Is your computer slow? Maybe it’s your browser’s fault

I revived one of my old computers recently. Not a very old computer – built-in 2007, with a Quad Core Intel QX9650, 2GB RAM, 500GB – 7200 RPM SATA HD. After installing on it a freshly minted Win8.1 and some other stuff, it was ready to go.

When I’m at my computer, I always have a Chrome window open, with Gmail, Calendar and Feedly, and other stuff that I am currently reading. Outlook is usually open (for work email), Google drive is on, and that is mostly it. But my computer was very, VERY slow! I decided to investigate some more, closed everything and started opening things one by one. Since my RAM is “relatively” low, I guessed this was the problem, and what I found was very interesting, reminding me of a post I did some time ago.

My initial Chrome configuration, with all the plugins I use (Zemanta, Buffer, and others) consisted of 12 processes, consuming in total 235MB RAM. No only that, but the memory consumption was changing all the time, which probably caused many page faults – I deduce this by the amount of sound coming from my HD. I decided to do a simple comparison between browsers – Firefox, IE, and Chrome, to see if by changing browsers my experience would get any better. To set the same baseline, I also disconnected Chrome from my Google account, and removed all extensions. The results are pretty interesting. Each row shows the amount of memory (MB) consumed by each browser in the scenarios I tested, and the number of processes that the browser spawned (in parenthesis):

Browser Initial CNN SO Facebook GMail
Inprivate IE 12 (2) 151.2 (2) 46.8 (3) 110.7 (3) 255.7 (3)
Incognito Chrome 10 (2) 196.5 (4) 71 (3) 109.9 (4) 229 (4)
Private Firefox 52 (1) 119.3 (1) 67.4 (1) 137.8 (1) 182.8

From a memory consumption perspective, there is no much difference. While Firefox start with large memory, when one page is viewed, this doesn’t matter much. What is more interesting here is that while Firefox works as one process, both IE and Chrome use multiple processes. I have seen chrome spawn more than 10-15 processes when I do some hard browsing.

But from the usability perspective, since I switched to Firefox, my HD has stopped making noises all the time. What I presume is happening is that the IPC (Inter-Process Communication) creates many page faults that go to the disk (because I have relatively low memory), and slow down things. This is applicable both for IE and Chrome.

So starting now, I am using Firefox for all my browsing, to see how it goes. Will keep updating this post as I add more workload to see if the performance is really better. Just for starters, I now have 13 open tabs, including GMail. Firefox takes about 290MB RAM, but only one process.

Update 17/12/2013: after 3 days running Firefox on my desktop, having 11 open tabs with Gmail, Google Calendar, WordPress and other stuff, memory consumption is now 563.6MB!!!

2 thoughts on “Is your computer slow? Maybe it’s your browser’s fault

  1. Well as far as slowing down of computer is concerned i believe the major cause of it is the antivirus protection we are using on our day to day computer .
    i have a home computer and a work laptop, it has been two years now that they are with out any antivirus protection, well im not against it but what im saying is that it can be a reason of your slow computer. .
    But for that people who use windows operating systems they can certainly follow few easy steps to make changes in the speed of your computer.
    1 Disk clean up
    2 Disk Defrag
    3 un-install unwanted software’s .
    4 don’t keep your computer turned on even if you are not on it .
    5 if you are using windows operating system, you can use windows defender to fight from viruses and Malware problems .
    6 Keep your automatic windows updates turned off .
    OR VIST US AT http://www.ushelplines.com and leave us a message regarding your problem

  2. Hi all. I can definitely confirm the browser-s slow down PC-s. I’ve ditched some of my favourite plug-ins to return my PC to something I find acceptable. It is a great pity plug-in people don’t consider ‘other’ clock cycle-users. Concerning the comment about anti-virus, most of the time I found the impact negligible. Removing a consumptive plugin improve things, turning-off virus realtime didn’t change things much. Virus scanning does consume grunt, but you can schedule that for when you’re sleeping. Two things: plugins and browser architecture. The browsers need to ‘think’ a bit like an operating system these days with so many plug-ins and add-ons available.

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