GOOGLE CHROME AND MEMORY USAGE
Chrome may be the best browser around, but it eats up your PC’s RAM like turkey on Christmas day. If you’ve ever looked at your task manager, you’ve probably flipped out at the sheer number of Chrome processes and the memory they hog. Here’s why Chrome uses so much RAM, and how to curb its gluttony.
Web browsing has become more complex than people give it credit for. Think about it: When you’re using a computer, most of what you do takes place in your browser, from opening tabs to watching videos and using webapps or extensions that integrate with the rest of your machine. That’s a lot of stuff.
Chrome splits every tab, plugin, and extension into its own process, so that if one thing crashes—like Flash—it doesn’t bring down the whole web page, or all your tabs at once. This can lead to higher memory (aka RAM) usage, since it has to duplicate some tasks for every tab. But it also makes things a lot more convenient.
There are other things going on behind the scenes, too. Chrome’s prerendering feature, for example, can cause higher memory usage, but it also means your web pages load faster. Certain extensions or web sites may also leak memory, which won’t get “cleaned up” when you’re done with it, causing higher RAM usage over time.
And, of course, the more tabs, extensions, and plugins you have open, installed, and running, the more memory Chrome is going to use.
So yes: Chrome uses a lot of RAM, but it (mostly) does so with good reason: your convenience. Most of us have become accustomed to lots of tabs and fast page loading, and the price we pay is measured in gigabytes of RAM. That’s not to say Chrome couldn’t use some memory optimization—it probably could—but this is likely the future of web browsing.
eeing that huge number in Task Manager’s Memory column may be shocking, but it’s also important to remember that free RAM is useless RAM. RAM exists for a reason: if your computer can store lots of stuff in its short-term memory, then it can recall those things quickly later on. And if your computer doesn’t end up needing that stuff, it will toss it away to make room for other programs that need those resources. If that RAM is empty, it isn’t being used, and you aren’t getting those improvements.
So, by that logic, having your RAM almost full can be a good thing. It becomes a bad thing when your RAM is constantly full and slowing down your system. If what you’re doing needs more RAM than your computer has to offer, it’ll start swapping some of that short-term memory to your computer’s hard drive, which is much slower.
In a nutshell: Don’t flip out just because Chrome is using lots of RAM. That means its doing its job. If it’s taking up so much RAM that things are noticeably slowing down, however, you do indeed have a problem.
How to Curb Chrome’s Gluttonous Appetite
So you know why Chrome uses lots of RAM, and you know that sometimes that’s okay. But if it’s causing slowdowns, you have two solutions: lower Chrome’s RAM usage or buy more RAM for your computer.
The latter is very easy to do on a desktop computer (provided you have the money), but much more difficult on laptops, where memory is often not upgradable. So, you’ll have to fall back on plan B: sacrifice some conveniences in order to save some RAM.
To start, open Chrome and press Shift+Esc (or, on a Mac, go to Windows > Task Manager). This will open Chrome’s own Task Manager, which will give you a more accurate look into how much memory each tab, plugin, and extension is taking up. You can click the top of the “Memory” column to sort it by highest RAM usage to lowest.