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Chrome for Windows 10 RAM-reducing feature roadblocked by Google

Chrome Browser Hero
Chrome Browser Hero (Image credit: Windows Central)

What you need to know

  • Google will disable a RAM-reducing feature for Chrome for Windows 10.
  • Microsoft submitted the feature for Chromium to reduce RAM usage of Microsoft Edge.
  • While the feature can greatly reduce RAM usage, it comes at the cost of slowing down systems.
  • Google plans to reconsider using the feature in the future.

Google decided to disable a RAM-reducing feature that Microsoft created for Chromium-based browsers. While Microsoft claims that the feature would reduce memory usage for Microsoft Edge, and in turn other Chromium-based browsers, an Intel engineer discovered that it comes at the cost of slowing systems down. Google will turn off the feature by default in the upcoming Chrome 85, though it could "reconsider in the future," according to a Chrome developer. Techdows first spotted the change and pointed to the developer comments.

Google Chrome's high RAM usage is notorious and often the butt of jokes and memes. Microsoft aimed to reduce the RAM usage of the Chromium-based Microsoft Edge by using a segment heap feature that the company broke down last month. In Microsoft's testing, memory usage was reduced by up to 27 percent with segment heap compared to legacy heap. Since Edge is Chromium-based, Google initially decided to use the same feature for Google Chrome, which is also Chromium-based.

But earlier this month, an Intel engineer discovered that the segment heap feature slowed system performance on PCs in several tests, including Speedometer2.0, WebXPRT3, and JetStream2. The performance drops particularly affected CPU speeds in testing. Google programmer Bruce Dawson performed more tests and saw similar, and in some cases even worse, slowdowns.

Dawson states in the thread that "The CPU cost (10% slowdown on Speedometer 2.0, 13% increase in CPU/power consumption) is too great for us to keep." He explains in his comment that the current plan is to disable the feature for Chrome 85 and "reconsider in the future."

Dawson later adds in another comment, "We are taking the decision to revert this change (for now) very seriously. I think that the increased CPU cost is enough that it will harm battery life. I'm sure it won't be postponed for long."

While reducing RAM usage in Chrome is important, it appears that the downside of this particular fix is too great in the opinion of Google. Dawson specifying that the company will reconsider in the future indicates that if this feature or something similar could be implemented without significant drawbacks, that Google could be in favor of utilizing it.

Sean Endicott is the news writer for Windows Central. If it runs Windows, is made by Microsoft, or has anything to do with either, he's on it. Sean's been with Windows Central since 2017 and is also our resident app expert. If you have a news tip or an app to review, hit him up at sean.endicott@futurenet.com.

11 Comments
  • So ... this feature is still in Edge? Or what?
  • Edge will have it as well as other Chromium based browsers if they want to use it.
  • That's not very clear. The answer in the blog post linked to, but not mentioned in the article, is that the feature will be live in Edge with the May 2020 update.
  • They haven't said anything about disabling it, so I assume it's still in use. Legacy Edge also uses this, as all UWP apps use it by default - unless Microsoft disabled it for it, which I think it's unlikely.
  • So, MS trying to fix something that is universally known to be wrong with Chrome, and Google being Google not wanting it to happen.
  • Are we going to ignore the Intel engineer when he says there's a 10% hit to processor use? And if you have, say, 16 GB of memory or more, do you really want to trade processor power for memory?
  • With the amount of RAM Chromium based browsers use? Abso-fricking-lutely!
    Besides, the 10% is probably only when its doing something that used to be RAM heavy.
  • Yeah I think it is worth it. As Allan Breum already mentioned you won't probably constantly stress the cpu, just sometimes. So in that regard it is not that cpu expensive over the whole time since browsers already use a bit of cpu constantly (depending on which sites are open).
    And ram is expensive and stays expensive it seems, so while desktops of enthusiasts/gamers can have easily 16 gb, most laptops will ship with 8 gb.
  • I've never looked back after the New Edge came out, it works so much better than Chrome.
  • Looks like we can still enable it if we want to on Chrome and Edge though.
  • Who is driving the bus, Microsoft or Google? Looks like Microsoft is giving up on browsers after their many fails and we are moving in the direction of a Google only browser and Edge is in phase out mode.