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Why Does Chrome Have So Many Open Processes?

2012-09-11_121529

If you’ve ever taken a peek in Task Manager while running Google Chrome, you may have been surprised to see that the number of chrome.exe entries radically exceeded the number of actual Chrome windows you had open. What’s the deal with all those processes?

Today’s Question & Answer session comes to us courtesy of SuperUser—a subdivision of Stack Exchange, a community-drive grouping of Q&A web sites.

The Question

If you’re curious about all those seemly duplicate Chrome processes, you’re not alone. SuperUser reader PolyShell really wants to get to the bottom of things:

In Windows Task Manager it seems that I have multiple Chrome processes running, even though I only have one Chrome window open.

How is this possible? I always thought each open program represented one process.

While the sheer number of the individual chrome.exe processes at first appears baffling, there’s a perfectly good explanation for the deluge.

The Answers

Several SuperUser contributors pitched in to answer the question. Jeff Atwood offered a reference to the Chrome Development blog:

You can read the details here:

Google Chrome takes advantage of these properties and puts web apps and plug-ins in separate processes from the browser itself. This means that a rendering engine crash in one web app won’t affect the browser or other web apps. It means the OS can run web apps in parallel to increase their responsiveness, and it means the browser itself won’t lock up if a particular web app or plug-in stops responding. It also means we can run the rendering engine processes in a restrictive sandbox that helps limit the damage if an exploit does occur.

Basically, each tab has one process unless the tabs are from the same domain. The renderer has a process for itself. Each plug-in will have one and so will each extension that is active.

KronoS shares a trick for examining the processes inside of Chrome in place of the more cryptic Task Manager read out:

You can see which process does what on:

Wrench Menu->View Background Pages

Which looks like this:

2012-09-11_122455

Deizel offers an aide for the visual learners out there:

Don’t forget to read the Chrome introduction comic that covers this among other design decisions.

Untitled-1

The entire Chrome comic is a worth while read for Chrome fans as it explains many other design choices involved in the production of the browser.


Have something to add to the explanation? Sound off in the the comments. Want to read more answers from other tech-savvy Stack Exchange users? Check out the full discussion thread here.

Jason Fitzpatrick is warranty-voiding DIYer and all around geek. When he's not documenting mods and hacks he's doing his best to make sure a generation of college students graduate knowing they should put their pants on one leg at a time and go on to greatness, just like Bruce Dickinson. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 09/11/12

Comments (23)

  1. Basara

    Though still, the Chrome main window DOES lock up sometimes.

    BTW, IE8 does the same thing, and it has a simple registry tweak to limit the total number of processes.

    I’m wondering if Chrome also has a setting like IE has?

  2. PC Paul

    I don’t care how many processes there are, the OS can cope well with thousands.

    I am concerned about the memory use though – really, 10MB for a ‘High Contrast’ extension. 22MB to store some passwords?

    Using too much memory is going to hit system performance far more than adding a few tens of processes.

  3. Deekshith Allamaneni

    I like Firefox’s method of having a single process. Firefox’s approach allows other applications to run comfortably along with Firefox. Whereas chrome consumes all the system resources to run as if it is the only software people use on their computer.. This makes it difficult for other applications and processes to run and leads to system crashes.

    In short, Chrome’s approach may reduce probability of browser crashes but will increase the probability of system crashes. (Firefox does the opposite)

  4. sepoman

    Yes…
    And one for the information they are stealing

  5. Chris

    @sepoman
    They aren’t stealing the information, you’re giving it to them.

  6. Bjarnovikus

    As PC Paul says… the problem with most extensions in chrome is not the fact that they run in another process. The amount of memory usage is more important. But you should not forget that every process of chrome (both the tab processes and the extension processes) need to have the same structure. I don’t know how many megabytes a vanilla (running absolutely nothing) chrome process needs. That’s one of the small problems when using a technique like this…

  7. r

    I just can’t use Chrome. Their logo reminds me too much of that late 1970′s memory game “Simon”,…which annoyed me to no end.

  8. KB Prez

    THANKS for this post Jason! I’ve had the same question. The first time I saw all those processes, I thought I had a major problem. Still not so crazy about Chrome, but at least I know more about how it works. I use Firefox 98% of the time and plan to keep it that way.

