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Why Using Chrome on Windows Literally Sucks (Battery, that is)

window batter low h2g

An innocuous sounding setting in Google Chrome is causing the app to chow down as much as 25% more battery power than rival web browsers on Windows.

Forbes’ Ian Morris highlights the issue at fault in an article headlined: “Google’s Chrome Web Browser Is Killing Your Laptop Battery“.

As hysterical as that title may read it’s not without merit. Testing shows that Chrome does, indeed, suck up battery life to a significant degree – more so than Mozilla Firefox or Internet Explorer.

But why? What’s going on? And how can you work around it?

Tick Rate Is Ticking Users Off

Chrome’s power inefficiency is down to a technical-sounding internal setting called “System Clock Tick Rate”. This is the task that is responsible for waking up your system CPU at a set interval.

This rate usually increases as and when the browser requires more processing grunt; e.g., when you start watching a YouTube video. The rest of the time the value is dialled back to a low setting – one that is better suited to handling regular web browsing.

In Chrome the system clock tick rate is set at 1.000ms at all times. This means that processor is prodded awake as much as 1000 times per second, regardless of what you’re doing, even when left idle in the background.

By contrast, Firefox and IE both default to Microsoft’s recommended setting of just 15.625ms when idle, an integer that results in a mere 64 calls to the CPU per second.

It all sounds very technical but the impact is huge, writes Forbes. They quote Microsoft as saying that Chrome’s setting could affect battery life expectancy by “as much as 25 per cent.”

Mac and Linux Chrome users are not affected as those systems use different methods for keeping tasks active.

Fix In Progress?

The good news is that in bringing public attention to the (long known) issue Google has jumped on it with haste, assigning the bug report high priority. With ‘eyes on it’ I’d expect to see a fix arrive sooner rather than later.

In the meantime, those of you running Chrome on Windows may want to close the browser entirely when not being actively used. 

  • Krzysztof Szmergiel

    Well, mac users might not be affected by “tick” issue, but chrome sucks too much power on mac os as well. When I can hear the fan going it means there is a chrome somewhere in the background.

    • Daniel Smith

      Same on Linux.

      It’s also prevented my laptop from sleeping a few times.

    • Seriously now?

      Yep. Flash is basically incompatible with Chrome on Mac. That heating and power consumption.

      Of course, lack of support for Flash is something of a feature. But, you know, there’s still partial compatibility, so, it’s not all pleasant.

    • Black Eagle

      I’ve heard from a few Mac users that Chrome uses more battery power than other browsers. They use Safari or Firefox when away from an outlet.

  • Fatal1ty_93_RUS

    Chrome seems to be a battery hog in general. On both desktop and mobile

  • Luís Miranda

    I that’s why i’m still using IE (when on battery..)

  • FirstLine

    Good. I hope they also fix the scrolling and make it silky smooth like in MetroIE. And add Files apps like in ChromeOS but I don’t want to be too demanding.

  • Penagwin

    15.625 is not an Integer…

    • Justin Baum

      It doesn’t matter, it’s done as a system process, which means if you’re running at 3 Ghz, 3 Billion/15.625 = every 192 million system clock cycles the program sends the request to the processor as some number of instructions.

  • https://wiki.ubuntu.com/ActionParsnip ActionParsnip

    Nothing in chrome://flags for it?

  • Joseph Dickson

    Firefox has always seemed more stable to me on my WIndows 7 system at work.

  • Espionage724

    If I recall right, there was an official article that stated the tick-rate decision was due to performance. This was a good while back though, so perhaps now with some more optimizations under Chrome’s hood, maybe the tick-rate can be scaled back now.

  • Herve Shango

    good

  • David Li

    It’s so unexpected since Chromebooks have such amazing battery life.

    • Nathan Moos

      The article said that “Mac and Linux Chrome users are not affected”, and ChromeOS is based on Linux.

  • Daviljoe193

    I’ll just add that to the list of reasons why I don’t use Windows. #LinuxFTW