Although there are actually lots of web browsers out there to choose from odds are that unless you’re on an Apple device in using Safari you’re probably using Google Chrome. In fact in late 2019 it was estimated that a whopping 64 percent of users across devices we’re using Google Chrome.
It’s got an easy to learn interface and it’s known for being a speedy performer. But it has one major drawback that you might have noticed especially if you’re running a lower end computer it turns out that Chrome uses lot RAM memory. How much it uses depends on how many tabs you have open and what exactly you’re doing in those tabs.
But it’s pretty common to push things north of two gigabytes of memory usage with just a dozen tabs. If you’re a heavy multitasker or you just have terrible tab discipline you can quickly start straining your systems resources.
Google Chrome Memory Usage
Google Chrome uses a lot of RAM primarily because it’s sandboxes everything you’re running. This means Chrome splits off each tab in each browser extension into its own process which occupies his own space in memory. The idea there is that if there’s a problem with one page that causes it to crash it won’t affect the rest of your browsing session.
It’s definitely a good feature if you’ve got dozens of tabs open that you’d rather not lose. But creating so many processes means Google Chrome takes up more RAM than it would otherwise since you have to replicate Chrome functionality in every tab. So you’re trading RAM usage for stability. And after the specter and meltdown bugs hit a couple years ago chrome started separating out processes even more aggressively. Resulting in many users experiencing additional RAM usage to the tune of about 10%.
Why Google Chrome Browser is fast?
So it’s not insignificant but greater reliability is just one reason. Chrome has a reputation as a fast browser, part of the reason it’s so fast because it dumps a lot of data into your memory. Ram is much faster than long-term storage like an SSD or hard drive. One way it does this is through a technique called pre-rendering. This is when chrome guesses at what you’re going to look at next such as a next story on a news website. And loads the pages resources into memory automatically.
Chrome has gotten pretty good at pre-rendering to speed up page load times. But it needs to use a lot of RAM to deliver the speed users have come to expect. And if you have a system without much RAM this can become a real problem.
On a budget machine with 4 gigabytes of memory you can hit up against the ceiling very quickly. If you’re running Chrome with other programs and even if you have 8 GB of ram you can see some slowdowns. If you’re doing a lot in your browser at once chrome does try and compensate through some memory management tricks. Including tab discarding, this is when Chrome automatically unloads from memory of the contents of tabs you aren’t using or haven’t clicked on recently. Although this means that you’ll experience a delay when you want to reopen the tab as chrome reloads the content. It can still keep chrome from hitting your RAM quite as hard let’s pull in some punches.
What to do?
What can you do if Chrome is using too much memory? Adding more RAM to your system isn’t an option. Switching to a new browser may not actually help as many of them use the same sand boxing paradigm. But chrome does have a built-in task manager. It can help you visualize and close tabs and extensions that are using tons of memory.
So you might consider uninstalling resource heavy extensions you rarely use or using alternative websites. If possible there are even extensions that can cut down on memory usage. It’s still a decent enough solution considering they haven’t really invented a way to download more ram yet.