Firefox vs. Internet Explorer 9 vs. Chrome vs. Safari vs. Outlook memory usage (Windows 7 32-bit), part one

So which browser is the ultimate memory hog? Is Outlook really as “bloated” as everyone complains it is? Is Chrome as lightweight and fast as it claims to be? I dunno…let’s find out!

Here are the rules:

  1. Each browser had only 1 tab open to; Outlook had no child windows opened.
  2. I fired up each browser/application, waited about 10-15 seconds, and then took a screenshot of task manager.
  3. I tested in the latest versions as of this writing, which are: IE9, FF9, Chrome 16, Safari 5.1, and Outlook 2010 w/ service pack 1 applied.


First off, the qualitative results. IE9 and Chrome launched the fastest, coming up almost instantaneously (I couldn’t tell which was first, so I’m calling it a tie). Safari came up second, and Firefox dead last (for the browsers) by quite a long shot. Outlook pretty much tied with Firefox for last, coming up just after Firefox loaded.

Now for the good stuff — memory usage.

The facts

  1. Firefox was by far the most bloated, weighing in at 110,288 K (108 MB!). In Firefox’s defense, I do have about 5-6 plugins installed. I need to re-do this with a clean install, but I’d guess most people have a plugin…or five.
  2. Safari used the second-most memory, at 53,984 K (53 MB). Safari spawned WebKit2WebProcess.exe, if you’re wondering where I got my number.
  3. Internet Explorer and Outlook practically tied for third-most memory used, at 37,456 K (37 MB) and 37,012 K, (36 MB), respectively.
  4. Chrome used the least memory at 33,224 K (32 MB).




This wasn’t a very scientific test. I should have done more testing with multiple tabs, a clean install of Firefox, let them all run for some time, etc. But it does shed some light on how these applications use your system resources. The biggest surprise  — to me, anyway — is how little memory Outlook uses compared to the browsers (side note: I have seen Outlook consume closer to 90 MB after it’s been running all day, but I’ve also seen Firefox push upwards of 200 MB or more).

It is surprising how much memory Firefox uses, but I’ll be honest — it doesn’t matter all that much. Most machines have plenty of free RAM these days, and unless you’re running hardware that’s more than 5 years old, I don’t think it’s going to affect you very much. Firefox is still my browser of choice, although the snappy loading of Chrome is IE9 is nice. And Safari on Windows…meh.

So the King of  Bloat award goes to Firefox; Outlook wins the Scapegoat Award. IE9 and Chrome both get the Snappy Award.

Oh, and Safari gets the Who Cares award.

Update: I’ve added a part two: testing with more tabs.

Andrew Block

I (Andrew Block) am the Director of Analytics and Insights for MSP-C, an awesome brand journalism company in Minneapolis, MN. Insights are everywhere - and this blog explores that premise. One part geek and one part analyst, I like to blog about techy and insightful things. Or insightful techy things...or....

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  • Andrew Block

    Aric, I’ve added a part two. Seems Firefox bests both IE9 and Chrome. IE9 was the worst, in my experience. Check it out.

  • Andrew Block

    Hey Aric,

    Good idea. I agree that the test needs to be done with many tabs open, and I should also leave the browsers running for a few hours, to see if any memory leaks increase bloat over time. I’d also be curious to compare browser memory usage on a different OS, like Ubuntu and/or Mac OS. I’d also be curious how IE7 and IE8 stack up to IE9 (and maybe IE6, just for laughs. Multiple tabs — what??). :)

  • Aric

    I would be interested in seeing this test run with multiple tabs. I know on my machines Chrome uses the least memory until I open more then five tabs (which I do a lot), and that is when it bogs down. Firefox seems to be the best when dealing with multiple tabs, even with the six or so plugins I have installed.