mac’s disk when it gets too cluttered, and a large file scanner feature to find the largest storage space offender files.
The real question is simple: ‘Do you need to clean RAM or storage?‘ The answer is: ‘It depends.’ If you have a gargantuan hard disk drive, or few files, probably not. Ditto for RAM. If you have plenty of both, there’s not much to worry about. If your Mac is older with less RAM and storage, then keeping both pruned can have a benefit.