TabMemFree, Unload Websites In Chrome To Free Up Resources

Martin Brinkmann
Mar 10, 2012
Updated • Aug 5, 2018
Google Chrome, Google Chrome extensions

Websites that you have opened in tabs in your favorite browser use system resources as long as they are open. Some may even be active in the background.

Facebook for instance displays the number of notifications in the title tab, and some other sites might play music or a video in the background. This all sums up, and if you have a lot of tabs open, you may feel the strain especially on slower systems.

Google Chrome puts any tab open in the browser in its own process and all of these processes take up space on the system. Installed browser extensions use memory as well.

Not a problem if you have plenty of RAM, and we are talking about 4 Gigabytes or more here with 4 Gigabytes on the lower end of the scale. If you have less RAM installed, or run other apps that use quite a bit of RAM, you may notice slow downs or other issues related to that.

Check out Tab Limiter for Chrome which you may use to limit memory use in Chrome as well.

Free up memory in Chrome

unload tabs

TabMemFree for Chrome does what BarTab did for the Firefox web browser. It automatically puts websites that have not been active for a specific amount of time in sleep mode. This mode unloads the website from memory to free up system resources.

The extension does this by forwarding the tab to an empty page. This happens in the same tab of course, and is indicated to the user by a title change only. Websites can be reactivated with a click on the tab.

This basically loads the website anew in the tab. The downside here is that it may take longer for the website to be displayed, as it needs to be loaded and rendered again in the browser. Also, any unsaved work including the location on the page you are on, is lost on reload.

Tabs that have been put in sleep mode this way stay in the mode even if the browser is closed and opened again. This can have a positive effect on the Chrome browser's start-up time as less websites need to be loaded.

The developer notes that users may experience issues with the extension, like losing form data on tabs that go into sleep mode or music or video playback being interrupted when it is coming from a tab in the background.

TabMemFree currently offers no whitelisting of websites or tabs that you do not want to unload after some time of inactivity. One way that you have to go around this is to pin tabs as the extension won't unload any tabs pinned in the Chrome browser.

The most recent versions of TabMemFree let you change the idle time and check frequency of the extension to customize it further.

Closing Words

TabMemFree is a well-designed extension for Google Chrome to free up memory by unloading sites in Chrome that you have not opened to free up RAM.

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  1. Jeremy Collake said on March 10, 2012 at 3:21 pm

    Virtual memory not referenced after a period of time is paged out anyway, effectively doing the same thing. Of course, background tabs (forked Chrome processes) are also lowered in priority, similar to what Process Lasso’s ProBalance does. However, this utilities does have some merit for those who really want that virtual memory to be reclaimed quick. The penalty you pay is when you go back to the tab, you may have a delay as that virtual memory is paged back in.
    Tp sum it up —
    Advantage: Seldom referenced virtual memory may be paged out faster than usual.
    Disadvantage: When you switch back to a background tab, it may take a second for that memory to be paged back in.

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