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).


  1. Has anyone tried Vivaldi? Been using it for over 6 months now. It’s almost my go to browser. It’s very fast on 17″ MBP. I also have Chrome, Firefox, and Safari Technology Preview. In terms of speed, I would have to say that Vivaldi beats all the other browsers. My MBP has max 16GB of ram. The only thing I don’t like about Vivaldi is that it’s not Safari. I prefer the UI of Safari over Vivaldi. But, dang. That speed though….

  2. This problem first surfaced with Top Sites and a very aggressive cache of websites by Safari. If you sync via iCloud, marathon web sessions of Desktop Safari will migrate to mobile Safari and eat up storage pace and data.
    Safari needs to be rethought and needs to give users better control of caches. If you tell Safari to clear only the day’s cache to prevent the clogging up of your mobile browser, you will also lose cookies you do want to keep for regular sites like banking, newspapers and such. There should be a way users can lock certain cookies- call it a cookie jar – for regular login sites and still be able to delete the cruft that accumulates over a day’s use.

  3. Yes, Safari isn’t perfect (by any stretch of the imagination), but I find it very good – especially when compared to Chrome. I have a rMBP and LOVE pinch to zoom. Have you ever tried pinch-to-zoom in Chrome? All I ever get is large jumps in zooming. In Safari, the zooming is fluid and gradual. At least in this respect, there’s no comparison…

  4. Okay, simple experiment: I have both Safari and Firefox open, with the same three websites open in three tabs each. Safari takes 319.6 MB, Firefox takes 521.3 MB. Safari was open all day, Firefox was freshly started. One site each has a video clip (720p) running.

    iMac 27″ late 2015, 8 GB of RAM, Fusion Drive, i5 @ 3.2 GHz, OS 10.12.1

  5. Safari is the app that causes me the most problems. WebKit crashes constantly. Multiple tabs guarantees slow downs. Syncing bookmarks and reading list won’t occur in background so delays me when opening the app just to save a a link to either of those. Please wait, Safari is syncing… I’m sick of waiting on everything Apple!!!

  6. I’ve got a zillion tabs and windows open, and they’ve been open for days and Safari is only using 350MB.

    People who not Apple employees should stop fussing over the meaningless stats in Activity monitor. Is your computer slowing down? No? Then dry your tears.

  7. I’m just about to give up on Safari and the only thing holding me back is that I see Chrome doing similar thing in Yosemite and Sierra, the 2 OSes I use on 3 devices (while supporting 2 other family members who won’t touch Safari and use Chrome exclusively).

    Is suuuuuper frustrating not to be able to keep a LOT of tabs open. Why not? it’s the way we work, right? Articles we keep wanting to read from days ago and then there are new ones every day especially when you need to research things for writing.

    Is it really HTML 5? I thought once Flash died, life was going to get better? Ad Blockers don’t seem to affect responsiveness either way as they may slow down a load, but by blocking all the garbage on most websites today, they do save you time that way.

    I have RAM maxed out on every machine we own and while it gets gobbled, I still wonder if there’s a better way to browse. How to get all that we want from a webpage quickly, without all that we don’t want to give up and pop up.

    That is the question, dear Horatio.

    1. You don’t really say what is happening. I have 4 GB and run many windows and tabs on Safari for weeks at a time.
      While Chrome uses Webkit like Safari, since it acts similar this doesn’t sound like a browser issue but maybe something deeper on the system that might be revealed by Activity Monitor.

      1. I suppose it depends on how ‘active’ the webpage when put in background is. For example a static website would probably take very little resources, where a webpage that makes heavy use of background code that updates the page automatically every few seconds would take a much larger chunk of resources to maintain concurrency.

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