How to Enable Tab Discarding in Chrome for Improved Memory Use
If you use Google Chrome as your default web browser and find yourself with a ton of tabs and windows open on a regular basis, you likely know the RAM, swap, and resource burden that leaving a gazillion tabs open does to your computer. Rather than forcibly quitting Chrome or abandoning your browser tabs, the latest versions of the Chrome browser support an optional “discarding” feature that will automatically discard background tabs as the application begins to run low on available memory.
The discarding tabs feature effectively reduces the memory footprint of Chrome without you having to close tabs or windows, though it does mean that returning to those background discarded tabs will require them to refresh when they are re-accessed. Chrome will automatically prioritize and discard backgrounded tabs as deemed necessary, so once this is enabled you don’t need to do anything unless you want to manually intervene and discard a tab yourself, which you can also do. If this sounds appealing to you (as it likely does to web workers), then here’s how to enable this experimental feature in Chrome for Mac OS X and Windows:
Enable Chrome Tab Discarding
- From the Chrome web browser, hit Command+L to select the URL bar (or hit Control+L if you’re in Windows or Linux) and enter the following address:
- Click “Enable” to turn the feature on, then click “Relaunch Now” at the bottom of the screen to relaunch Chrome for the change to take effect
If you don’t have this available it likely means you haven’t updated Chrome sometime in the past few hundred years, so updating the app will reveal the discarding tabs feature.
Accessing Discarded Tabs & Manually Discarding Tabs in Chrome
- Hit Command+L to visit the URL bar again then go to the following URL to view your Discarded Tabs overview:
- Review your tabs and discarded tabs (marked with a “[Discarded]” prefix), the very bottom of this window will show memory usage data as well
- Click the “Discard” button next to any tab to manually intervene and discard that tab from memory
For example, I currently have 77 tabs open in Google Chrome, causing Chrome to consume 16GB of memory and forcing the application to use virtual memory. But with Tab Discarding enabled, Chrome tosses out most of those tabs from memory and reduces the memory usage footprint in half, while preventing the app from having to use swap to store tabs that aren’t even in active use.
The feature is described in the Chrome Flags menu as follows: “If enabled, tabs get discarded from memory when the system memory is low. Discarded tabs are still visible on the tab strip and get reloaded when clicked on” and it absolutely works as described.
Whether or not this is beneficial to you as a user will likely depend on if you use Chrome as your default browser, if you’re a tab hoarder (guilty!), and if you encounter memory issues with having a million tabs open at once.
You can always turn this feature back off again by returning to the chrome://flags/#enable-tab-discarding section of flags and choosing “Disable”.
Chrome is a really powerful web browser app with a ton of advanced features that are hidden from the standard user, if you want to learn more about some of them, don’t miss our many other Chrome browser tips, they usually work for Chrome on any platform, whether iOS, Mac OS X, Windows, or Linux.