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How come web browsers are so heavy in memory? I have Firefox opened with two tabs, and it takes over 800 MB of RAM, Chrome with four tabs takes over 1.2 GB! I mean, what's up with consuming so much memory?

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migrated from Jul 3 '10 at 5:49

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I can't comment on chrome as I have no need for it, however, firefox should not be using anything like as much memory. I currently have firefox open with 14 tabs and it's using less than 100Mb. First thing to do is disable all of your extensions and themes then try again. Failing that start the browser in safe mode – Pulse Jul 3 '10 at 6:04
Google chrome, because of it's multi-process architecture, doesn't show the correct memory footprint if viewed through windows task-manager. This is because each process reports it and all it's referenced dll files. Chrome is actually sharing dlls among all the processes, so they are technically only loaded once in ram. if you press <shift>+<escape> while in chrome you are presented with a much more accurate representation of ram usage. – Ape-inago Jul 28 '10 at 15:06
up vote 3 down vote accepted

From my experience, Chrome is a bit free on the system resources, especially if you go to some heavy sites (if it can use more memory to make your navigation faster, it will).

About Firefox, the weight is usually caused by the number of plugins and toolbars you have installed. Try intalling it again in a separate place, and install only the minimum of plugins.

Opera is not the lightest, but it has reasonable memory use in my opinion (amongst other great functionalities in my opinion, but this is not the place). Also, you can't install plugins besides the included ones, it helps with not cluttering it.

Keep in mind though that websites are getting heavier and heavier. The amount of javascript, the plugins they require (like flash) make some pages really heavy. It's quite common nowadays that the browser becomes the heaviest program launched, with an average memory usage around 300-400mb.

For information, here is a recent (as of today, at least) comparative between browsers, to give an idea of the speed and memory uses you should expect.

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+1 for flash. I've had experience with some sites done in flash where couple of open tabs will eat couple of GiBs of RAM. This happened mostly in flash 10.0. Since I moved to 10.1 I haven't seen it again. – AndrejaKo Jul 3 '10 at 9:33
the problem is that I don't have that many plugins, mostly developper plugins. I use browsers to view and debug my projects (I don't have Firebug installed, if you ask, but Web Developer Toolbar and Adblock, same thing in Chrome). And I don't use Flash, so despite that the browser is loading it sometimes for sites that use it, even killing npviewer.bin -- yes, I'm on Ubuntu, to make the matters worst -- doesn't change a thing) Having only a handful of plugin does not justify, to me, using 800Mb+ of memory with only 2-3 tabs open, so what gives? – Yanick Rochon Jul 3 '10 at 10:00
As I mentioned in my earlier comment, extensions and themes can be a major factor in memory usage. The point is, you only need one incompatible or badly written extension to cause a memory leak and you have a problem. You could take a look at this see if it helps. – Pulse Jul 3 '10 at 12:16

In Chrome, use Shift+Escape to view memory usage per tab and memory usage per plugin. Hopefully that demystifies why Chrome is consuming so much for you.

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thank your for the shortcut. However the question is more in this term: I just opened one tab in Chrome (8Mo of memory used...), entered in the text input, hit enter, and the memory usage went up to 28Mo! I mean, what can possibly require 28Mo of RAM with only a handful of images and text? We're quite far from the 640Ko memory limit of DOS, but it seemed like programs used memory more efficiently back then. Still have no clue as to why browsers need so much RAM – Yanick Rochon Jul 9 '10 at 19:51

In Firefox, about:config lets you configure a number of memory usage related parameters.

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