One of the main points of criticism of Firefox users is the memory usage of the web browser. While I personally think that it has gotten a lot better with recent browser releases, some users are still reporting that the memory usage goes through the roof over time.
It is not always the browser core though that is responsible for the memory usage. Other possibilities include Firefox add-ons or plugins that could be responsible for that.
Several third party applications attempt to provide affected Firefox users with a solution to reduce the memory usage of the browser. Firefox Plumber is the latest program to go down that route.
So how does it work? The developers are not explaining the inner workings of their program, only that they tweaked the memory handling. When you run Firefox Plumber you will notice a sharp drop in memory usage, usually down to a few thousand Kilobytes the most.
You will notice that the memory usage will climb up again and gets dropped again to the lowest possible amount from where it starts climbing up again. The memory usage won't climb higher than a few thousand Kilobytes the most at any point in time though.
While it is not clear how the program does its magic, it is likely that it moves the memory to the disk cache. While that drops the memory usage, it also could slow down operations due to the slower speed of the hard drive in comparison to the computer's RAM. It still can be beneficial if the computer has little RAM installed. The process does not seem to have an effect on the computer's cpu usage though. At least on my modern PC running the memory optimization program did not affect cpu usage negatively.
When you close Firefox Plumber you will notice that memory usage increases gradually until it reaches the usual levels. The program comes with a configuration file in the program directory that lists the processes that it optimizes. Included by default are firefox.exe, plugin-container.exe and palemoon.exe. I did not try adding additional processes, Thunderbird comes to mind, to the ini but it could theoretically work.
Firefox users who want to reduce the browser's memory usage can download Firefox Plumber from the developer website.
Update: The program appears to have been renamed to Firemin. It displays additional options now that you can configure. Probably the most interesting one is that you can customize the optimization using a slider. Better optimization requires more processing power and the slider enables you to pick the right balance between memory usage and cpu usage.
It is furthermore possible to set a lower limit before the optimization kicks in. This can be useful to reduce the number of optimization processes run throughout the day.
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Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.