Memory {base}R Documentation

Memory Available for Data Storage


Use command line options to control the memory available for R.


R --min-vsize=vl --max-vsize=vu --min-nsize=nl --max-nsize=nu --max-ppsize=N

mem.limits(nsize = NA, vsize = NA)


vl, vu, vsize Heap memory in bytes.
nl, nu, nsize Number of cons cells.
N Number of nested PROTECT calls.



R has a variable-sized workspace. There is much less need to set memory options than prior to R 1.2.0, and most users will never need to set these. They are provided both as a way to control the overall memory usage (which can also be done by operating-system facilities such as limit on Unix), and since setting larger values of the minima will make R slightly more efficient on large tasks.

To understand the options, one needs to know that R maintains separate areas for fixed and variable sized objects. The first of these is allocated as an array of “cons cells” (Lisp programmers will know what they are, others may think of them as the building blocks of the language itself, parse trees, etc.), and the second are thrown on a “heap” of “Vcells” of 8 bytes each. Effectively, the inputs vl and vu are rounded up to the next multiple of 8.

Each cons cell occupies 28 bytes on a 32-bit machine, (usually) 56 bytes on a 64-bit machine.

The --*-nsize options can be used to specify the number of cons cells and the --*-vsize options specify the size of the vector heap in bytes. Both options must be integers or integers followed by G, M, K, or k meaning Giga (2^{30} = 1073741824) Mega (2^{20} = 1048576), (computer) Kilo (2^{10} = 1024), or regular kilo (1000).

The --min-* options set the minimal sizes for the number of cons cells and for the vector heap. These values are also the initial values, but thereafter R will grow or shrink the areas depending on usage, but never exceeding the limits set by the --max-* options nor decreasing below the initial values.

The default values are currently minima of 350k cons cells, 6Mb of vector heap and no maxima (other than machine resources). The maxima can be changed during an R session by calling mem.limits. (If this is called with the default values, it reports the current settings.)

You can find out the current memory consumption (the heap and cons cells used as numbers and megabytes) by typing gc() at the R prompt. Note that following gcinfo(TRUE), automatic garbage collection always prints memory use statistics. Maxima will never be reduced below the current values for triggering garbage collection, and attempts to do so will be silently ignored.

The command-line option --max-ppsize controls the maximum size of the pointer protection stack. This defaults to 50000, but can be increased to allow deep recursion or large and complicated calculations to be done. Note that parts of the garbage collection process goes through the full reserved pointer protection stack and hence becomes slower when the size is increased. Currently the maximum value accepted is 500000.


mem.limits() returns an integer vector giving the current settings of the maxima, possibly NA.

See Also

An Introduction to R for more command-line options

Memory-limits for the design limitations.

gc for information on the garbage collector and total memory usage, object.size(a) for the (approximate) size of R object a. memory.profile for profiling the usage of cons cells.


# Start R with 10MB of heap memory and 500k cons cells, limit to
# 100Mb and 1M cells
## Not run: 
## Unix
R --min-vsize=10M --max-vsize=100M --min-nsize=500k --max-nsize=1M
## End(Not run)

[Package base version 2.5.0 Index]