Firefox CPU Usage and Google Reader

Ever since installing Firefox version 2, I’ve noticed a steady deterioration in my computer’s performance, but I haven’t been able to put my finger on it. Since installing the update, it’s been even worse. For some reason, I decided to try and figure it out yesterday, and I think I’ve managed to stumble on the reason. Please note that isn’t to say that I’ve fixed the problem – only that I know the cause.

I typically keep 10-12 tabs open in Firefox. Perhaps I shouldn’t, but I do. It’s just the way that I use it. I almost constantly keep Firefox running. I just have little reason to close it, and with 1GB of memory, it’s usually not a problem. Even when Firefox gets up to a couple hundred MB of memory, it’s rarely an issue. If it is, I simply close the window and restart it with the tabs intact. I maybe do this every week or so and life goes on. But still, the performance was getting worse.

I mean it was really bad. I couldn’t even operate the browser. I would click on a field and start typing and it would be seconds before the text would appear. Or I would highlight text and it would take a while for it to appear. Or I would click on a field and start typing and by the time it started, the text would appear in an entirely different field (or on a completely different tab because it clicked elsewhere on the screen). Performance was horrible. The CPU load wasn’t generally bad, but every once in a while, I would notice it burst to a high level.

Often, those 10-12 tabs I keep open are the same, and there isn’t anything fancy on them. A lot of times there isn’t even much scripting on them. Simple pages. So there isn’t a lot going on there. But there was one page that had all sorts of action on it. So I decided to close it down, restart the browser and see what happened. Once I did, performance returned to normal immediately. The page? Google Reader.

If you’ve been reading for a while, you know I left Bloglines for the Google Reader a while back. I’ve been happy with the change. But most days I’m on the computer for hours at a time, and a lot of what I do is in the browser, so I just couldn’t deal with this sort of performance hit. So after a couple days of testing, I have to say that I’m pretty sure it’s the Google Reader (combined with Firefox 2) causing the problem.

The solution at the moment is that I’ve got a window running IE7 that contains only the Google Reader, and my Firefox window that runs everything else, and it seems to be running fine to this point. I’ll see how that goes. I don’t like it, but at least it doesn’t slow down the rest of my operations. Anyone else having this sort of problem with Google Reader and Firefox?




30 responses to “Firefox CPU Usage and Google Reader”

  1. julian Avatar

    I have probelm with firefox 3.0.1, but not with Google Reader.
    I run my laptop, dual core, 2GB, mostly on Wireless and for some time now it’s been very hot. I wasn’t sure if it has anything to do with my laptop being a bad product not cooling the wireless module enough, or the fact that I noticed that firefox often takes up at least 20%, often more of my CPU Usage.

    I had the problem with firefox 2 and hoped that upgrading to ff3 would help, but no. It came to the point that I started using IE again.

    Then I started searching and came over this blog. I fist disabled all the addons, restarted, but still 30% and 200MB. What I had open? Only 6 Tabs of pure html. No flash, no high-profile sites at all. How is it possible?

    Then I see that I have two firefox windows open, not just the one I restarted. The other one has similar amount of tabs that I remember checking another day, and for some reason teh sessions have been saved. Maybe the computer crashed, maybe I closed the process, i don’t remember. What is strange is that now my CPU Usage is 1-3%, and ff at 0%! That’s a new. And I already enabled all the addons.

    The strange thing is that it has been running at a high percentage almost from the first day I installed it. I usually just hibernate, but also restarted, to no avail. THere should definately be some tool, if there isn’t already, where you can monitor your browsers performance and pinpoint out where it is consuming all the power. In my case there was another window, with tabs using a lot of flash, which was using power but not visible.

    I hope it stays this way. Next step is to figure out how to remove the GoogleUpdate.exe that I believe arrived after having installed Chrome. Shutting down the process doesn’t help, checking Administrative Tools/Services (Win XP) I can disable GoogleUpdaterService.exe, which is not the same process. The first one cannot even be found!
    It’sfrustrating when products you used to like, ff and google, starts to seriously annoy you.

  2. Anu Avatar

    I am using the FireFox on Windows XP – No Addons.
    1) There is a major issue with the Browser consuming CPU – so much that the whole m/c just hangs. With no option but to ReBoot.
    2) While playing Streaming videos the memory usage of FF increases drastically.

