Ubuntu – Chromium (chromium-browser) uses 99,99% IO disk

chromiummemory usageram

My favorite browser Chromium is testing my patience. For some reason it sometimes uses 99,99% of I/O. (reading 2-3MB/s) Other processes (updatedb.mlocate, [kswapd0], Clementine, Compiz) show the same behavior. However this problem always starts and ends with Chromium.

To illustrate the impact on my system:

When my disk starts to spin like crazy and the disk activity LED is on continiously the system is so slow that it takes about two to five minuits to switch to tty6, log in and execute killall chromiumbrowser && killall chromium. This is way faster than starting a new terminal in X, just starting a terminal seems too heavy for Compiz under these circumstances.
Waiting until it's over takes more than 30 minutes, if it ends at all.

The exact circumstances are difficult to replicate. Several tabs have to be open, usualy 8 or more. It seems that the chance for increasing memory usage is when more complex sites like GMail and plugins like Flash are running. Opening several new tabs at OMG! Ubuntu has the best chance to replecate this isue.

The output of free -m when opening 12 OMG! Ubuntu tabs simultaneously:

Note: Total(T) Used(U) Free(F) Shared(S) Buffers(B) Cached(C)

Memory: (T):2.0G (U):1.9G (F):95M (S):0B (B):264K (C):348M
-/+ Buffers/Cache: 1.5G/444M
Swap: (T):2.9G (U):146M (F):2.8G 

Output of df -h:

Note: Filesystem(FS) Size(S) Used(U) Available(A) Use %(U%) Mounted on(MNT)

(FS):/dev/sda1 (S):149G (U):102G (A):40G (U%):72% (MNT):/
(FS):udev (S):994M (U):12K (A):994M (U%):1% (MNT):/dev
(FS):tmpfs (S):402M (U):1008K (A):401M (U%):1% (MNT):/run
(FS):none (S):5.0M (U):0 (A):5.0M (U%):0% (MNT):/run/lock
(FS):none (S):1004M (U):1.9M (A)1003M (U%):1% (MNT):/run/shm
(FS):none (S):100M (U):0 (A):100M (U%):0% (MNT):/run/user
(FS):/dev/sda5 (S):104G (U):79G (A):26G (U%)76% (MNT):/media/d

I have no idea where to start looking for a solution. Any help would be greatly apreciated.

System Specifications:

  • Operating System: Ubuntu 12.10 32-bit
  • Memory: 2GB
  • Processor(s): Intel 1.66 GHz (Dual Core)
  • PC: IBM ThinkPad R60e


No other processes except Chromium (chromium-browser) were running. Several extensions however, were also running. Together, they used about 200-300 MB memory (see the list below). Disabling extensions like Offline GMail and Google Drive should make my system more responsive.

Anyone who has similar problems: Last week I have used Firefox instead of Chromium. It seems Firefox uses a bit less memory. Perhaps a practical short-term solution.

Coming week I will report back about how much the performance of Chromium has improved when running without extensions.

Memory usage of several Chromium extensions

  • Google Drive: 60 MB

  • Offline GMail: 50 MB

  • MightyText: 36 MB

  • AdBlock Plus: 36 MB

  • Web Worker (Google Documents/docs.google.com): 32 MB

  • LastPass: 14 MB

  • Tamper Monkey: 11 MB

  • Fastest Chrome: 11 MB

  • PhotoZoom: 9 MB

  • Chrome To Phone: 9 MB

Best Answer

Try to make it happen, then post output of free -m.

Also, please post details on what make and model of hard drive you're using, and output of df -h.

For reference, here is me looking at the %memory used by the biggest processes currently running on my system:

me@banshee:~$ ps wwaux | awk '{print $4 " " $11};' | sort -rn | head -n 10
8.1 rhythmbox
7.1 /opt/google/chrome/chrome
3.7 /opt/google/chrome/chrome
3.3 /opt/google/chrome/chrome
2.6 /opt/google/chrome/chrome
2.5 /opt/google/chrome/chrome
2.3 /usr/bin/X
2.3 /opt/google/chrome/chrome
1.9 /opt/google/chrome/chrome
1.9 compiz

Can you run the same command on your system, please, and let's see what your biggest processes are?

For reference, my system has 16G of RAM, and each of those chrome processes you see is therefore eating something along the lines of 300MB-600MB of RAM. So, yeah, they definitely do add up.

For further reference: those are my TOP memory-hungry Chrome processes; I actually have 72 current tabs open right now and they're eating about 0.9% of my RAM (about 90MB-ish) apiece on average - the actual range is from about 10MB on the low end to about 600MB on the high end. I haven't tried to check to see how much omgubuntu eats specifically.

A bit MORE reference: I set up a clean VM and installed chromium-browser; opening 12 tabs to http://omgubuntu.co.uk/ resulted in 1.3G used / 718M free (646M used / 1.3G free -/+ buffers/cache). So, basically, either something OTHER than Chromium is eating most of your RAM, or you have extensions installed in Chromium that aren't very memory-efficient and are significantly bloating it per process... if I had to guess, I'd say probably the latter. What extensions are you running?

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