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There's a clever new way to stop Chrome from hogging all your memory

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Chrome may be one of the best web browsers around, but it's not perfect – in fact, it's pretty infamous for hogging RAM and that can mean your entire system slowing down. 

A new feature being tested by Google could change this.

Called Tab Freeze, it's best thought of as an extension of Tab Discarding, which was introduced back in 2015 and stops tabs from reloading automatically in the background when your system memory is running low.

Tab Freeze goes further, giving you more granular control over when your tabs are suspended – and for how long.

The catch is that it's not yet a fully-fledged Chrome feature, so you'll need to enable it via the Chrome 79 Canary channel – but this is actually fairly straightforward and we'll show you how. 

How to enable Tab Freeze in Chrome Canary

First, though, a warning. 

Canary is the earliest stage of development for new Chrome functionality, which means features like Tab Freeze are inherently unstable – they haven't even been approved for beta testing yet, let alone public release.

Bearing this in mind, most people should probably only use Canary tools on an experimental basis and not as part of their day-to-day Chrome activity.

But if you're happy with this, our testing shows you can enable Tab Freeze directly in your primary Chrome browser by inputting –

chrome://flags/#proactive-tab-freeze 

– directly into the URL bar.

You'll then see a long list of experimental features, which can be a bit daunting, so search for the word 'freeze' at the top of the screen to whittle it down to Tab Freeze.

Now, choose how you want to enable the feature.

Techdows, which first spotted Tab Freeze in Chrome 79 Canary, describes the options available to you as follows:

  • Default (off)
  • Enabled (unused tabs are frozen after five minutes)
  • Enabled freeze – no unfreeze (tabs won't unfreeze until clicked)
  • Enabled freeze – unfreeze for 10 seconds every 15 minutes
  • Disabled

Once activated, you can view the status of your tabs and make tweaks by navigating to chrome://discards.

Alternatively, you can download Google's standalone Canary software, which will let you check out Tab Freeze in a safe environment that doesn't risk jeopardizing the stability of your primary Chrome browser.

After you've installed it, just follow the same process outlined above – you can always add Tab Freeze to Chrome proper at a later time if you like what you see. 

It's not clear if or when Google plans to roll out Tab Freeze in beta, let alone integrate into a new Chrome build. 

But if you like experimental features or are desperate to cut down Chrome's memory usage if your computer is a little underpowered, then it is worth checking out. Alternatively, wait until Google packages this into Chrome in a more stable version.

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