Firefox is a great browser, but it can use a lot of RAM, especially if you have plenty of tabs open and leave it running all the time.
Freeware utility developers say they’ve come up with a solution, though. Just download, unzip and run their new Firefox Plumber and they claim “it will eliminate all memory leaks in Firefox”, right away.
Does it work? A first test showed promising results. Firefox on our test PC required around 120MB RAM (private working set) immediately after launch, and this came close to doubling when we opened five tabs. Launch Firefox Plumber, though, and RAM use dropped to under 1MB, then (with occasional brief exceptions) stayed there, no matter how many tabs we opened.
This seems impressive – but a closer look revealed the catch. Firefox was actually using almost as much memory as before, but most of it was being swapped to the Windows paging file. We checked the consequences of this by using Task Manager to monitor page faults, the number of times data had to be fetched from the hard drive because it wasn’t in your physical RAM.
After opening a defined set of tabs with Firefox alone, it was around 128,000; with Firefox Plumber running, this shot up to more than 10 million, so our PC was having to do more work in the background to maintain these low Firefox RAM levels.
And there’s a sign of that in Firefox Plumber’s own CPU requirements. On our test PC it was forever using 3 or 4% CPU time, which overall was more than 5x that used by the System process (the Windows kernel).
Does this mean Firefox Plumber is a waste of time? Not necessarily.
If you only ever use a few Firefox tabs, in short sessions, and its RAM use is never an issue for your PC, then sure, it’s probably not going to help you much.
We’ve seen reports of Firefox using 1GB or more in some situations, though, so if you’re seeing similarly high levels of memory consumption, it’s having an effect on your PC’s performance, nothing else you’ve done has helped, and you don’t mind the extra CPU and hard drive activity, then Firefox Plumber may be very useful indeed.
Certainly there’s no harm in trying, as it’s a portable program, so won’t install anything or otherwise clutter your PC. Go grab a copy, see if it works for you.
This article originally appeared at softwarecrew.co.uk