Google Chrome has a well-earned reputation for gobbling up computer RAM. However, Google has been working hard to remedy some of the problems.
A recent report from the Wall Street Journal outlines why Chrome can be so resource intensive while also sharing tips to improve the situation. In short, computer programs run ‘processes’ in RAM. Chrome, by design, runs separate processes for each tab and extension, which can protect users’ security and privacy while also preventing a tab crash from taking down the whole browser. Unfortunately, it also means that running lots of tabs or extensions can quickly take up significant amounts of RAM and slow down a computer.
WSJ notes that Chrome is working on ways to limit how much power resource-heavy ads can use. More significantly, Chrome’s director of browser engineering, Max Christoff, told the WSJ that Chrome would improve ‘tab throttling’ in the coming months. This means the browser will do a better job of prioritizing active tabs while limiting the number of resources background tabs can eat up.
Testing different browsers could help
Ultimately, the WSJ suggests people try switching to other browsers that are less resource-intensive, such as Apple’s Safari or Microsoft’s new Edge browser. Interestingly, Microsoft rebuilt Edge on Chromium, the same open-source foundation used by Google for Chrome. The WSJ says that Edge used about five percent fewer resources in its testing than Chrome did, while Safari on macOS used 10 percent less.
Some big Chrome news inside my column. Google’s finally addressing the longtime battery life issues and releasing fixes in next couple of months, including improvements for tab throttling. https://t.co/CDYqm7Jj8w pic.twitter.com/djgMpq7ZTx
— Joanna Stern (@JoannaStern) July 12, 2020
MobileSyrup’s managing editor Patrick O’Rourke, a die-hard Chrome user, recently switched to Edge on his MacBook and also found it performed much better.
Google putting one memory-saving option on the back burner for now
Edge can outperform Chrome on Windows as well. In the Windows 10 May 2020 Update, Microsoft made the ‘Segment Heap’ technology previously available in its UWP platform to Win32. Edge is among the first Win32 apps to adopt the technology. Microsoft says it saw up to a 27 percent reduction in Edge’s memory use in internal tests.
Google got Segment Heap ready to go for Chrome version 85, but reportedly disabled and delayed the feature.
As spotted by TechDows, a Google engineer posted on the Chromium Bugs page that Segment Heap caused performance issues. Specifically, Segment Heap traded reduced RAM use for increased CPU use. Engineers felt the trade wasn’t worth the cost.
For now, Segment Heap will remain off in Chrome 85 while the Chrome team gathers more test and telemetry data. The engineer suggests the Chrome team will reconsider Segment Heap in the future.