Windows 10: Google seeks Microsoft’s help to fix Chrome’s biggest problem

Windows 10 Task Manager

After Microsoft started rolling out Windows 10 May 2020 Update,
tech giant claimed that it had found a way to fix
Chromium-based browsers RAM usage. The fix is ‘Segment
Heap’, which is now included in Windows 10 and it should help
reduce memory usage with some Win32 desktop apps, such as
Google Chrome and Edge.

Segment Heap is a technical under the hood improvement whereby
the “modern heap implementation” reduces your apps overall
memory usage.

In other words, Segment Heap is something that developers need
to use in their apps and Microsoft is already using this for
its Chromium Edge.

Microsoft’s internal testing has recorded a 27% reduction in
memory usage of Edge browser, and you can also expect some
improvement in Chrome if Google is able to implement this

Task Manager

According to a Chromium commit that we spotted earlier this
year, Google was also going to adopt it for
Chrome. However, Google later clarified that its
RAM-saving fix Microsoft came up won’t be enabled in future
versions of Chrome, including version 85.

Google said that Segment Heap did cut down on RAM usage by
their browser, but it also ended up causing performance
regression, including high CPU usage.

Windows Task Manager usage

So far, Google has been using .exe manifest method for enabling
the segment heap, which does save some memory, but it wastes
CPU time.

“The savings most comes from the browser and network processes,
while the cost mostly comes from the renderer process,” Google

Google’s new testing data suggests that it would be quite easy
to use segment heap without performance regression if Microsoft
agrees to add a function to Windows that would set or clear the
“segment-heap-enabled” bit in RtlpHpHeapFeatures in ntdll.dll.

Code inspection makes it clear that it would also be easy to
add flags to HeapCreate and RtlCreateHeap to force-enable or
force-disable the segment heap. These methods would work nicely
in conjunction with the manifest, which by itself is too
inflexible to be a complete solution.

Google’s senior developer has also submitted a formal post on
Github seeking
Microsoft’s assistance for implementing these two flags:

  1. HEAP_ENABLE_SEGMENT_HEAP – create a segment heap instead of
    an NT heap.
  2. HEAP_DISABLE_SEGMENT_HEAP – create an NT heap instead of a
    segment heap, even if the segment heap was requested in the
    application manifest.

“These flags would be useful for all Chromium-based browsers,”
Google developer noted.

But does this mean we won’t be getting Google Chrome’s RAM
saving update anytime soon? Hopefully not.

Google is still experimenting with Segment Heap and Microsoft
could also help Google while it runs more tests. Google will
reconsider support for this feature in the future when there’s
a way to implement it successfully or Microsoft jumps in with
their own fix.

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