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Hold down the shift key while clicking on Preferences>General. At the bottom of the list you will see Secret Preferences. Go there and set your system to purge every 10 frames or so. Give that a try.
The bottom line: 4 gigs is enough to run the OS and open AE, but that's about it. You need more memory. 8 gigs would be okay, 16 gigs would be even better.
Thanks for getting back to me so quickly Rick!
I'll give it a shot
Yeah, my mac isn't exactly the ideal tool for the kind of work I'm doing really :/