A mini case for Chrome’s RAM usage

Written by Daryl Cecile

02 Aug 2018

Google Chrome's RAM usage isn't as bad as you think

The number one complaint about Chrome over the years has been its use of RAM. In fact, a quick search on Google for â€œchrome ram” will bring up a long list of articles complaining about Chrome’s heavy RAM usage. And with the release of other browsers such as Firefox Quantum and Microsoft Edge – which boast about their lower memory usage, Chrome is pushed to an even more unfavourable position than before. In some cases, even leading to users opting in for one of the newer browsers.

I’ll admit, I have complained about this before. But in retrospect, it is clear that my complaints were misguided and was based on a lack of understanding of how RAM works. After a few courses on the Fundamentals of computer hardware and Computer components, I realized that RAM usage is not necessarily a bad thing.


To understand how this is reflected in Chrome, it is important to understand the basic architecture that Chrome is built upon. In order to ensure its stability and security, Chromium was engineered to make use of a multi-process model. This means that each of its components (tabs, plugins, extensions, etc…) would run in their own sandboxed process – Which is great until you realize you need to open more tabs, plugins or extensions, meaning more memory has to be allocated to their underlying processes.

The reason Chrome separates each tab, plugin, and extension into isolated processes is to ensure the user and their platform is protected. For example, If a script runs into an infinite loop in one of your tabs, it won't bring down the other open tabs or extensions, and it won't crash your entire browser, as each tab is separated from one another in their own processes with their own memory allocation. Again, this isn't necessarily a bad thing… unless you are running Chrome on a Computer with a small amount of RAM. In which case, you should probably look at investing in a computer with more RAM, or (if you know what you are doing) install more RAM modules.

Chrome isn't built to use all available RAM, instead it is configured to use as it needs, when possible, to deliver the best experience. So you do need to know how to optimize its use, so that your are not recklessly causing overuse, and preventing other processes from using it. If you’ve already maxed out your computer’s RAM, the next thing you should do is see what process is using up your RAM using Chrome’s Task Manager. If you have any extensions using a significant amount of RAM, you’ll know and can uninstall them.

Even though some may think that too much RAM being used is a bad thing, it is important to remember that empty RAM is useless as it won't make your computer any faster, and it doesn’t use less power. The operating system will use more RAM when they need to, whether it contains cached files or not.

You can read more about theMulti-Process Architecture and Google Chrome memory usage article on the Chromium blog.


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