Chrome 79 is here. Before you do anything else, click the triple-dot icon in the upper-right corner of your desktop browser, click on Help, click on “About Google Chrome,” and summon that update for your system. (Go ahead and update your Android or iOS apps, too.)
While that chugs along, here’s a quick look at all the different settings you can tweak in order for Chrome 79’s new performance and security enhancements to work. These settings are vague and, in some cases, completely buried, so it’s worth spending a few minutes to check and make sure you’re set up to take advantage of Chrome 79’s latest tweaks.
Password Leak Detection
This feature, previously an extension, then a website, now runs a quick check whenever you type a new login into Chrome. Assuming you’re signed into your Chrome account first, look for the “Warn you if passwords are exposed in a data breach” option in the “Sync and Google services” section of Chrome’s settings. If you don’t see it there, it’s possible you don’t have it yet; Google is rolling this feature out, because that’s how Google does things.
If you’re impatient, like me, you can type chrome://flags into your address bar, search for “password leak,” enable the detection feature, and restart your browser. You should then see this setting appear in the aforementioned “Sync and Google services” section of your settings.
Real-Time Phishing Protection
While you’re probably smart enough to avoid websites that are blatant misrepresentations of actual websites you’d want to visit, it never hurts to have all the protection against phishing you can get. You never know when some website might be just clever enough to confuse you into giving up your account credentials or payment information.
While Chrome already comes with built-in phishing protection, Google is making it even better in Chrome 79. As the company describes:
“Google’s Safe Browsing maintains an ever-growing list of unsafe sites on the web and shares this information with webmasters, or other browsers, to make the web more secure. The list refreshes every 30 minutes, protecting 4 billion devices every day against all kinds of security threats, including phishing.
However, some phishing sites slip through that 30-minute window, either by quickly switching domains or by hiding from our crawlers. Chrome now offers real-time phishing protections on desktop, which warn you when visiting malicious sites in 30 per cent more cases.”
To make sure you’re getting these phishing updates as quickly as possible, you’ll want to enable the ambiguous “Make searches and browsing better” option in the “Sync and Google services” section of your Chrome Settings.
Freeze unused tabs so they stop sucking your system resources
A fun new “tab freezing” feature in Chrome 79 will help prevent your browser’s overflowing tabs from running background actions and eating up your CPU. They’ll still use system memory, so be diligent about how many tabs you really need to keep in your browser. This automatic “freezing”—which kicks in after five minutes of inactivity on a tab—won’t happen unless you flick on a Chrome flag, though.
Pull up chrome://flags and search for “Tab Freeze.” You’ll then see a number of options in the drop-down menu:
Enabled Freeze – No Unfreeze
Enabled Freeze – Unfreeze 10 seconds every 15 minutes
I’d keep the setting on “Enabled” myself, but if you want your browser to temporarily “warm up” sites at a regular interval, try the third option.
Speed up page-loading times when skipping forwards or backwards
This little gem, which I found in a report from ZDNet, allows Chrome to load pages from its cache whenever you click on the forward or back buttons in your browser (or do what I do, and let your gaming mouse’s extra buttons send you back and forth in your history). This should help the page load even faster, and all you have to do is enable this little flag in your browser: chrome://flags/#back-forward-cache
Heed Google’s warning, though: “NOTE: this feature is highly experimental and will lead to various breakages, up to and including user data loss. Do not enable unless you work on this feature – Mac, Windows, Linux, Chrome OS, Android”