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Chrome Tabs Keep Refreshing – What To Do

Posted by Jamie on February 27, 2019

Why do my Chrome tabs keep refreshing and what can I do to stop it? This was the question I was asked via email from a TechJunkie reader last week. It’s an intriguing question and another I did not immediately know the answer to. This tutorial will show you exactly what I learned and how to stop those tabs refreshing.

Chrome has its own memory management function called ‘Tab Discarding and Reloading’ that pauses inactive tabs so they don’t use up too many resources. This works alongside Chrome processes to try to reduce the significant overhead the browser brings with it. The idea is to save as many resources as possible for all types of devices.

Chrome will load the page when you request it and keep it in memory. If you have lots of spare RAM, it will sit there until you need it. If you begin using up your RAM, the tab is put to ‘sleep’ and the memory released to be used elsewhere. Then, when you want to use that particular tab, Chrome requests a fresh page from the web rather than using the local one in memory.

On a fairly new PC, this should never be an issue as you should always have an amount of RAM available for the browser. If you’re on an older computer or laptop or using a phone or tablet, RAM can be a scarce resource that is always in demand.

It’s a great theory and works well most of the time. However, if you use lots of tabs and push your memory to its limits, this can result in a lot of data being requested over and over again.

Also, if you’re filling in an online form, or using a shopping basket in an online store and then opening tabs for reviews, you may find when you go back to that form or shopping basket that it has been reset. While a minor annoyance, we could do without it.

If you would like to know more about how Tab Discarding and Reloading works, this page on the Chromium website explains it in detail.

Tab Discarding

You can turn off tab discarding within Chrome settings and I’ll show you how to do that in a minute. You do have to be aware though that if you do turn it off, Chrome may use up all available memory if you have enough tabs open and not automatically release them. This can cause your browser and perhaps entire device to slow down.

As long as you’re okay with that, here is how to stop your Chrome tabs refreshing.

  1. Open Chrome or a new tab.
  2. Paste ‘chrome://flags/#automatic-tab-discarding’ and hit Enter.
  3. Change the setting from Default to Disabled.
  4. Restart Chrome for the change to take effect.

You could also use the ‘chrome://flags’ and then search for ‘discard’ to arrive at the same place. Either works. As long as you change the setting to Disabled, you will turn off the discarding feature.

Drilling down into discards

If you want to know more about Chrome and tab discarding, there is a neat page that tells you all about it within Chrome.

  1. Open a new Chrome tab.
  2. Paste ‘chrome://discards’ and hit Enter.

You should see a page like that last image that looks like a Google Sheet. It shows all tabs open in Chrome, its perceived order of priority and whether each tab can be automatically discarded or not. You can even see how long each tab has been open for in the Last Active column.

If you want to turn off automatic tab discarding and your PC begins slowing down, you can either shut down some tabs or check this page to see which tabs have been open for what amount of time. If you select the Database tab on the page, you can even see how much memory each tab is using. This could be useful if you need to free up some RAM.

Just identify a tab with the most memory footprint, go to Discards and select Urgently Discard for that tab. Rinse and repeat until your device returns to normal.

I will be honest and say that the vast majority of users should leave automatic tab discarding enabled on their devices. That is especially true if you’re on a mobile. Only if you find the refresh delay really annoying or are into shaving kilobytes from your data plan do you need to mess with this. Otherwise, this is one of those settings that is best left well alone.

Have you disabled automatic tab discarding? Does it make life better? Tell us your thoughts below!

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