Chrome to 'Freeze' Unused Tabs, Reduce RAM Usage

John Lister's picture

Google is introducing more options to deal with the Chrome browser using too much computer memory. It's implementing less severe options for users with multiple tabs open.

The way Chrome was originally designed means every open tab uses up computer memory (RAM). That can mount up substantially if you are accustomed to having many tabs opened when Chrome is launched, or even with Chrome is idle. In turn this will significantly slow the computer down on older systems that don't have enough RAM to begin with.

Since 2015 Chrome has had a feature called "Tab Discarding" that kicks in when the computer's memory runs low. It detects which tabs haven't been used for a while and "discards" them, which means Chrome stops keeping the tab active and repeatedly checking it. (Source: techdows.com)

'Discarded' Tabs Can Be Revived

The tab remains visible, but Chrome treats it as if it had been closed. However, before discarding the tab, Chrome saves information such as partially-completed forms and the position in which the user had scrolled on the page.

If the user returns to the tab - which will appear to be frozen - the tab will revive itself and resume using memory and CPU. Chrome actually reloads the page and applies the saved information, but to the user it looks as if they'd just returned to it.

Now Google is testing "Tab Freeze," which works in a similar way but offers more options. It appears that if this works out, it will replace Tab Discarding. (Source: techradar.com)

New Feature May Offer Options

In the test version, the user can select from a drop-down menu with five options, namely: switch the feature off altogether; enable the feature and have tabs automatically freeze after not being used for five minutes; enable the feature and have the tabs frozen until the user clicks them; enable the feature but have the tabs automatically unfreeze for 10 seconds every 15 minutes, and finally, they can disable the feature altogether.

Clearly some of these options appear to replicate one another, so it seems unlikely this will be the final selection. It also seems hard to imagine Google offering multiple options anywhere other than deep in settings menus as this doesn't seem to be a feature that the average user will understand or know what option to go for.

The more likely explanation is that Google is trying to find out which options the more dedicated users who run test editions of Chrome prefer, how the options actually work in everyday use, and which option would be best as the default.

What's Your Opinion?

Have you had problems with browser tabs using a lot of memory or becoming frozen? Which of the options in the test menu would you prefer? Is this a feature you'd want to make a choice on, or would you prefer to simply go with what ever Google decides is the best default?

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Comments

dcrisp_8465's picture

I have a very big computer, by both RAM and other memory options, and used to keep lots of Win 10 Chrome tabs open until I found it repeatedly slowed things by gobbling up memory. I tried a third party extension to 'sleep' tabs not in use, but found it created conflicts in odd places around my system. Now I just limit my tabs and use more bookmarks to keep things handy. Hopefully the Google built in version will not create the conflicts I found with the third party extension.

steve1's picture

Sounds like a soft drink from the '70s in the fridge too long.
My only problem with Tab Freeze is that it appears there will be no option for a user with substantial memory to opt out.

Jim's picture

I used to use an extension called OneTab, which would bring all open tabs into a single list on what I kept as a pinned tab. It works fine, but it hasn't been updated in a couple years and it also has the annoying habit of keeping its data stored deep in Windows' bowels, so it's hard to retrieve if you lose it for any reason.

Fortunately someone forked it (or maybe he just rewrote from the ground up, I'm not 100% sure) and there is now an extension called Better OneTab that works very well for this purpose. It has the added benefit over tab freezing in that it reduces tab clutter as well. YMMV, not affiliated with the app or its author in any way, just a satisfied user.