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Quick fix: what are those circles on my Chrome tabs?

You may have noticed recently that of the tabs on your Chrome browser have circles around the tab’s icon and that the icon itself is smaller and slightly faded. What’s that all about — and can I change them back?

You can see how much memory has been freed up by hovering your cursor over the inactive tab.

Chrome’s recent Memory Saver feature, according to Google, “automatically frees up memory from tabs you haven’t used in a while.” The circled tab icons indicate which tabs are currently inactive. To make them active again, you just have to click on them.

I have a tendency to use a lot of tabs over the course of a working day — and I’m sure a lot of our readers do the same. Some of those tabs sit there until I need them, and others get completely forgotten until I decide it’s time to do a bit of housecleaning. Meanwhile, each of those tabs represents a webpage, and each of those pages takes up memory — so if I get too enthusiastic about my tab collection, it can start to slow things down.

This has been a long-term problem for Chrome, so Google has come up with a solution — or, at least, an improvement. Memory Saver decrees that if a tab isn’t used for a period of time, it becomes inactive, and the memory it would have used is freed up. You can see how much memory by hovering your cursor over the tab.

If you click on the tab, it will become active again, although it might take a second or two longer to completely load.

You can disable Memory Saver or list specific sites that will always be active.

If you find that irritating, you can turn Memory Saver off by simply going to the three-dot menu icon in Chrome’s upper right corner and going to Settings > Performance > Memory Saver. You can either toggle it off completely or keep it on and create a list of sites that you want to be always active.

Incidentally, this feature is something that another major Chromium-based browser, Microsoft Edge, has had for a while. If you’re an Edge user, you can go to Settings > System and performance, and in the section called Optimize Performance, you can toggle on or off the ability to put inactive tabs “to sleep,” to fade those sleeping tabs, and to choose which sites should remain active.

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