Web Browser Woes
September 21, 2009 11:39 AM   Subscribe

What is the best Web Browser for an intel Mac in terms of low CPU and RAM usage?

I currently have a Macbook Pro (2009 unibody) with 2GB of RAM. Everything runs fine otherwise, but I'm having trouble with the web browser.

I tend to open and close a lot of tabs in the course of a day (research, recreation, school, etc) and do not regularly restart my browser/computer. After a few days, the activity monitor will show that both Firefox and Safari have 40-50% CPU and 500-600MB of RAM usage. This of course slows my computer down considerably. Once I exit the browser and both the CPU and RAM are freed up, my computer starts to behave once again.

Are there other functional browsers out there that do not strain my computer as much? Or should I simply restart my browser/computer at the end of every day and recover all of my tabs?
posted by mahoganyslide to Computers & Internet (11 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Are you on Snow Leopard yet? If not, you should be. It's $29.

I was having similar issues (Chrome/Firefox/Safari), and SL seemed to help.
posted by chrisfromthelc at 11:42 AM on September 21, 2009

Why even ask this question? Restarting your browser once a day takes up about 3 seconds of your time (just do it when you take a shower or go to the bathroom...)

3 seconds * 365 = ~18 minutes of your time, far less than you'll spend on this post, installing a new browser, dealing with finding equivalent features/functions, etc.
posted by zentrification at 11:42 AM on September 21, 2009

Lynx Text Web Browser or Sunrise Browser
posted by plokent at 11:58 AM on September 21, 2009

Consider maxxing out the RAM in your MacBook (4GB RAM is inexpensive nowadays).

I really like the latest version of Opera and have been running it alongside Safari and Firefox on my MacBook Pro. Camino is another light-weight browser that I've found has been better memory management than either Safari or Firefox.

Lastly, on those Macs I have with limited RAM, I've had good luck with Activata's iFreeMem, which allows you to force your system to release RAM from programs like Safari and Firefox which do not do a good job of managing their memory usage and release.
posted by mrbarrett.com at 12:01 PM on September 21, 2009

In my experience, it's typically not the browsers using up CPU time and RAM, it's Flash, so you might wanna look into some kind of Flash blocker.

Having tried that, if you find that your machine still feels bogged down every few days, you probably are dealing with page thrashing and virtual memory. The only real fix for that is more RAM.
posted by kimota at 12:29 PM on September 21, 2009

Try installing ClickToFlash and see if not loading most Flash widgets prevents your abnormal CPU and RAM usage.
posted by nicwolff at 12:31 PM on September 21, 2009

Two things that might help you, in Firefox:

Flashblock and Taboo. Flash tends to consume a lot of system resources, but it's especially horrendous on Macs; installing FlashBlock will help. Taboo will save your tabs so that the next time you restart your browser, you can pick up right where you left off.

2nding mrbarrett's recommendation of iFreeMem; it's quite helpful.
posted by LuckySeven~ at 12:38 PM on September 21, 2009

Consider maxxing out the RAM in your MacBook (4GB RAM is inexpensive nowadays).

This really doesn't help. Safari will take it all regardless of how much you have. With only this pane open Safari's taking 800MB right now. Obscene.

I suspect this bug is never going to be fixed because it has an easy work-around.
posted by Palamedes at 12:50 PM on September 21, 2009

With only this pane open Safari's taking 800MB right now.

I'm on 10.6.1, and Safari with this page and six other windows open to content-rich sites is only taking up 140MB real/240MB virtual. Flash is taking up 17/40.
posted by mkultra at 1:01 PM on September 21, 2009

800MB? I've seen Safari give some pretty high numbers, but not that high. For instance, I've had Safari open all day with dozens of different tabs opened and closed and it's only using 158MB right now. I'm running 10.6.1 with ClickToFlash installed.

Firefox is using 163MB.

Opera is using 77MB.

Safari can be a RAM piggy piggy, but I suspect something else is going on if you're seeing higher than 500MB RAM usage. When was the last time you flushed out your caches--particularly Safari's caches? Onyx does a good job of this.
posted by mrbarrett.com at 1:28 PM on September 21, 2009

We keep Camino running on two profiles (via fast user switching) 24/7 and don't experience these kind of problems. Safari is used very occasionally if a website won't load properly; I used to use Firefox, but it took so long to load up, wasn't as stable as I'd have liked, and didn't fit with the UI style so it got binned off.

Have had a fiddle with ps in the terminal, but can't work out which bit shows the cpu% or the memory used... and the man page is far too long and detailed for this time of night :)
posted by Chunder at 4:58 PM on September 21, 2009

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