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I saw the article titled "Memory test - Firefox vs Firefox 3.0 b1". I am interested in that kind of browser comparison, so I clicked at the screenshots there.

But, to my disappointment, the memory usage that is measured is determined by "Memory Usage" column of Windows Task Manager. It is NOT the correct method of measuring memory usage, because it only indicated how much memory is "active", not the total memory allocated by the program. To get how much memory allocated, the correct column is "VM Size" in XP or "Commit Charge" in Vista. Actually programs such as TaskInfo are able to reduce the "Memory Usage" of any program (e.g. 5 MB only for Firefox 2). Hence, "Memory Usage" is not a good measure for memory usage.

So, I ran a test of Firefox 2, Firefox 3 beta 1, Opera 9, and Internet Explorer 7 to see the real memory usage. As a bonus, Javascript speed test is added from Celtic Kane.

I ran all the test in an almost-clean Windows XP installation. Firefox's profile directory were set differently for Firefox 2 and 3. Screenshots with Task Manager open are always available :) No plug-ins (even flash) or extensions were installed!

Step 0 - install

  Firefox 2 Firefox 3 Opera 9 IE 7
Installer name Firefox Setup Firefox Setup 3.0 Beta 1.exe Opera_9.24_Eng­ _Setup.exe IE7-WindowsXP­ -x86-enu.exe
Installer size 5.74 MB 6.40 MB 4.69 MB 14.7 MB
Installed size 19.9 MB 22.8 MB 4.81 MB (yeah!) Who knows?

Step 1 - blank

I set the browser's start-up page to be blank. Then I started the browser and here are the memory usage.

  Firefox 2 Firefox 3 Opera 9 IE 7
VM Usage 11,672 KB 13,076 KB 12,568 KB 11,616 KB

IE is the best for blank page (HEHE)

Step 2 - Google only

I opened www.google.com which redirected me to www.google.com.sg since I am currently in Singapore.

  Firefox 2 Firefox 3 Opera 9 IE 7
VM Usage 12,152 KB 13,432 KB 14,056 KB 15,128 KB

Here we can see the worseness of IE starts to appear.

Step 3 - Digg only

Why Digg? Because it is loaded with lots of Javascript.

  Firefox 2 Firefox 3 Opera 9 IE 7
VM Usage 18,700 KB 22,280 KB 19,780 KB 30,920 KB

I am quite disappointed knowing that Firefox 3 is not better in terms of memory usage than Firefox 2. IE? WOW.

Step 4 - open 7 and 12 sites and a digg page

I tried to open 7 sites below:

  • www.yahoo.com
  • www.cnn.com
  • www.opera.com
  • www.firefox.com
  • www.netcraft.com
  • www.slashdot.org
  • www.amazon.com

After all are loaded, I clicked on each of the 7 tabs two times to let the browser actually draw the page elements on screen. Then I opened 5 more sites below and clicked each of them again.

  • www.bbc.co.uk
  • www.detik.com
  • www.kompas.com
  • www.cnet.com
  • www.kejut.com

I added one more, which is the digg page for the ZDNet's memory test, but this time I clicked the "Expand Tree" to make the page very long and Javascript-intensive.

I calculated the difference in memory usage before and after opening the last page.

  Firefox 2 Firefox 3 Opera 9 IE 7
After 7 sites 40,556 KB 45,320 KB 44,284 KB 71,120 KB
After 12 sites 59,648 KB 59,068 KB 65,492 KB 99,936 KB
After add last page 73,540 KB 73,244 KB 75,800 KB 119,748 KB
Increase in memory 13,892 KB 14,176 KB 10,308 KB 19,812 KB

Only after opening 12 pages then Firefox 3 uses less memory than Firefox 2? I wonder why. Opera has the lowest increase of memory when opening the last page. I think because Opera is still very efficient in the Javascript processing.

