Apple Silicon M1 Macs are having some BIG, Big Sur Problems !!!
It appears that severe memory management bugs in macOS Big Sur are handicapping M1 Macs. My new M1 MacBook Air and the 2019 Intel MacBook Air that it replaces, both have major problems caused by macOS Big Sur causing crashes, major stalls, and serious performance problems. Yesterday Apple released a macOS Big Sur v11.1 update, so…. CROSSIN’ FINGERS !!!
M1 and Intel MacBook Airs Having macOS Big Sur Problems
I bought a M1 MacBook Air to replace a 2019 Intel MacBook Air – I talked about it a bit in Apple Silicon M1 MacBook Air – Benchmarks & First Impressions.
Both my new M1 MacBook Air and the 2019 Intel MacBook Air that it replaces are having these very serious memory pressure problems, that eventually result in a macOS Panic – IE. a CRASH, for the non macOS familiar. Both have 8GB of RAM, which the Intel based MacBook Air with macOS Catalina worked perfectly fine with and handling a power user like workload. But the M1 with macOS Big Sur can’t cut it.
I suspect these Memory Pressure spikes could be caused by Safari, because Safari always locks up during the macOS restart before the OS panics. I’ve also had it lock and panic when just quitting Safari.
At first I was extremely concerned that the otherwise spectacular M1 was the cause, but I confirmed it’s macOS Big Sur. Before I replicated the problems with Big Sur on the Intel based MacBook Air, I was seriously thinking about returning it, and replacing it with a 16GB RAM M1 Air. But by then the wait for that config was pushed way way out, and it just seemed wrong to have to spend more money to work around a bug, when 8GB RAM worked perfectly fine for the way I use my MacBook Air.
See, my hard core work gets done on 2 Mac minis with RAM and Intel processor bumps, outfitted with a three 4K monitor rig, a gigantic Thunderbolt 3 RAID 5 disk array, and super sweet matching set of space gray Magic Mouse 2 and Magic Keyboard with Numeric Keypad. So my workload for the Air, while still power user level, is light compared to the geek level work I pound the Mac minis with.
Since the M1 Macs all require macOS Big Sur, there is no way out of this mess. Except to wait for Apple to fix it. Yesterday (Mon, Dec 14, 2020) Apple released a macOS Big Sur v11.1 update, so…. CROSSIN’ FINGERS !!! But, as is typical for Apple, the release notes does little to acknowledge bug fixes.
Problems from Day Two
These Memory Pressure problems got worse the longer the time between macOS restarts. But I started seeing it right away.
I suspect that the professional reviewers did not see these problems because Apple sent them Macs with 16GB RAM.
Memory Pressure is usually over 4GB after a restart, with NO apps launched. When launching 20 Apple apps at restart its about 5.4 GB — at first. Over time Memory Pressure grows and spikes, indicating memory management bugs in the OS or in 1 or more apps.
What Is Memory Pressure ?
In macOS Memory Pressure, which you can monitor in the Activity Monitor app, represents how much of your memory is being used and by which app. If Memory Pressure spikes into the Red, that’s very very bad indeed. And that’s what is constantly happening with Big Sur.
When it spikes into the red, the Mac stalls. It stops responding or stutters to respond to mouse movement, clicks and the keyboard. It can take almost a minute or a few minutes. It has even continued for nearly 10 minutes. When it gets bad, like over a minute, it’s time to restart macOS. Which gives me chills of bad memories from my Windows days. That restart inevitably results in a macOS panic and crash.
Here is more about Memory Pressure, from Apple’s Activity Monitor App Help:
Memory Pressure: Graphically represents how efficiently your memory is serving your processing needs.Apple’s Activity Monitor App Help
Memory pressure is determined by the amount of free memory, swap rate, wired memory, and file cached memory.
The Memory Pressure graph lets you know if your computer is using memory efficiently.
– Green memory pressure: Your computer is using all of its RAM efficiently.
– Yellow memory pressure: Your computer might eventually need more RAM.
– Red memory pressure: Your computer needs more RAM.
If memory pressure is yellow, red, or has spikes, check to see if an app is using up memory and causing the memory pressure to increase. If you no longer need to have the app running, you should quit the app.
Your computer’s memory pressure is accurately measured by examining the amount of free memory available, the swap rate, and the amount of wired and file cached memory to determine if your computer is using RAM efficiently.
The Memory Pressure Crash Up Derby
M1 MacBook Air
Definitely Apple’s Problem
To test the reliability and performance of the M1, I loaded up ONLY Apple apps, and then let them reopen after restarting macOS. No third party apps were running in this and most other tests. I did this same test with these same Apple apps on the Intel Air.
It this screen shot you can see all of the apps that are running. All of them Apple’s apps.
Intel MacBook Air
Crashes, Lock Ups and Panics, OH My !!!
M1 MacBook Air
My problem report to Apple:
macOS Big Sur CRASHED AGAIN !!! That’s
7[NOW 9] CRASHES on the M1 so far [since Nov 17]. macOS Catalina did not have these severe problems. Big Sur crashes this same way on a 2019 Intel based MacBook Air, as it does on this M1 based MacBook Air. The macOS panics after Memory Pressure spikes get so severe that performance problems are nearly constant. It appears that Safari is the or part of the root cause. This panic happened when attempting a macOS Restart while only Safari was running. macOS had not been restarting in about 5 days.