Microsoft Edge uses less memory in the Windows 10 May 2020 Update

A memory allocation improvement helps Edge run more efficiently, and Google Chrome may use this technique as well.

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If you expected Microsoft’s new Chromium-based Edge to start gobbling up memory as Google Chrome seems to do, Microsoft’s Windows 10 May 2020 Update has a surprise in store: The browser’s memory consumption actually seems to go down.

Kim Denny, a principal product manager for Microsoft Edge, described in a small blog post on Wednesday how the browser has taken advantage of memory allocation improvements (specifically, segment heap improvements) for Win32 applications. “Early internal testing results of devices on the May 2020 Update are showing a memory usage reduction of up to 27% when browsing with Microsoft Edge,” she wrote.

Microsoft hasn’t previously called attention to the segment heap improvements within the May 2020 Update, and it’s unclear whether every Win32 application would be able to take advantage of them. In any case, a quick check of the browser running on an older November 2019 Update (version 1909) versus the latest Windows 10 May 2020 Update (version 2004) show that the improvement is in fact, real.

We opened 10 media-rich tabs on both machines, theorizing that the advantages would scale with the number of opened tabs. These were live sites, though we did turn on an ad blocker to minimize the variation in the number and type of ads served.

On the machine running the Windows 10 November 2019 Update, the amount of memory consumed was 1,971MB.  On the latest Windows 10 May 2020 Update, the same ten tabs consumed 1,204MB of available memory. That's a 38-percent drop, far more substantial than what Microsoft predicted. 

Windows Latest found proof that Google believes it can take advantage of the new segment heap improvements as well, though it would need to switch over to the Windows SDK to do so. The memory consumption used by the respective Chrome browsers on the two systems we tested was comparable, roughly 1,650MB. (The two test machines were different, with different CPUs, so comparing the CPU utilization wouldn’t make sense.)

We don't yet know whether this segment heap improvement will be a tide that lifts all boats, including browsers and Win32 apps. It will certainly make our best browser tests that much more interesting. 

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