Tricks to manage the available memory in an R session

Cover Image for Tricks to manage the available memory in an R session
Matheus Mello
Matheus Mello
published a few days ago. updated a few hours ago

šŸ“ Tricks to manage the available memory in an R session

šŸ™‹ā€ā™€ļø Are you facing issues with managing memory in your interactive R session? No worries, we've got you covered! In this blog post, we'll share some easy tricks to help you efficiently handle the available memory in your R sessions.

šŸ¤” First, let's understand the problem at hand. When working with large datasets or complex calculations, R sessions can consume a significant amount of memory, leading to performance issues or even crashing. It's essential to optimize your memory usage to keep your R session running smoothly.

šŸ’” To get started, let's look at a couple of functions that can help us identify and handle memory-consuming objects:

# improved list of objects
.ls.objects <- function (pos = 1, pattern,,
                        decreasing=FALSE, head=FALSE, n=5) {
    napply <- function(names, fn) sapply(names, function(x)
                                         fn(get(x, pos = pos)))
    names <- ls(pos = pos, pattern = pattern)
    obj.class <- napply(names, function(x) as.character(class(x))[1])
    obj.mode <- napply(names, mode)
    obj.type <- ifelse(, obj.mode, obj.class)
    obj.size <- napply(names, object.size)
    obj.dim <- t(napply(names, function(x)
    vec <-[, 1] & (obj.type != "function")
    obj.dim[vec, 1] <- napply(names, length)[vec]
    out <- data.frame(obj.type, obj.size, obj.dim)
    names(out) <- c("Type", "Size", "Rows", "Columns")
    if (!missing(
        out <- out[order(out[[]], decreasing=decreasing), ]
    if (head)
        out <- head(out, n)

# shorthand
lsos <- function(..., n=10) {
    .ls.objects(...,"Size", decreasing=TRUE, head=TRUE, n=n)

šŸ” The code above provides an improved list of objects and a shorthand function to easily access the largest objects in terms of size. Let's break it down:

  • The .ls.objects function helps us list and sort the largest objects in our R session. It takes parameters like pos, pattern,, decreasing, head, and n, which allow us to customize the output based on our requirements.

  • The lsos function acts as a shorthand for .ls.objects and provides the top "n" largest objects by size. You can tweak the value of n as per your needs.

šŸ”€ Now, let's explore some tricks to manage memory effectively:

  1. Identify the memory hogs - Use the .ls.objects or lsos functions to identify the largest objects in your R session. By understanding which objects consume the most memory, you can prioritize memory optimization efforts.

  2. Remove unnecessary objects - Once you've identified the memory-consuming objects, you can use the rm() function to remove them from your R session. Be cautious and double-check that you no longer need those objects before deleting them.

  3. Avoid loading unnecessary libraries - Loading unnecessary libraries can occupy memory resources. Only load the specific libraries required for your current task to reduce memory usage.

  4. Optimize data structures - Choose the appropriate data structures for your data. For example, if you have a large dataset that doesn't require modification, consider using read-only data frames (data.table or dplyr).

  5. Use memory-efficient alternatives - Some packages provide memory-efficient versions of commonly used functions. For example, the data.table package offers memory-efficient alternatives to base R functions like merge() and subset().

  6. Split data into smaller chunks - If your dataset is too large to fit in memory, consider splitting it into smaller chunks and process each chunk individually. You can then combine the results later.

  7. Avoid unnecessary copying - Be mindful of unnecessary copying of objects in your code. Assigning objects using = or <- creates new copies, consuming additional memory. Instead, modify objects in-place whenever possible.

šŸ’Ŗ Implementing these memory management tricks will help you optimize your R sessions, reduce memory usage, and improve performance.

šŸ™Œ Have any other useful tricks for managing memory in an R session? Join the conversation by leaving a comment below! Let's learn from each other and make our R sessions more efficient together.

šŸ”— Don't forget to hit the share button and spread the word. Happy coding! šŸ˜„āœØ

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