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This free extension fixes the worst thing about Chrome — and I tried it

Google Chrome update
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Update: Google is making it easier to find good Chrome extensions, here's how

Google Chrome may be the go-to browser for a lot of people reading this, but it’s far from a perfect way to browse the web. The fact is that Chrome is, and has always been, a huge resource hog. It’s something that never changes, no matter how many promises Google makes about solving the issue.

However, there is one possible solution to Google’s insatiable appetite for RAM, and it comes in the form of an extension. Auto Tab Discard (opens in new tab) is designed to lower Chrome’s RAM hoarding by suspending active tabs, freeing up system resources for something more important.

My laptop has 16GB of total RAM, and as I write this Google Chrome is using up over 2GB of it. Which seems to be because it has 33 different processes going. Part of the problem is that Chrome treats all your tabs as their own separate entity, and while that can be advantageous it’s also why the browser uses up so much memory.

As reported by ZDNet, Auto Tab Discard doesn’t discard your tabs and shut them down, regardless of what the name says. Instead it puts them into a suspended state, slowing down your access to them while also reducing Chrome’s memory-munching. 

The effects won't be obvious right away, because Auto Tab Discard works by monitoring your browser activity and ‘discards’ those tabs that have been inactive for extended periods of time. Discarded tabs are purged from your machine’s memory, and can’t eat up any resources by working in the background.

It’s similar to what Microsoft’s Edge browser does, which helps the software use fewer resources. Though it does mean the discarded tabs have to reload when you switch back, which takes a bit more time. 

Testing Auto Tab Discard

Auto Tab Discard does work. After telling the browser to discard all tabs except for the two I was actively using, Chrome’s RAM usage dropped by over a gigabyte. Chrome was still using a hefty number of resources, over 1,100MB more than my next-most resource hungry application, but this is still significantly better.

Auto Tab Discard won’t go to work on everything, though. Tabs that are actively playing media, or have unsaved form data will be left alone — as will your pinned tabs. But there are several options to customize how the extension treats all your open tabs, which you’ll need to explore for yourself.

Overall, Auto Tab Discard could be one of the best Google Chrome extensions. Give it a shot and tell us what you think in the comments. 

Tom Pritchard
Automotive Editor

Tom is the Tom's Guide's Automotive Editor, which means he can usually be found knee deep in stats the latest and best electric cars, or checking out some sort of driving gadget. It's long way from his days as editor of Gizmodo UK, when pretty much everything was on the table. He’s usually found trying to squeeze another giant Lego set onto the shelf, draining very large cups of coffee, or complaining that Ikea won’t let him buy the stuff he really needs online.