More Efficient Memory Management

Fire up an IE7 window with 10 tabs in it and you’ll see this in your Task Manager:

A single iexplore.exe process that spawns a number of threads. The same goes for Firefox and Safari. The problem here is that if a single tab causes the process to crash, all of your open websites go with it. Chrome treats each tab as an individual process, which adds a little more overhead but the benefit is a single website won’t cause all of your other browser tabs/windows to crash.

You shouldn't lose all Chrome windows/tabs due to one misbehaving website/app

A single webpage stalling also won’t cause the rest of the tabs to stall, while the tabs in a Chrome window look physically connected, they are as independent as they get.

Chrome, as a result, will take up quite a bit of space in Task Manager:

Making each tab its own process means that you get memory back from closed tabs much quicker and much more efficiently than with other browsers. Consider this test: 1) Visit, 2) open tabs for, (and login) and (and login), 3) Close the latter three websites.

I performed that exist test, in that order, and measured memory size after each step. The results are below:

Websites Google Chrome Internet Explorer 7.0.6001.18000 Firefox 3.0.1 Safari 3.1.2
Just 26MB 30MB 30MB 48MB
AT + Digg + Google Docs + Facebook 105MB 97MB 87MB 104MB
AT (After closing 3 tabs) 38MB 78MB 70MB 107MB


Just viewing AnandTech alone, Chrome ended up being the most efficient browser with a 26MB footprint compared to 30MB for Firefox 3.0.1, 30.1MB for IE7 and a whopping 48MB for Safari 3.1.2.

Adding the other three sites brings the totals up to 104MB for Chrome, 104MB for Safari, 96MB for IE7 and 87MB for FF.

It’s closing the tabs that’s the most interesting: only Chrome actually frees up memory upon closing tabs. Chrome’s footprint is still larger than its original 26MB at 38MB, but the remaining three browsers continue using at least 70MB. The argument here is that these other browsers already have memory allocated should you open additional tabs, unfortunately you can quickly run into memory fragmentation issues with the conventional approach should the new tabs require more memory than the ones you just closed.

With Chrome, each tab is its own process, when you’re done with a tab - close it and you get all your memory back right away. You get more efficient usage of memory for newly created tabs.

The independent tabs are also physically independent within the UI, you can drag any tab out of a window and into another one or make it a new window by itself.

Chrome’s multi-process approach is also theoretically better for multi-core systems since you don’t have to worry about exploiting parallelism within a process, you’ve got process-level parallelism giving you more than enough threads to distribute across many cores. Thankfully web browsing isn’t the most CPU intensive and this process-level parallelism doesn’t amount to a huge performance benefit.

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  • geeknerdwoman - Wednesday, September 3, 2008 - link

    what's wrong with all the tech sites just ignoring opera!? opera has most of those 'new features for ages and it works just fine.
    so except for oneProcessPerTab (which has to be proven as useful) and incognito mode (already in dev) there is nothing new at all

    firefox sucks by the way
  • KeypoX - Wednesday, September 3, 2008 - link

    get over opera there is a reason that no one uses it. FF can do all of operas features and more with addons. And opera is missing ALOT. It is ok but not top 3.
  • cousin333 - Friday, September 5, 2008 - link

    An other thing: considering the wide usage of Internet Explorer do you really think, that the size of user base matters? Anyway, based on functions, stability, security Opera has no reason to be shamed. Considering innovations, it clearly stands out from the group.

    Maybe Opera is not a big deal (you think), but good enough for Firefox (both "officially" and add-on wise) and Chrome to shamelessly copy it. :P
  • cousin333 - Friday, September 5, 2008 - link

    "FF can do all of operas features"

    At least, I had a good laugh...
    FF addons ARE powerful. After you spent half of your life searching for them. Praying for them to cooperate :)
  • idomagic - Thursday, September 4, 2008 - link

    Try placing the tabs vertically in FF.

    Try having access to the same search engines via three different routes (right-click, search and url field) while keeping it dead simple adding additional engines.

    Try getting even half of operas additional functions without using more memory.
  • ChronoReverse - Thursday, September 4, 2008 - link

    While I don't know about putting the tabs on the side (there might be an extension for this, Firefox seems to have a bajillion of those), the three methods you enumerated for searching is available in Firefox (3.1 at least since I use a nightly build).
  • LinearCannoN - Wednesday, September 3, 2008 - link

    Minimalism is just what i want out of the internet, afterall, its the content on the internet that is all a browser should show, 900 bars here, 30+ icons there, stupid bars an borders everywhere. Bleh...

    Anyway, there are a few things i'd like to mention, Chrome automatically imported everything from my FF3 (bookmarks, history, passwords and cookies) but not my IE (not that i mind, i imported everything from IE to FF3 when i transitioned anyway)

    And as for the Downloads ? if you click the Spanner icon on the Omnibar, and choose Downloads, it shows a nice page showing all downloads and the standard Google search feature to search all of your downloads (kinda, ala FF3 albeit, not in a seperate popup (which always annoyed me)

    Overall, Chrome is the browser i've always wanted, FF3 came very very close, but Chrome seems to be heading in the direction i wanted :-)
  • ChronoReverse - Thursday, September 4, 2008 - link

    You do realize you can customize Firefox to remove most of the toolbars and such right?

    I do like the way the UI in Chrome uses the space of the title bar though. It gives ever more room for the webpages.
  • Finally - Wednesday, September 3, 2008 - link

    On the one hand you are sporting 8GB RAM machines, on the other hand you bitch around 50mb of RAM usage. It just doesn't blend.
    Btw, instead of going for another browser to temporarily save RAM usage, I would kill one or two of those 51 processes that are not needed. I just did a quick check on my task manager and I have 23 processes running... that's 50% less.

    Consider this a great topic for an article:
    Windows processes: Which ones are unnecessary and how can I speed up my PC without losing comfort while gaining security?

    <-- THAT would be an interesting article!
  • 7Enigma - Wednesday, September 3, 2008 - link

    It's a key factor in any program. More importantly this shows that when a page is closed the bloat is reduced, whereas in other browser's it stays pretty much the same. I think this is much more important obviously for laptops than desktops, and especially budget/tablet/ultralight laptops where you do not have the 8GB of ram.

    But I'll completely agree with you that a detailed running processes article would be very helpful. I'm still using XP until I build my next system and would like something like Viper's XP page to give me a detailed explanation of all the junk running in the background I really don't need. Even better, go into a detailed explanation of how to create different profiles/log ins with different plans in mind. For instance, a gaming profile with the bare essentials to play (maybe even 2 separate profiles, one that does not require the internet for multiplayer support, and thus can not load all the antivirus/IPblocker software), a "secure" profile for bill paying and the like, an "idiot proof" profile that the average teenager/mom/old person can't destroy.

    I'd pay money for a well-written detailed article on that!

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