Behind Chrome’s Tab Discarding Feature That Dumps Your ‘Least Interesting’ Tabs

Behind Chrome’s Tab Discarding Feature That Dumps Your ‘Least Interesting’ Tabs
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A few years back, Google announced that it would be adding “tab discarding” to Chrome, emulating (on a basic level) the memory-releasing functionality of extensions like The Great Suspender. Although the feature was implemented a while ago, not much fanfare was made about it. If you’re curious, it’s easy enough to get a behind-the-scenes look.

First of all, make sure tab discarding is enabled via the internal chrome://flags page. Just look for the setting visible in the image above. Note you’ll need to restart the browser for it to start working.

Then, you can hit up another internal page by typing the following into the address bar: chrome://discards. This will show you a rudimentary list ordering open pages “from most interesting to least interesting”.

Pages deemed “least interesting” will be discarded by the browser if the system runs out of physical memory. Not an easy thing to achieve usually, but it’s nice to know Chrome won’t explode if there’s such an occurrence.

What does “discard” actually mean? All Chrome will do is unload the tab’s resources, while leaving it “open”. As soon as you refresh the tab, those resources will be loaded back in. The idea is that tabs you haven’t looked at in a while will, in effect, be “discarded” until you need them again. Chrome just assumes that, because it’s been hours (or even days) since you viewed the tab, it’s unlikely you need it ready to go.

For more information about how it works, there’s a great Chrome developer post by Addy Osmani with extensive details.

Disable auto tab refresh in Chrome [Addictive Tips]


  • I have 16gb of ram and am constantly running out of memory due to 50+ tabs being open.

    I like the sound of this feature, as long as its intelligent when it comes to pages that are the result of a post.

    It should take a b&w screenshot of the page, unload the page and show the screenshot with the option to reload it, when i do my tab clean up every few days it can take quite a long time due to the memory pressure, it would be nice to get an instant look at all tabs and be able to bulk kill them.

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