Why is Apple’s Safari browser such a memory hog?

“I like Safari. I’ve used Apple’s web browser for most of my work since it was released,” Kirk McElhearn writes for Macworld. “I do use Chrome and Firefox for certain tasks, but Safari is my default browser.”

I like Safari. I’ve used Apple’s web browser for most of my work since it was released,” McElhearn writes. “But there’s one thing I don’t like about Safari: it’s a gourmand.”

“Right now, my iMac’s uptime (the time since my last restart) is nearly four days. And Safari is using 6.81GB of RAM, by far the largest memory hog on my Mac. The app itself is using about 1GB, but each tab, each window also uses RAM.,” McElhearn writes. “As I write this, 15 minutes after I said above that Safari was using 6.81GB, that number has increased to 7.14GB. And it will continue increasing over time, as long as the same tabs and windows are open.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: We are notorious for bludgeoning Safari – our default browsers, too – with 20+ tabs open at a time, for long periods of time. That’s a main reason why we pack every single one of our Macs to the brim with RAM (and also why we restart Safari so often).

44 Comments

  1. Easy answer. Don’t use Safari.

    “Safari is not recommended. The code is a mess and security vulnerabilities are frequent, and slower to patch (see discussion on Hacker News). Security does not appear to be a priority for Safari. If you do use it, at least disable the Open “safe” files after downloading option in Preferences, and be aware of other privacy nuances.”

    https://github.com/drduh/macOS-Security-and-Privacy-Guide#browser

    1. Yes all very clever of you but I love Safari, just can’t get used to the mess that other browsers represent from a design and userbility aspect by comparison. Plus as I have never had a security issue with it that is of no concern either. Tried just about every browser available even the dreaded Chrome (never again) and for me nothing is as seamless and smooth as Safari for general use though Stainless was once good and fast.

      However now to the issue at hand. Over time on Mountain Lion it had become a bit of a hog clogging up whenever I opened up too many tabs definitely worse in that regard compared to Firefox, the other browser I was using a lot, at the time. Mind you I was on minimal ram and though I have new to install hadn’t got round to it. Anyway moved up to Sierra few months back and did a clean install and subsequently have no such issues at all can open as many tabs and Windows as I like. To be honest the whole Mac is working smoother so difficult to know whether it’s the OS or the clean out that’s the cause, probably a mix of both. Anyway a joy to use again so sorry mate I shall be sticking yo it thanks.

  2. Easier answer – it doesn’t matter how much memory an app is shown using in Activity Monitor. Modern operating systems manage RAM correctly. It’s not something any user should ever need to see, just like the myriad of other operating system level parameters we don’t watch.

  3. While by habit I still use Safari as my default browser, it, like virtually all other Apple Macintosh software, has been sadly neglected. Indeed, several programs have made HUGE steps backwards in their usability/feature. Mail continues to be a disaster and Photos still does not compare to iPhoto (much less Aperture) in terms of features and flexibility. I used to use Keynote extensively for my university lectures but long ago abandoned it when they removed key features.

    Apple does not seem to understand software anymore and seemingly tries very hard to make sure that the desktop version of software CAN’T do more than the iOS version. Worse, Apple seems tone deaf to its “power” users complaints.

    I’ve been a hardcore Mac user since 1985, but am seriously questioning if there is reason to remain so.

    1. I am sorry to hear that you are having so much trouble with MacOS and Mac and Apple and iOS and iPhone and AppleTV and . . .

      I hope you are happier with the alternatives: Windows, Linux, Android, Chromecast etcetera. They have a great ecosystem and user experience, right?

      1. Sorry, but I think YOU need a “Reality Check”.

        Apple is not meeting the needs of a large percentage of their users. We see that in the lack of new hardware, missing hardware shipping dates (e.g., ear pods) and their dismal software products. I’ve been an early adopter of virtually all mac hardware and a’m a longtime mac user and share holder who, between my home and lab, has bought over 150 Macs since 1985.

