Memory Consumption in Firefox

Oct 30, 2006

I don't fully understand why people get so upset about the supposed "memory leaks" in Firefox. While I don't disagree that an application as large as Firefox could have memory management issues, I severely question the reports out there that indicate that Firefox eats up hundreds of megabytes of memory without ever releasing it. I use Firefox every single day for many hours, and I have never run into such a problem. In fact, what most people are complaining about is actually a feature.

That aside, let's assume that Firefox does indeed leak small amounts of memory here or there. What would it matter? Sure it might be sloppy programming practice. It's certainly not fair to eat shared resources that you'll never return. But under what circumstances might you be hindered from doing work on your computer because Firefox is "consuming" one or two hundred megabytes of RAM? What memory intensive operations are people constantly doing that causes them fume over this perceived problem? I can think of no single instance of computing that would both consume the entire system's memory, and be common enough that everyone encounters it on a daily basis. Granted, gaming might be one exception, but not everyone does that.

So my question is this: why care? Who cares that Firefox might use up to 200 megabytes of memory? Memory is cheap. If you're that concerned about the memory usage of your applications, you clearly don't have enough in your system. Just 1 gigabyte is more than enough for today's environment, and NewEgg has 1 GB modules for as little as $80. If you're complaining, just go for the upgrade; you'll be glad you did.

3 Comments
kip
6:16 PM on Oct 30, 2006
Well.. the complainers seem to have a point.. Firefox is usually at the top of my list of running processes when I sort by memory usage, and reaches 100 MB pretty quickly. Personally, I like for Firefox to be the very first object on my task bar on my work computer, so I leave it up for days or weeks at a time. It frequently reaches 500MB after a few days, but it seems to top off there (even if I run for another two weeks). The article that you linked to says the history caching is for speed, but Opera is way faster than Firefox and it doesn't seem to have the same memory usage problem. All that being said, I've never had any problem with running out of memory, and Java applications with Swing GUI's can easily eat more than 500MB of RAM in a very short time. I think a lot of complaining is because people have some problem with another application hanging, and go to task manager and see "firefox.exe 208,480 KB" and think "Aha! I've found it!", even if the problem has nothing to do with memory. The same people will defrag their hard drives twice a week because they think it will help them run XP in a higher resolution, then ask you if they have a big enough hard drive to play a game requiring 512 MB of memory.
Issac
4:42 PM on Nov 16, 2006
Help me please... I just installed Firefox 2.0, and all of a sudden, my username/password isn't being inserted in the signon window (it always was before). I tried the usual suspects--I did not mistakenly tell FF not to remember the password for this site; and I also tried the remember password bookmarklet, but all to no avail--FF will not ask me to remember this password. What do I need to do to get around this?
Jonah
10:28 AM on Nov 17, 2006
You might try checking if the "Remember what I enter in forms and the search bar" option is checked (under the Privacy section in the Firefox options window). I believe there is a bug in Firefox that prevents the password manager from filling in a username and password if that option is turned off (though I may be misremembering). Worst case is that you create a new profile. See my Firefox Profile Tutorial for more details on that.
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