As good as it is, Google Chrome is still a big memory hog. All of its positives aside, Chrome’s continued bloating with new features and extensions over the years often leads to unnecessary strain on your system’s resources. Chrome Helper in particular often appears to be the centerpiece of the browser’s memory use. What is Chrome Helper, and why does it use so much CPU? Let’s examine why and what you can do about it.
What Is Chrome Helper?
Remember the last time you used Chrome, and it sounded like an airplane about to take off. That moment in time is likely due to Chrome Helper. Think of Chrome Helper as something Google added to the browser to grab content from a variety of browser plugins and to help it run more smoothly.
For example, when you open a website that has embedded video, Chrome will load all of the HTML content first. Next, it will use Chrome Helper to grab the video from the server where it’s being stored and load it onto the page.
How does Chrome Helper end up using too much memory? The answer isn’t limited to just one instance, but the likelihood is that you will see multiple instances of Chrome Helper running at one time. Ultimately, these instances can strain the amount of available RAM you have on your computer, causing the high CPU spikes.
The result is that either Chrome will freeze, your computer will run slowly, or all of the above can happen. Chrome Helper isn’t limited to embedded video either. It can also be attributed to other Chrome operations like poorly-coded browser extensions. The result of all of this is that you can end up with each Chrome plugin having its own Chrome Helper process as well as every installed extension having its own.
How to Disable Chrome Helper the Short Way
Now that you know what Chrome Helper is and why it takes up so much memory, it’s time to disable it. There are two ways to do this to take back your CPU on your Mac. Let’s start with the short way.
1. Open Chrome and copy and paste the following in the omnibox: chrome://settings/content/unsandboxedPlugins. Hit Enter and the Chrome plugin will immediately appear.
2. By default, the “Ask when a site wants to use a plug-in to access your computer” will be turned on.
3. Toggle the switch off so that the browser now says: “Do not allow any site to use a plug-in to access your computer.”
How to Disable Chrome Helper the Long Way
1. If using the omnibox does not work for you or you would prefer a longer but more user-friendly path, open Chrome and go to “Settings -> Advanced -> Privacy and Security -> Site Settings.”
2. Scroll down until you see “Unsandboxed plug-in access” around the bottom of the page and open it.
3. You have now located the appropriate settings. Press on “Unsandboxed plug-in access” and turn off “Ask when a site wants to use a plug-in to access your computer settings.”
That’s the “longer” way. Fortunately, no matter which method you choose, they both work.
Remove Unwanted Extensions
Chrome’s popularity is partially based on the huge number of available extensions that can help you personalize your browser in nearly infinite ways. The downside is that many of these extensions can eat up your CPU and lead to Mac slowdowns. It helps from time to time to purge Chrome of any unwanted or unused Chrome extensions that may be leading to unnecessary CPU use.
To find currently installed extensions, look at the Mac menu bar while Chrome is open and click on “Window -> Extensions.” You will now see everything that is installed as well as what is running or disabled.
Other than the fixes above, you can also enable some of the experimental Chrome flags to enhance your browsing experience or learn how to fix when Chrome goes black. Nevertheless, knowing how to disable the Chrome Helper can be incredibly valuable to ensure that both newer and older Macs can continue running well into the future.