        When people like me are questioning where Apple is going, that is a bad sign. Your petulant response says a lot about you, but nothing about where Apple needs to improve.

        1. You didn’t address Reality Check’s point: what’s your alternative? I have been a Mac user since 1985 and am forced to use Windows every day at work. As bad as Mac may be, it’s still light years ahead of Windows. So the question again: what’s the alternative? I don’t know about you, but I’m stuck with the best bad-solution: Mac

  4. It’s not a memory hog…unless you consider ALL browsers to be memory hogs. Safari is no worse, and perhaps even better, than other browsers.

    Note that the cited article’s worst hog was Google Docs. Shocker…

    1. If they are using Google Docs.. they should be using Chrome.. you know.. that native app that Google Docs was designed for..

      I have dozens of google docs open in chrome on a core2duo macmini with 8 GB of ram.. no problems here. I wouldn’t dare try the same thing in SofarySoGoody.

  5. All the browsers suck these days. I think it’s HTML 5. The main problem is, it’s practically an OS by itself. Flash was a problem. I think it’s all of the machine independent code and multi media instructions.

    Chrome is a hog too. Firefox is better, but not my first choice. I like Opera, even though based on Chrome. It seems to be lighter.

    Still Safari is my go to browser.

  6. Can’t use Safari on some major Federal Gov. Web sites due to security concerns.

    How is that possible? Who is watching and taking care of the store at Apple-Safari?!!

    Geez, guys, get with the program. Fix this problem. It’s embarrassing.

    It is things like this that make some people believe most of you are fat, lazy and happy–with things being just okay. Well, they are not okay in some areas. It also feels like you don’t care about quality. This is not good for the long run.

    1. I was about to leave a very similar comment til I read yours. I completely agree.
      I’ve never had any issue with Safari. Right now I’m on a 2007 iMac with 6gb or RAM and Safari open with 5 tabs and it’s only using 633MB

  7. I don’t use tabs in Safari and it still slows down. How many users have had the spinning ball when they shut down the browser? Inexcusable!

    I’m running Safari on a 2015, 27 inch iMac with 32gbs of RAM. The issue’s not on my end so my advice is: Apple get your act together, it’s just a piece of software so fix it.

    1. I have an older 4 GB system and don’t have these issues with lots of windows and tabs. Is it possibly related to Flash? I removed it completely from my system and use Chrome for it’s built-in Flash plug-in when I really want to use a Flash object.

  8. I’ve been pointing this out to friends for a couple months now. I use a menubar app to tell me how much RAM I have free. I have it set to warn me when I have less than 1GB available. When I check in Activity Monitor, the RAM hog is ALWAYS Safari. I then use the RAM reporting App to ‘Free Memory’. When I’m using Safari for long periods of time, I do this A LOT.

    The one good thing I can say is that, at least with the 10.12.2 beta I’m currently running, when Safari has BANGED the roof of my 16 GB (sixteen gigabytes) of RAM, at least OS X doesn’t come to a crawl. That used to be the case! But of course it’s ridiculous to have all your RAM devoured by a web browser.

    I’ll be documenting the next time this occurs and sending feedback to Apple. I’ve neglected doing so before now because Apple’s AppleSeed Feedback Assistant system is an utter shambles at the moment. I did report at least THAT fact to Apple.

  9. Yes…Safari’s quite the RAM hog. Had 30 tabs open resulting in 11GB of RAM dedicated to Safari!

    As importantly, Apple please make Safari useful. Glims and SafariStand added much more functionality to Safari. However, Apple coded these add-ons out of existence.

    Some suggested improvements:
    – when opening a tab via a link, it would be more efficient for Safari to return to the previous tab once the new tab is closed. Also give me the option of placing that new tab directly to the right or left of the existing tab.
    – dated folders within the Download Folder.
    – Ability to scoll or swipe through tabs via mouse, touch pad or touch bar
    – eliminate unnecessary eye candy (eg Top Sites)

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