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Make Google Chrome fast again

TL;DR: Get Native Lazy Tabs or Tiny Suspender (You need to enable "native discard" experimental feature in its options).

Pro Tip: Press Shift-Esc in Chrome to view its task manager. Sort the memory column and you'll get an idea of which tabs or extensions are using the most of it.

When Google Chrome browser first came out, the pitch was a no-frills super fast browser that is very light on memory. This was amazing at the time when competing browsers like Firefox were heavy on RAM, drinking up copious amounts of it, slowing computers down.

But as time went by, browsers like Firefox have leaned down in response, but the memory footprint of Chrome seems to only have been going up, especially if you're a heavy user of web apps. However, Chrome is still a favorite to many including me for its simplicity, clean interface, and maintenance-free upgrades. (In fact, I had briefly switched to Firefox when Chrome killed custom extensions, but shortly after I went back to Chrome and just learned to live with it and find other ways to run my custom scripts.)

Recently though, even with 4GB RAM, I have found myself struggling with a slow Chrome. I found that pinning tabs (though immensely helpful to quickly check mail and other updates) actually kills memory because any open tab that has a page in it is taking memory, and web apps take tons of memory.

I thought about using bookmarks, but I've never been a fan of bookmarking stuff. Managing bookmarks is a chore because it's like managing folders and files, whereas managing tabs is relatively much simpler because it's like managing open programs. Mainly I use bookmarks for the "someday I'll look at this again, but not today" stuff.

I wanted to keep the pinned tabs but I wanted to reduce the memory footprint also. Now, Chrome 54 had introduced a neat feature called Discards where if the memory is running out, oldest tab contents are discarded. It's normally automatic but you can play with it using chrome://discards. You can force discard individual tabs here but it doesn't have much else (there's no "discard all" or any advanced options).

That's when I looked for an extension that can help and I found this nice little extension called Native Lazy Tabs. Install it, and once the button pops up, click on it to discard ALL tabs except the active ones. (An active tab is a tab that's currently visible in a browser window.) This immediately frees up a lot of memory used by tabs that are not currently visible and you can feel the difference. The extension also discards all tabs when you start Chrome, so this significantly speeds up Chrome startup speed as well.

If you use multiple profiles and install the extension in some, you may want to note that you need to start Chrome with a profile that has the extension and launch other profiles later. That way, the extension would work correctly in the other profiles.

If you need more advanced features, there's another extension that is trying out the native discard for memory management (it also includes more traditional approaches): Tiny Suspender (You need to enable "native discard" experimental feature in its options).


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