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Investigation of Internet Explorer Excessive Memory Usage Problems: MS Unmoved Despite All Miseries

written by: Om Thoke•edited by: Michele McDonough•updated: 6/13/2011

Ideally Internet Explorer should not use a whole lot of memory, but under certain specific circumstances, you may encounter Internet Explorer excessive memory usage problems. MS hasn't done much about these even after accepting them as bugs. Here's an insight to these problems and their resolutions.

  • slide 1 of 8

    Overview

    The memory usage of IE will adjust, depending on the page under process. You need to monitor the resources utilized by IE, and in case you feel that a lot of memory is being used the very moment IE is launched (ideally memory usage grows as you open more tabs, download data, or try to attach data to emails and perform other operations such as audio or video streaming), it is probably due to the fact that IE is loading with plenty of add-ons.

    When you consider the memory utilized by IE under normal circumstances, IE running without add-ons eats up 10-25 times lesser memory than it does with add-ons enabled.

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    IE 7 Memory Leak Problems

    IE7 has several unique excessive memory usage problems. The most common one amongst these happens to be the IE7 memory leakage problem with the growing number of tabs. It is observed that the memory used by IE7 whenever a new tab is opened, grows, but whenever the tab is closed, the used memory doesn't get freed-up. As a result, with the increase in number of tabs, the size of the memory grows bigger and bigger and after a while IE eats up excessive memory, freezes and finally crashes.

    It has been reported as bug by thousands of IE7 users, and many of them have even shifted to Firefox and Opera after getting frustrated.

    Microsoft has accepted this officially as a bug, but closed it without giving a reasonable resolution.

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    Advanced Investigation of IE Excessive Memory Usage Problems

    At times, when the computer is in the process of loading and the response is very sluggish, you may find the cause of the problem by looking at the Task Manager.

    In a test set-up, after carrying out a thorough check-up, it was found that over 450MB of memory was running with over 400K page faults and counting. The page file usage had run out to the maximum at 1.32G, with 512MB memory, the computer being a 1.6GHz P4 having 1GB fixed size page file, and two hard drives, running with XP SP2. The process of moving the file was tried but with no success, and it was difficult to get away with Explorer.exe freezing up.

    At the end of the process, it was discovered that the desktop freezes, but clings to the page file and the memory. However, it could be rectified with the usage of Process Explorer from System internals. It was also found that normal operations could be restored by destroying the initial explorer usage of Task Manager, and another explorer had to be commenced.

    On successful destruction of the first instance, by using the process explorer, things settle down with no problem with the running of the second instance in the normal course.

    You do not find anything relevant in the logging event until it is started next time. In such a situation, you must realize that there is a corrupted file in the system. You have to devise a way to fix the problem without re-imaging.

    More about these problems, beta testing of IE8 and further facts and figures can be found here

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    IE8 Can Eat a Whole Lot of Memory Even in No Add-On Mode

    If you look at the running processes in Task Manager, you'll find that IE8 uses and allocates excess amounts of memory. By sorting out processes on the basis of usage of memory, it was discovered that one process of IE was eating about 157K and the next one was consuming about 651K, while others were hardly using 26K, 57K and 67K memory. While the tinier ones seem good, the processes consuming 157K and 651K of memory appear to be too high under no add-on mode.

    However, Microsoft doesn’t acknowledge this as a bug, and considers that the high memory consumption could also be a result of other processes running on the PC.

    Continuing the discussion of Internet Explorer excessive memory usage problems, let us cover some more aspects that may contribute to excessive memory usage and crashing of IE.

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    Can All These Problems be Ascribed to Websites Like Yahoo, et al?

    Remember, the memory consumption of Internet Explorer may definitely vary from one website to another and also across various versions of IE. IE8 is known to eat up the maximum amount of memory under certain specific circumstances and websites like Yahoo, MSN, AOL etc, may require a bit longer to load completely.

    But, it should be noted that specific websites can’t force IE to eat up more memory. So, remember the excessive memory usage problem is associated with IE, not the website that you're trying to view.

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    Finding the Exact Source of Problems

    In IE7 and IE8 versions, it is pretty well known that as you open multiple tabs, the memory consumption increases drastically. But, usually the excessive memory usage can be attributed to a particular tab.

    So, you should find out which tab contributes to the excessive memory usage and consumption of higher CPU resources. Since it bears the same image name, it is quite easy to find out.

    Note: With the termination of the process of iexplore.exe, all other processes get terminated. Usually, any open window related to IE8 has an associated iexplore.exe image name.

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    More Miseries: System Running Low on Resources Warning

    There is a good possibility of getting a warning message – “your system is running low on resources" that causes the expansion of the Page File. However, when you try to investigate the cause, no entries are shown by the Event Viewer, and even Internet Explorer itself does not indicate an entry either, which might look odd. Moreover, no entry will be found with regard to the low-resources message in the Event Viewer Logs.

    This can be resolved by re-booting your PC, and mostly the reason behind the same could be that IE is running with a particular add-on, which is causing this message to pop-up.

    Note: Windows Explorer excessive memory usage is a separate problem altogether, and relevant resolution for the same can be found here.

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    Bottom Line

    Microsoft has not provided any convincing resolution to Internet Explorer excessive memory usage problems and only suggests running IE in no add-on mode to avoid such problems, though it may not really help the cause in all cases. MS has also suggested several hot fixes, but none of them really address these issues precisely.

    Tips to Speed up IE can be found here.

    Note: All the figures quoted above are based on the data obtained by operating PCs with same memory configuration as described, and may vary from one PC to another. Some of the data was collected from IE8 beta testing, while others are indicative figures obtained from small in-house test set-ups.

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