Microsoft, Google Work On Memory-Saving Windows 10 Feature In Chrome

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Google and Microsoft are working to bring a new memory-saving feature from Windows 10 to Chrome. That's according to reports stemming from a priority-3 bug report and Chromium code commits.

The feature referred to in the Chromium Gerrit as "segment heap," is a Windows-specific feature. Right now, it effectively reduces the memory requirements for Windows' own browser — Chromium-based Microsoft Edge. And that could soon be brought over to Chrome, based on the commits and bug report.

Chrome devs are working to bring the memory-saving feature over

Segment heap is a native heap implementation that effectively replaces legacy heap from the May 2020 update (20H1) for Windows 10. According to Microsoft, that's for Win32 applications, which include Chrome. And, at least in the default Windows setup, is tuned for server workloads. In effect, it handles memory overhead generated by the allocation of heaps.

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That overhead, according to the documentation, is going to vary widely by machine, as noted by both company's developers. But its biggest impact is going to be on multi-core processes, where more 'free' heaps are created. Developers note that those are created with the legacy implementation even though most of the processes are running within a single heap.

In some tests, switching over to the Windows segment heap option has been shown to save up to 200MB in memory. That's in Google Chrome, prior to Microsoft's team getting directly involved in the implementation. For Microsoft Edge, based in Chromium, it saves up to 27-percent less memory in Windows 10. So the memory savings could be, while variable, even better with proper implementation.

In fact, the developers not that "experiments with per-machine opting-in "could save hundreds of MB in the browser and Network Service utility processes" on some machines.

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When might this arrive and where?

Now, utilizing segment heap in Chrome relies on additions to the manifest that allows Windows to run the app with the memory-saving feature in place. So it's almost certainly going to remain an exclusive feature for Windows, if and when it is added. Users on a Chromebook, Linux machine, or Mac aren't going to see these benefits.

Equally important, the feature is noted as a "work in progress." So it may not be added at all. As noted above, this is a priority 3 bug. That means it has the lowest priority it is possible to have at the Chromium bug site. While a primary focus of Chrome has been performance improvements, the company has been more concerned with security. And, in fact, that's part of what's led to the memory problems, to begin with, to some extent.

Chrome separates all of its tabs and sites onto separate processes. That helps isolate pages from others that the user might have open. The balancing act results in mostly-free memory blocks being allocated that don't have a lot in them.

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This solution could ultimately fix that, at least for Windows users. But that just doesn't seem to be a priority for the company. At least for the time being, Chrome developers are focused on much bigger problems.