Chrome isn’t the minimal web browser it once was. Originally named Chrome because it was designed to get out of your way, Chrome is no longer just a minimal browser — it’s an entire application platform.
Google’s browser seems to eat quite a bit of battery life, particularly on Macs. It’s also very memory hungry, which can hurt PCs with low amounts of RAM. Here’s how to minimize the damage.
Don’t Continue Running Background Apps
Chrome normally continues running in the background, even after you close it. If you’re on Windows, you’ll see a little Chrome icon in your system tray — it may be buried behind that arrow icon. Close all your Chrome windows and Chrome itself will still be running in the background.
if you’re trying to free up memory on a PC with a limited amount of RAM, this is a problem. It also means that Chrome will continue having an impact on your system’s battery while it’s running in the background. To really close Chrome, you could right-click the Chrome icon and select Exit Chrome.
However, unless you’ve actually installed “Chrome apps” that run in the background and need them running 24/7, you may want to disable this feature. To do so, just right-click the Chrome system tray icon and uncheck “Let Google Chrome run in the background.” When you close your Chrome browser windows, Chrome itself will shut down.
Remove Browser Extensions
It can’t be said enough — browser extensions will slow down your browser, make it take up more memory, and drain system resources. On Chrome, you can see some of the impact browser extensions have by clicking the menu icon, pointing to More tools, and selecting Task Manager. Items beginning with “Extension:” are browser extensions Chrome is running.
For example, here we can see the official Google Hangouts extension is using over 100 MB of RAM. Not only that — it’s consistently using 1 to 2 percent of the computer’s CPU, so it’s unnecessarily draining battery power as well. Uninstalling an extension like this one is a good idea, unless you really do need it.
Not every browser extension will appear in this list. Some extensions don’t run as their own processes as well. Instead, they include scripts that run when you load web pages to provide their features. Running additional scripts on every web page you load will take more CPU and thus drain your battery more.
Visit your extensions page by clicking the menu button, selecting More tools, and clicking Extensions. Uninstall extensions to make Chrome more lightweight, paying particular attention to any extensions clearly hogging resources in the task manager.
Eliminate Background Pages
If you check your Chrome Task Manager, you may see something called a “Background Page.” This is different from an extension or app. Here, we see that there’s a “Background Page: Google Drive” process consuming memory and using a bit of CPU resources.
The Google Drive background page is caused by enabling offline access to your documents in Google Drive. This spawns a background page that stays running, even when you have all Google Drive tabs closed. The background process is responsible for syncing your offline cache with Google Drive.
If you don’t actually use the offline documents feature and would rather put Chrome on a diet, you can visit the Google Drive website. go into the Settings screen, and uncheck the Offline option. The background page will vanish, but you won’t have access to your Google Drive documents offline.
Enable Click to Play Plugins
Be sure to enable click-to-play plug-ins in Chrome, too. This will prevent Adobe Flash and other plug-ins from starting up and running in the background. Your battery won’t be killed because heavy Flash advertisements are running in the background — only Flash content you specifically allow will be able to run. The same goes for other plug-ins.
To do this, open Chrome’s Settings page, click “Show advanced settings,” click “Content settings,” and choose “Let me choose when to run plugin content” under Plug-ins.
Have Less Tabs Open at Once
It can be tempting to have twenty tabs open at once, but don’t run too many tabs at once if you want to save memory — close some tabs to prevent them from using a lot of memory.
When on battery power, try to regularly trim down the number of open tabs so you don’t have a bunch of web pages running in the background. As you can see in the Task Manager, web pages running in the background could potentially be using CPU resources and draining your battery, depending on what they’re doing.
You could always bookmark them or save them to a read-it-later service like Pocket so you can come back and read those interesting web pages later.
Try a Different Browser
If Chrome isn’t doing it for you, you may want to try running another browser — especially if you have simpler needs and don’t necessarily require Chrome’s browser extensions or powerful features.
For example, the included Safari browser seems much more battery-efficient on Macs. Mozilla’s Firefox uses less memory on Windows, so that’s helpful if you’re on a PC with a low amount of RAM. Microsoft has also trumpeted statistics that show their own Internet Explorer browser uses less battery power on Windows than Chrome does, so even IE may be a good option if you want to make your battery last longer.
Memory usage is kind of irrelevant on modern PCs, as long as you have enough memory. Unused memory is wasted memory. But Chrome’s impact on battery life is unfortunate. Hopefully Google will address this in the future.
Image Credit: Stephen Shankland on Flickr