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Do browser tabs slow down your computer?


As an IT professional that deals with technical inquires on a regular basis, I hear a lot of debate between non-techies as to whether or not additional browser tabs slow down your computer.

In short, the answer is: Yes, having more browser tabs open will have a negative effect on your computer’s speed in two ways:
bandwidth usage

  1. Increased bandwidth usage.
  2. Traditionally, most web pages were static pages that, once rendered, no longer needed to communicate with the server that they’re hosted on. Because of the emergence of cloud-computing, many webpages are now in constant communication with the server that they’re hosted on. If your browser is communicating with an external server, then bandwidth is being used to transfer those messages back and forth.

  3. Increased CPU usage.
  4. A computer’s CPU is the brain of the computer. Like human brains, the computer’s CPU can only handle a certain number of processes at once. The more tabs you have open, the more processes that are being run and, thus, the slower your computer will function.

Demonstrating Browser Tab Speed Concerns with Google Chrome

Test Computer Specifications:
mac system specifications

To demonstrate how having more browser tabs open can slow you’re computer, I’m going to use Google Chrome. Because Google Chrome processes each tab as separate process, it is easy to monitor exactly how much processing power and network bandwidth each tab is using.

The reason Google Chrome processes each tab as its own process, is because it makes the browser much more stable than traditional internet browsers. Traditionally, all tabs were bundled into the same process on a computer.

The result of this is that when one tab crashes or enters an endless loop, the only way to solve the problem is to quit the entire browser- losing any functional tabs that were open alongside the broken tab. By giving each tab its own process, if one fails, you can end that specific tab’s process without crashing all the other tabs.


Activity Monitor CPU Status with 1 Google Chrome Tab Open:

cpu with one chrome tab open

Activity Monitor CPU Status with 10 Google Chrome Tabs Open:

cpu with ten chrome tabs open

As you can see from the two images above, having 10 browser tabs open compared to having 1 browser tab open, definitely causes in increase in system resource usage. The percentage of CPU being used by user-initiated processes is almost 5x times higher with ten tabs open.

With only 1 browser tab open, the computer’s resources were 93% idle. After opening 9 more browser tabs, only 77% of the computer’s resources were idle.

It is important to note that, while running this experiment, Google Chrome and Apple Finder were the only two applications running on the computer. Had other applications been open- such as Microsoft Office, Adobe Creative Suite, etc. – the overall usage of system resources would have been a lot higher.

Obviously, there are many factors that need to be taken into account such as:

  • Computer Specifications.
  • Programs running parallel to the browser.
  • Pages being accessed through the browser.
  • Internet connection speed.

Depending on the configuration of the above variables, having more browser tabs open can definitely have a negative effect on your computer’s speed and performance. If you’re computer seems to be lagging behind and you have 25 tabs open, try closing a few and see if the problem is resolved.

Anson Alexander

About Anson Alexander

Anson has been publishing to AnsonAlex.com since early 2011 and has recently opened an AnsonAlex.com headquarters office to focus on the brand full time.

Anson specializes in providing software and technology tutorials in both print and video format. With hundreds of tutorials published on AnsonAlex.com, Anson has also authored and recorded a course for Lynda.com as well as other media companies.

Anson has a degree in International Business and Information Systems from the University of Tampa and also enjoys enjoys traveling and gaming.

Please send business inquires to webmaster@AnsonAlex.com

Also connect with Anson on Google+.

6 Responses to "Do browser tabs slow down your computer?"

  1. TheCFS1 says:

    Thanks, I was a little unsure about this, but now I know!

  2. poch says:

    How do I know which Firefox tab is taking the most bandwidth?

    1. Anson Alexander says:

      Unfortunately, Firefox lumps all of their tabs into one process so there is no specific way to see which one is taking the most bandwidth. I would see which one takes the longest to load and also, take a look at the content on the page. If the page has a lot of images, videos, flash and aspects are constantly updating without you needing to refresh the page, then that page is probably hogging a good amount of bandwidth.

      1. poch says:

        Ok Anson. Thanks very much for info.

  3. Ors says:

    If I install a ssd (solid state drive) to my computer will it resolve this problem of computer slowing down with too many tabs open?

    1. Anson Alexander says:

      It could but I think it would be more likely that increased processor speed or an upgrade in RAM would help solve the problem more.





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