Google is testing memory reducing Tab Freeze functionality in Chrome

Martin Brinkmann
Oct 14, 2019
Google Chrome

Google is testing a new memory reducing feature in the company's Chrome web browser currently that freezes background tabs to reduce memory consumption of the web browser.

Chrome is the most popular desktop browser currently; while it is doing really well in many fields, e.g. performance or web compatibility, it lacks when it comes to resource usage. Mileage may vary depending on use but generally speaking, it is not the lightest of browsers out there.

Google introduced numerous features and changes in Chrome designed to reduce the browser's memory usage. The company introduced a tab discarding option in 2015 that acts automatically when system memory runs low. Chrome users may run extensions like Tabs Limiter to reduce memory use, or enable the process-per-site feature which does so as well.

Mozilla wanted to implement a tab discarding feature on low memory in Firefox as well but postponed the launch of the feature because of implementation flaws.

Chrome's new Tab Freeze option sounds very similar to the tab discarding option that Google introduced in 2015.

Enables freezing eligible tabs when they have been backgrounded for 5 minutes.

In fact, Tab Freeze sounds like an improved version of Tab Discard, the feature that is built-into Chrome already. The core difference between both memory reducing methods is the trigger. Tab Discard is used when system memory runs low whereas Tab Freeze is used if a tab has been in the background for at least 5 minutes.

In other words: Tab Freeze will be run regardless of how many system memory is available and used.

Google is testing the feature currently in Chrome 79 (currently Canary channel). Users need to enable the option on the browser's experimental flags page to make use of it. Here is how that is done.

  1. Load chrome://flags in the browser's address bar.
  2. Search for Tab Freeze using the search bar at the top.
  3. Set the flag to one of the following values:
    1. Default
    2. Enabled
    3. Enabled Freeze -- No Unfreeze
    4. Enabled Freeze -- Unfreeze 10 seconds every 15 minutes.
    5. Disabled

To enable the feature, pick one of the available "Enabled" options. Chrome will freeze background tabs after 5 minutes of being in the background if you pick any of the enabled options. No Unfreeze keeps the tabs unloaded whereas the unfreeze option will recover them for 10 seconds every 15 minutes.

Chrome maintains a list of discarded tabs on the chrome://discards page. Just load it in the browser's address bar to get a list of tabs that are not loaded in the browser at the time of access.

Closing Words

Tab Freeze may be a useful option for users of Chrome who run the browser in low-memory environments. The feature discards tabs automatically to free up memory. One downside to this is that the content of the tab needs to be loaded again when it is selected in the browser. Still, Tab Freeze may make the browser more usable on devices with low memory.

Now You: Which is the resource friendliest browser in your opinion? (via Techdows)

Article Name
Google is testing memory reducing Tab Freeze functionality in Chrome
Google is testing a new memory reducing feature in the company's Chrome web browser currently that freezes background tabs to reduce memory consumption of the web browser.
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  1. Anastasia said on December 11, 2020 at 12:08 pm

    What do you mean by reactivation score? Its shown in the discard site

  2. The Punisher said on October 17, 2019 at 12:10 am

    I use Lull The Tabs for this on Pale Moon. Dunno if there’s a WebExtension version of that. It should also work on Waterfox and FF 52 in any case

  3. Anonee said on October 16, 2019 at 4:49 am

    I’ve been using an extension called “The Great Discarder” for a while now and it provides this functionality.

    If Google could implement this natively into Chromium, then that would be great! However, one of the things I like about the extension is that I can customize how long to wait before “freezing” a tab, whether to ignore tabs that are playing audio, and to whitelist certain sites that I don’t want to ever be discarded.

    If Google doesn’t give me those options, then I’ll have to just keep using the extension instead.

  4. Dean Fuller said on October 16, 2019 at 2:52 am

    You should be using Dissesnter browser.

  5. daveb said on October 15, 2019 at 3:44 am

    Literally the only change in years that might be tempting to upgrade for.

  6. Anonymous said on October 14, 2019 at 10:09 pm

    All it needs to do is browse the Internet! They could just stop loading it up with memory-sapping features useless to most people and focus on making it more memory efficient.

  7. Nico said on October 14, 2019 at 4:42 pm

    Firefox 71 Nightly here; 8 content processes; Linux 64bit; 16 GB ram.
    27 extensions; 4 tabs open, including YouTube.

    Using approximately 500 MB ram.
    Goes down to 420 MB when closing YouTube…

    I don’t now what you are doing that consumes that much ram.
    500 MB seems not excessive to me…

    1. Dumbledalf said on October 14, 2019 at 6:54 pm


      Windows 10 Pro 64-bit
      Intel i5 8400
      8GB RAM
      GTX 1650 4GB
      SSD 128 GB
      HDD 1TB

      This is my current Firefox (stable) memory as of reading your post without doing anything:

      Auto-play is enabled so the video on YouTube is not even loaded

    2. Nico said on October 14, 2019 at 5:13 pm

      Is a reply to @Yuliya…

  8. Paul(us) said on October 14, 2019 at 4:40 pm

    Martin (Or anybody who knows this),
    All ferry well but when after a certain amount of time the tab are freezing does this means automatically when I am logged in to a certain side (Let’s say, when the tab freeze I am loosing main signed in functionality (Like I experienced before)?

    Main two question are:
    “When I am want to reactivate the frozen tab am I still signed in or do I have to resign in again?”
    If the new freeze function will lock me out do you Martin know or the function to disable it will be prolonged, in coming releases?

    1. Raccoon said on October 15, 2019 at 9:08 am

      “When I am want to reactivate the frozen tab am I still signed in or do I have to resign in again?”
      No. You won’t have to sign in again – unless it’s a crappy website. This tab freezing functionality doesn’t impact the cache or cookies.

  9. Chris said on October 14, 2019 at 3:36 pm

    I’ve been using the TabMemFree extension with good results since I read about it here earlier this year…

  10. Yuliya said on October 14, 2019 at 3:08 pm

    Firefox 52 was the last decent one in terms of memory consumption. In single process mode that browser would rarely exceed 800MiB with 40-50 tabs open and 10 or so extensions. Fx 57 managed to surpass Chromium for being a memory hog, as I’ve rarely seen any Fx between 58 and 62 taking less than 2GiB of RAM with only a couple of tabs open and one extension.
    Now both Chromium and Fireffox are memory hogs. At least Chromium frees memory better after closing tabs. Firefox keeps it hostage until you close the entire program… because mozilla does not have any more competent developers, I guess is the only explanation I can come up with. Chromium starts with 250MiB of RAM used, and after a full day use if I close all the tabs, it will still only use 250-30mMiB. I’ve never seen Fx doing any better than 1,6GiB used for the same scenario.
    Both 64-bit browsers, on a machine with plenty of RAM.

    1. owl said on October 17, 2019 at 5:47 am

      @Yuliya said on October 14, 2019 at 3:08 pm

      I can’t agree with that comment.
      Something is strange.

      About my experience (From September 2019 until recently):

    2. Raccoon said on October 15, 2019 at 9:09 am

      For me Firefox’s memory shot up with 57/Quantum

    3. ULBoom said on October 14, 2019 at 9:15 pm

      Something’s not right; if, in new tabs, I open this site, then google news and from there 6 random links all with vids, FF finally goes to about 1 Gig memory and drops to around 800 Mb after a few minutes.
      With just gHacks open, it stays around 250 Mb.

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