Q: I’ve been using Chrome as my browser in Windows 7 for a while, but it seems like it’s getting real slow these days; is there a better option?
The web browser is one of the most important tools we use every day, but the best (and fastest) browser for you will be based on all of the variables that make up your daily usage.
In the early days of web browsing, you had one screen with one page loaded; if you wanted to see something else, it would be replaced by the new information. That all changed when tabbed browsing was introduced, because you could open new pages without closing what you were currently viewing.
This convenience has led to some serious memory usage problems for many users.
If you tend to open a lot of tabs at once, you’ll probably notice that everything slows down as you open more.
Google’s Chrome has some interesting security measures in place to separate each browsing session, but just about every memory test shows that the trade-off is higher memory usage per session. If you tend to use a lot of tabs in Chrome, there are a few things you can try to help keep things moving faster.
One option is to add more RAM if you keep running up against the upper limits of your working memory. It’s one of the best bang for the buck upgrades in just about any computer of any age.
You can do a quick check of your physical memory usage by opening the Windows Task Manager (right-click on the Taskbar and click “Start Task Manager”) with a typical number of tabs open in Chrome.
Clicking on the “Performance” tab will display the details of your resource usage.
Take a look at the memory graphs and the physical memory numbers to see how much of your available memory is being used when you have a lot of tabs open in Chrome. If the usage is close to the top, adding RAM should give you more headroom for the kind of web browsing that you tend to do.
Another possible contributor to excessive memory usage is third-party extensions and add-ons. Take a quick look by typing chrome://extensions into Chrome and disable or trash anything you don’t really need.
Other browsers may also be a better option for the way you work, so make sure you do some real-world testing of your own.
The much maligned Internet Explorer has an unfair advantage in the memory usage area, because it shares some of the resources built into Windows, so you may want to test it out.
Firefox generally shows slightly better memory management than Chrome depending on your usage, but a lesser known option, Opera, always seems to score very well in both memory usage and performance tests, so you may want to give it a try.
All browsers will run more efficiently if you limit the number of open tabs, so modifying your behavior will always help reduce the load.