Step 5 - clean up

After the previous step, I closed all the 12 tabs, and I set the last tab to about:blank. I wanted to know how much the browsers clean up the memory. Result:

  Firefox 2 Firefox 3 Opera 9 IE 7
VM Usage 46,952 KB 55,936 KB 61,588 KB 56,860 KB

I hoped this was the best thing in Firefox 3, but my hope was wrong! Firefox 3 still consumed much more memory than Firefox 2. WHY? I don't know. Opera, as I expected, still used much memory, because I can click the trash-can and open closed tab, and the opening will be very fast, looks like the pages are still in memory.

Bonus - Javascript speed test

I wondered, did the Firefox developers made Javascript execution faster in Firefox 3? At least I can be proud of it if they did. So I used the test from Celtic Kane to measure it.

  Firefox 2 Firefox 3 Opera 9 IE 7
VM Usage 15,520 KB 16,696 KB 15,920 KB 22,392 KB
Total Duration 1832 ms 2974 ms 931 ms 1262 ms
Relative to Opera 1.97 times 3.19 times 1.00 times 1.36 times

Nothing interesting about the memory usage... but !? how come Firefox 3 is very slow? I tried not only once, but more than five times and it was still about the same.


Firefox 3 does not uses less memory than Firefox 2. It also does not clear unused memory when all the pages are closed. However, both Firefox 2 and 3 are still conservative compared to IE 7. It is surprising that Firefox 3 is significantly slower in Javascript execution than Firefox 2.

Opera uses slightly more memory than Firefox, and IE is really a memory hog. When switching tabs I needed to wait about ~0.4 seconds in IE but it was instant in Firefox and Opera.

I still have the test machine unmodified by this time, if anyone want to suggest a test that would be better reflects the better memory management of Firefox 3, please write down below. Suggestions and comments are happily welcomed! ↓

Written by: yuku

Interesting. Thanks.
The web pages you (And Adrian Kingsley-Hughes) used for your tests both serve up ads. These ads can be different each time the page is downloaded or refreshed. In step 3 above, the Opera page is clearly showing a different ad. There must be some variation in the size of ads served up- a Flash animation will be much larger than a simple banner. How much does this variation in ad size affect the result, I wonder?

Donald [gb], 24 Nov 2007, 8:44 reply
Hi! Thanks for your comment.
Different images for the ads surely affects memory usage, but I think it is not significant, since a banner is about 10-20 KB only. Regarding the Flash, all the browser here are tested without Flash plug-ins, so no Flash file can run :D

yuku [sg], 25 Nov 2007, 14:27 reply
Interesting. Thanks.
Hope you can add safari in for the benchmark. (Konqueror and Nautilus also ^^)

imam [sg], 24 Nov 2007, 19:04 reply
setuju.. tambahin safari donk.. =)

emka [sg], 9 Dec 2007, 19:58 reply
good review...

yosafat [sg], 26 Nov 2007, 14:12 reply
Im my humble experience FF is a complete memory hog compared to IE. Not sure what you are doing wrong but IE is faster and trimmer.

donkeywonkey [us], 27 Nov 2007, 13:15 reply
From your comment I saw that you are using IE 6.
IE 6 uses much less memory than IE 7. Although I have not tested it formally, IE 6 uses about half the memory used by IE 7. IE 6 may use less memory than FF.

yuku [sg], 27 Nov 2007, 13:25 reply
IE 6 doesn't have tabs :O

ryan [us], 23 May 2008, 17:59 reply
very good thanks!!

stirner [it], 29 Nov 2007, 16:40 reply
On Windows 2000 at least, the VM number may be either greater or smaller than the Memory Usage number. Processes like Outlook with many windows open but minimized can have VM twice the size of Memory Usage, while the System Idle process shows only Memory Usage (16k) with 0 VM.
This leads me to believe that the actual correct measure of total allocated memory is the sum of the two. And the distribution between the two can affect how that process influences or is influenced by memory swapping of other processes. The PageFaults number is a measure of the amount of swapping in and out of Virtual Memory the process has done since startup.
The Commit Charge number may be more like a total, but I cannot say authoritatively on that.

inetdoq [us], 30 Nov 2007, 20:53 reply
Tampaknya Firefox2 masih yang terbaik.