    These days I have started using IE more and more. I hope we dont go back to those IE days.

  3. Ahmad Avatar

    I just experienced it on Firefox 3 final. Found my CPU at ~100% and it returned to normal as soon as I closed the Google Reader tab.

  4. Mac Avatar

    I just googled this topic and found this post. I’m having the same problem, but with FF 3.0 Release Candidate 1.

  5. Luke Avatar

    I had a similar problem, and as I have 2GB of RAM and dual core I was keen to find a software solution. Migrated to Opera (as Firefox was being so buggy) but it is ALSO struggling with Flash video heavy Google Reader channels. Maybe its just time to upgrade…. 🙁

  6. Felix Avatar

    I’m having exactly the same problem with 10-12 tabs open, where one of them holds my Netvibes content. If I close Netvibes, cpu usage goes to a normal state. Perhaps a general problem with heavily Ajaxed pages?

    If I try to close Firefox, I get sometimes the error that there is a long running script waiting to finish.

  7. Robb Topolski Avatar

    I appreciate the folks that are keeping this blog going and contributing their stories in a constructive, factual, non-emotional manner. I’m glad I found this blog.

    ///// Posted by chchatham on May 8, 2007 3:35 PM: As soon as I open Google Reader *or* Gmail the CPU starts spinning and memory usage starts to skyrocket. /////

    I have a similar problem with EITHER of these two applications, and for me, the problem doesn’t start immediatly. Yes, I get high load when loading Gmail or Google reader, but I expect that. Once the page load is done, CPU returns to normal for a while. Firefox/ is the version here. I don’t know that it’s a memory leak, it seems to be caught in some kind of loop because there is firefox.exe memory being consumed and released even though the browser is locked up. I’ve tried to wait it out, but even after several minutes, it’s still locked and has to be killed.

    ///// Posted by Korayem on June 6, 2007 4:20 AM: I think there should be some kind of CPU load analysis within Firefox to show which extension or part of Firefox that is causing the high load. /////

    Amen to that!!

    I’m going to try the IE work-around for these two applications. I’m quite apt, technically, but I don’t have the tools necessary to pinpoint this apparent Firefox allergy to certain Google pages.

  8. Chad Everett Avatar

    Hi Matt –

    Good tips, unfortunately I don’t use the Image Zoom extension! In fact, these days about the only extensions I use are Firebug and Forecast Fox. It seems that regardless of what I use, what I have enabled and what I do, Firefox regularly just eats memory.

    So I keep an eye on it. Usually it’s not bad until it hits 500MB or so, at which point I just kill it and start over. Then I repeat as needed.

    Still, good tips – thanks for the great detail!

  9. Matt L Avatar
    Matt L

    September 10th, 2007

    If you are googling this for your gmail (especially with chat) being very slow and eating up 99% of your CPU with FireFox (newest as of 9/10/07) I have found the solution (for myself at least)!!!

    Another weird symptom I was getting was that the emoticons weren’t being displayed properly, and there were some other visual artifacts. Unfortunately, the problem lies with one of my favorite extensions: Image-Zoom.

    If your problems seem like mine, try disabling Image Zoom: Click Tools -> Add-Ons -> Image Zoom -> Disable, then close and restart Firefox.

    Click a chat window, make an emoticon or two, and it should be fixed. If this doesn’t fix it for you, but you are having similar problems, do what I did and find it manually.

    First of all, see if it is an add-on that is causing your problems. Start Firefox in safe mode by going to Start -> Run (or by hitting WindowsKey+R) and enter the command: “firefox -safe-mode” and just click “Continue to Safe Mode” without checking any of the boxes. Go to and login, and test it out. If the problems disappear, one of your extensions is messing it up.

    To find which one, start Firefox in regular mode, then disable about half of your extensions. Restart Firefox and try gmail again. If it is working correctly, try enabling each extension, restarting firefox, and trying again, until you get the problem again; the last one you enabled is the problem extension. On the other hand, if after disabling half it does not work, keep disabling one at a time (restarting Firefox after each enable/disable) until it does work.

  10. Arijit Avatar

    I was having a similar problem, and stumbled upon your page. Ultimately I narrowed it down to the Yahoo! toolbar which was causing the spikes in the CPU usage by firefox. Disabled it – and it seems hunky dory – well so far…