Tricks to manage the available memory in an R session


What tricks do people use to manage the available memory of an interactive R session? I use the functions below [based on postings by Petr Pikal and David Hinds to the r-help list in 2004] to list (and/or sort) the largest objects and to occassionally rm() some of them. But by far the most effective solution was ... to run under 64-bit Linux with ample memory.

Any other nice tricks folks want to share? One per post, please.

# 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)
7/10/2015 12:52:37 PM

Accepted Answer

To further illustrate the common strategy of frequent restarts, we can use littler which allows us to run simple expressions directly from the command-line. Here is an example I sometimes use to time different BLAS for a simple crossprod.

 r -e'N<-3*10^3; M<-matrix(rnorm(N*N),ncol=N); print(system.time(crossprod(M)))'


 r -lMatrix -e'example(spMatrix)'

loads the Matrix package (via the --packages | -l switch) and runs the examples of the spMatrix function. As r always starts 'fresh', this method is also a good test during package development.

Last but not least r also work great for automated batch mode in scripts using the '#!/usr/bin/r' shebang-header. Rscript is an alternative where littler is unavailable (e.g. on Windows).

8/31/2009 10:26:15 PM

Ensure you record your work in a reproducible script. From time-to-time, reopen R, then source() your script. You'll clean out anything you're no longer using, and as an added benefit will have tested your code.

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