Google Chrome’s new protection against Meltdown and Spectre bugs will slow your computer down

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Good news! Google has added new safeguards to its Chrome web browser to protect you from the critical Meltdown and Spectre CPU vulnerabilities discovered in January.

The bad news: Chrome is now an even bigger memory (RAM) hog than before. So if your computer’s already feeling the performance pinch because it doesn’t have a bountiful amount of RAM, it’s only gonna get worse.

In a security blog post, Google details how the latest version of its browser, Chrome 67, implements a feature called “Site Isolation” to shield against Meltdown and Spectre.

Originally available in experimental versions of Chrome, Site Isolation is now enabled by default for 99 percent of Chrome 67 users on Windows, Mac, Linux, and Chrome OS. The extra security will arrive on Android in Chrome 68.

So how exactly does Site Isolation protect your data from being stolen? Though Google goes into the weeds on its blog, it’s really quite simple.

Instead of using a single render process to load up a website and all of its included data, Chrome 67 splits a website’s rendering into multiple processes.

By splitting a website’s data into different rendering processes, Chrome’s essentially isolating your private information from an attacker’s website or scripts.

Still a little confused? Google’s made a handy graphic:

See how a website is rendered using multiple processes to better isolate potentially damaging data from your private data?
See how a website is rendered using multiple processes to better isolate potentially damaging data from your private data?

These additional render processes come at a cost: Chrome needs to use more RAM to create them. Google says “there is about a 10-13% total memory overheat in real workloads due to the larger number of processes.”

That may not seem like a lot, but if you’ve got a computer with little RAM to begin with, it could be the difference between being able to opening a few more tabs in Chrome, or running multiple apps or processes runnin

Users with computers with, say, 4GB of RAM will almost certainly feel the squeeze if they try to open many tabs or multi-task.

Our advice: If you can upgrade your computer’s RAM, definitely do it, especially if you’ve got a laptop. Many laptops (like MacBooks) are non user-upgradeable these days, but do your homework and see if it is. RAM upgrades are pretty cheap and aren’t difficult to do even for non-tech heads.

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