  9. Rob

    Hey “r” , i’m sure you can find some tips on changing the icon right on this very site! hah

  10. r

    @ Rob: probably could man, changing the icon easy
    The problem is that I’d be periodically be faced with seeing their logo in ads, promotions & PR, if I used their browser…then the dreaded “Simon” flashbacks would just kick in :(

  11. Doodleboop

    Chrome was designed quite well. You’d expect that from a multi trillion-dollar company (multi billion, anyway). But the fact that there are so many processes means there are that many more potential places Google can poke holes in your privacy/security. Google has a real incentive there too! Google’s main source of income is still in advertising and therefore has a real desire to see where people tend to “flock” with their web browser. That way Google can charge more money to advertisers. This is not a secret!

    But most people don’t seem to care about privacy issues. Even when it is pointed out that Google treats people as nothing more than sheep in a digital landscape these same people still don’t care. It’s bewildering to me to see this attitude particularly when there are other choices. And every time I see this beautifully working horrible product (Chrome), I wonder if the person using it realizes just how much they are potentially giving up. But then many of these same people probably think Constitution is “just a goddamn piece of paper” and that airport security is actually keeping them safe too. (That’s not just an opinion since it seems hardly a week or month goes by where we don’t hear about holes in airport security procedures or outright blundering in those “processes” too.)

    Bottom line: I don’t trust Google. I don’t trust them so much so that I don’t even use their search engine any more either.

  12. Jester

    That’s a great idea. But what happens when you have an older computer that runs out of RAM? Or, like me, you run some other big software at the same time (recording software, video editors, etc.) and it starts to slow them down? Also, just because you have everything split up like that, Chrome can still lock up and crash altogether. However, Firefox usually stays about the same with what resources it uses, and when it closes, everything about it closes and stops — not for Chrome. Sorry, but that’s why I have used Firefox ever since I can remember and I still use Firefox to this day.

  13. utomo

    Too big memory usage, and sometimes still crash. google need to work on this. and make it lighter and also more stable.
    stop adding features, but concentrate on stability first.

  14. Rance Mohanitz

    Shift+Esc will also open the Chrome Task Manager.

  15. spike

    chrome is fast – i don’t care how they do it. nice to see it explained.

  16. pbug56

    So why does uploading or downloading a file in Chrome – usually in Gmail, cause Chrome to crash? Beyond this well known bug, why does it often take down the whole browser (usually after partially trashing the current window)?

  17. David

    @Doodleboop
    A simple question I ask people with concerns like yours: Do you use Facebook?
    I’m not aware of people losing jobs, alienating friends, collecting stalkers or committing suicide from using a browser. Google claim (and I do believe) that for non-CIA suspects, browsing habits/preferences are aggregated and anonymised. Facebook on the other hand… be afraid, be very afraid
    As far as the big 3 browsers are concerned, I prefer Chrome but could easily live with Firefox.
    Explorer and Safari are… well, who cares?

  18. David

    @pbug56
    >>So why does uploading or downloading a file in Chrome – usually in Gmail, cause Chrome to crash?<>Beyond this well known bug<>why does it often take down the whole browser (usually after partially trashing the current window)?<<
    Apart from disagreeing with your assertion, I wonder what a partially trashed window looks like?

  19. David

    oops. I posted this a few moments ago within Chrome and it wiped out parts of my comments. Perhaps using angled brackets to set up quoted text? I’m re-posting from Firefox – it’ll be illuminating to see if the same result occurs. Nevertheless, I’ll keep using Chrome.

    @pbug56
    >>So why does uploading or downloading a file in Chrome – usually in Gmail, cause Chrome to crash?<>Beyond this well known bug,<>why does it often take down the whole browser (usually after partially trashing the current window)?<<
    Apart from disagreeing with your assertion, I wonder what a partially trashed window looks like?

  20. David

    Screw it. Same thing happened in Firefox. It’s late, I’m tired, I’ll investigate in the morning

  21. Reetha

    Really Awesome Admin team

  22. KronoS

    While I’m flattered that you mentioned me by name… I just realized that I didn’t exactly answer the question, I simply provided the image. Tolga should be mentioned as well.

  23. gowthamgutha

    Then Why does ending a process ends the entire Chrome?

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