Agam [id], 10 Dec 2007, 15:25 reply
wow,bagus sekali analisismu bang,ini membuktikan keunggulan n kelemahan masing2 browser..thanks,useful sekali bwtku.

Mif [id], 18 Dec 2007, 14:43 reply
firefox 3nya kan masih beta.. tunggu aja versi fullnya..

LeonLanford [id], 31 Dec 2007, 19:49 reply
agreed, VM (virtual memory) never seems to be included in memory usage of programs when this is clearly important, sometimes the physical memory usage is much lower than the VM usage. surely an improvement to the tests would be to give VM usage and or a total memory usage and maybe an accumulative memory used when leaving the browser open or is that the same as the memory clean up?

Edox [eu], 26 Jan 2008, 14:33 reply
nice comparison. i think people should stick with IE6 if PC is lowsy 1

danny how chung [my], 6 Feb 2008, 7:41 reply
weh,., nice comparisson... thank ya...

budi pasadena [id], 26 Feb 2008, 8:12 reply
I wonder how Maxthon would compare? While it uses IE's rendering engine, that does *not* mean it will perform similarly to IE. I could use the engine from a Chevy truck in a boat, and obviously those two vehicles would have very different usage statistics. I use it (on top of IE6, can't find a reason to switch to IE7) and find it consistently uses much less memory than FF 2. And for some reason, after a few hours usage I have to restart FF because of it's memory and pagefile usage, sometimes above 350MB for each (and I only have 512MB RAM/1024 pagefile)!
I'm a webpage developer, and do a lot of JavaScript stuff, so that might account for part of it. Anyways, this is a great article. Thanks!

TedInAK [us], 6 Mar 2008, 0:23 reply
This is a very good article. I've been using Opera for a while now. I don't know how memory efficient it is, but it definitely feels much faster than Firefox.
Only problem is some Javascript (which is browser dependent), so I have to use Firefox now and then. Forget about IE ! hehe ..
Again , good article !

mr jp [au], 17 Mar 2008, 22:15 reply
well done tests, but the first beta of FF3 was still not optimized, which could explain the high memory consumption and speed drop. Try beta 3 or 4, and the performance gains should be significative.

mr m [cl], 18 Mar 2008, 13:03 reply
super article thanks you administrator

turkey [tr], 19 May 2008, 8:58 reply
ini yg sy cari ^^ T.O.P B.G.T

randy [id], 15 Jun 2008, 2:33 reply
Great article. Thanks for the effort. Don't really see need to to change from IE6 on my old Latitude 600! Just get more memory. Less disruption.

peter [gb], 21 Jun 2008, 16:49 reply
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voker [id], 22 Jun 2008, 11:17 reply
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voker [id], 22 Jun 2008, 11:17 reply
thanks for this review ,
what i see from it that opera9 is almost the best?
the newer version (9.51) is thicker and slower and take 2 much mem usage but still better than ie and firefox3 but forefox 2 is the best

unknown [qa], 14 Jul 2008, 15:53 reply
With turbo mode disabled (type about:config in the address bar), Opera uses much less memory and does not seem much slower.

Raco [de], 15 Oct 2008, 9:53 reply
tambahin chrommeee:P

evn [sg], 30 Oct 2008, 7:29 reply
Semua itu bohong brooo.....
Daftar Penipu di Intenet: SCAM!!!!!
1. http://surfjunky.com (saya udah dapat hampir 200 dollar tetapi tetap tidak bisa di cashout padahal katanya minimal cashout nya $25 )
2. http://24funds.com (saya sempat invest 50 dollar tetapi setelah mau login malah katanya username dan password salah padahal jelas-jelas dia mengirim email konfirmasi bahwa password dan usename saya memang itu)

Prihatin sekali [us], 20 Nov 2008, 4:59 reply
is your firefox 3 installed with plugins?
like adblock or noscript?
coz if no, then im really sticking with opera

weeeee [ph], 29 Jun 2009, 23:04 reply
biasa saja....

wawan [--], 28 Oct 2011, 20:27 reply