How Much Available Memory Do I Have on my Chromebook?

If you’re like me, you like to have lots of tabs open. I mean lots. I typically have 30-40 tabs open on my Chromebook Pixel, which has an i5 Broadwell processor, and 8GB of RAM.

My work computer though, is an Asus Chromebox with an i3 Haswell, and 4GB of RAM, and lately while driving two 4k monitors, one via Display Port and the other via HDMI, I’ve been noticing a super annoying screen glitch, where my screen starts to display this crazy checkerboard pattern and won’t go away, and can only be fixed with a restart. And that fix is very temporary.

I figured it was a RAM issue, so I threw a couple 4GB sticks in the ‘box, and brought it from 4GB to 8GB. I haven’t had a problem since.

To make sure the RAM was working correctly, I used an app called COG from the Chrome Web Store, to tell me how much total RAM I had, how much I was using, and how much I had available.

Screenshot 2016-05-26 at 2.12.45 PM

So as you can see, COG is telling me that I have 7.733GB of total RAM, which means the loose RAM chips I found in my drawer at work are working. It also says that I have about, oh I don’t know, 20% of my 7.733GB left? That’s like 1.5GB left.

But am I really using 75-80% of my 8GB of RAM?

No.

Linux borrows unused memory for disk caching, which makes the system run much faster. Chrome OS, which is built on the Linux kernel, does the same.

COG counts this cached memory as “used” even though that memory is available for applications, which means you have more RAM available for applications than COG is telling you (or in my case, more RAM available for MOAR TABS!).

So how do you know exactly how much available memory you have?

Easy peasy!

Go ahead and press  Ctrl + Alt + t. This opens up your Crosh terminal. Don’t worry, this is going to be super easy. Just type in the following command and then hit enter:

free -m

That’s it. When you do this, you will be shown some information, that will look like one of the following two tables (important value highlighted in red):

$ free -m
              total        used        free      shared  buff/cache   available
Mem:           1504        1491          13           0         855      869
Swap:          2047           6        2041
 

If your table doesn’t look like the one above, and you don’t have an available column, your table should look like the one below. Look at the free column in the row that says -/+ buffers/cache:

$ free -m
             total       used       free     shared    buffers     cached
Mem:          1504       1491         13          0         91        764
-/+ buffers/cache:        635        869
Swap:         2047          6       2041
 

That was just a random example, here’s what mine looks like right now:

$ free -m
             total       used       free     shared    buffers     cached
Mem:          7918       6701       1216      1370        65        2777
-/+ buffers/cache:       3858       4059
Swap:         11599       0         11599
 

So you can see, while COG showed that I only had about 1.5GB of free memory available, I really have about 4GB available!

I hope you find this information useful. Do you have any other tricks for Chrome, or Chrome OS? Please share in the comments!

In Category: Chromebook, Chromebox, Google Chrome

James Welbes

James has been a Chromie ever since 2012, when he accepted a temporary position as a Google Specialist, educating customers about Chromebooks in his local Best Buy. Since then he's converted his home to 100% Chrome OS, and has owned over half a dozen Chrome OS devices over the years. He currently uses the 2015 Google Pixel at home, and an Asus Chromebox at work.

Show 1 Comment
  • Randy S Mitchell 27/05/2016, 11:03 am

    I am dumbfounded to learn RAM can be added to a Chromebook? Can it also be added to a Chromebox?

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