[Update: Performance Regression] Google Chrome’s memory use could drop significantly after adopting a new Windows 10 feature
The Google Chrome RAM hog meme might soon be a thing of the past as Microsoft has introduced a new feature in Windows 10 that could reduce Chrome’s memory usage significantly. According to a recent report from Windows Latest, the Windows 10 May 2020 update (20H1) has started rolling out to users worldwide, and it introduces Windows segment heap memory improvements that will reduce the overall memory usage of Win32 apps like Google Chrome.
Microsoft explains that the latest update for Windows 10 introduces a new “SegmentHeap” value for developers, which is a modern heap implementation that “will generally reduce your overall memory usage” on Windows 10 version 2004 or newer. The company has confirmed that it has already started using the new value in its Chromium-based Edge browser, with early tests showing a memory reduction of up to 27% on the Windows 10 May 2020 update.
Google Chrome could also benefit from the new value, and according to a recently added commit on the Chromium Gerrit, a change may be coming soon. In the commit, a Chrome developer notes that adding the “SegmentHeap” entry to the chrome.exe manifest will tell Windows 10 2004 or newer to opt chrome.exe into using the segment heap instead of the legacy heap. The developer further notes that “Experiments with per-machine opting-in to the segment heap for chrome.exe suggests that this could save hundreds of MB in the browser and Network Service utility processes, among others, on some machines.”
While both Microsoft and Google note that the actual results will vary widely, the change will undoubtedly reduce memory usage to some extent and provide users with a better experience overall. As of now, it isn’t clear when the improvements will land in a stable release of Google Chrome.
Update: Google disables Windows SegmentHeap on Chrome 85 due to performance issues
Alas, the Chrome-RAM hog meme might stay alive for some more time. The SegmentHeap feature on Windows that was supposed to help Google Chrome trim down its memory usage, has now been found to come at the cost of increased CPU usage, as Google noted in its tests. Google observed a 10% slowdown on Speedometer 2.9 and a 13% increase in CPU usage and power consumption with the feature enabled.
Consequently, the Chromium team has disabled the feature in Chrome 85 for now. But the team is open to enabling it back in the future once it can get sufficiently positive results.