Possible upside of Safari’s memory-hogging ways? Teaching me to appreciate inner peace.

Sometime in the last year or two, my least favorite three-word phrase in all of computing became “Safari Web Content.” That’s the component of Apple’s browser that appears red in OS X’s Activity Monitor app–normally, you see the address of the Web page being displayed by this process–when it stops responding and starts locking up the rest of the Mac.

OS X Activity Monitor Safari run amokWhich it does all the time, even in the El Capitan release that was supposed to be all about bug fixes. Having spent more than decade in the “classic” Mac OS, in which we just accepted that any errant application could take out the computer, I find it intensely annoying to meet the same problem over 15 years after the advent of OS X and its move to “preemptive multitasking.”

My usual routine when I see OS X once again seize up is to flip over to Activity Monitor–which sometimes requires a wait for Safari to loosen its death grip on the system–and start force-quitting the stuck Safari Web Content processes, if I’m not looking at a screenful of them. If I do see a screenful, I’ll force-quit the whole damn browser.

(Before you say “switch to Chrome,” I find that Safari integrates with OS X better in some ways–and Google’s browser can be a memory hog too.)

This usually leads to lengthy bouts of swearing, about which I’m getting increasingly embarrassed. Yes, I work from home and nobody is around to object to a stream of curses (which was not the case in the Post’s newsroom; sorry, Posties), but I also realize I’m being an idiot. The computer has no feelings; it doesn’t care how many f-bombs I direct at it. And all this nerd rage can’t be good for my health anyway.

So while I wait and wait for Apple’s developers to bring their browser to heel, I am trying to learn to chill. To slowly inhale and exhale and to listen to the sound of my breathing, to look up from the screen so I can gaze at the trees and the sky outside, to stand up and stretch, to in general not give in to the Dark Side. Do you have any advice about how I might better do that? Please share it in the comments.



19 thoughts on “Possible upside of Safari’s memory-hogging ways? Teaching me to appreciate inner peace.

  1. I too have this problem in Safari. Recently I’ve noticed Safari hogging the processor for no good reason when running Gmail / Google apps (am trying Chrome for that now). I’ve had similar problems sometimes with Apple’s Messages app. I don’t know if this will keep you from the Dark Side, but have you tried the iStat system-monitoring software? The CPU monitoring widget in the Menu Bar at least gives you an immediate visual warning of trouble.

  2. I know exactly how you feel, Rob. Daily meditation works for me. When my computer starts giving me fits, I just take a short break — as you described — to breathe deeply, look at the sky, the trees — or just go meditate.

  3. I’m always glad to read your work, Rob, but this has me rethinking what I thought was a “my Macbook Pro is too old and I need to replace it” issue. I DO have a 6 yr old MBP running El Capitan, 8 GB RAM and a spiffy 480 GB SSD that I put in to forestall a new purchase. That worked for awhile, but for the last month it is freezing up with more than 1 browser window open (in any of the 3 browsers I have onboard (Safari, Firefox or Chrome)… I use and generally like Clean my Mac, and have bailed to its Dashboard feature and clicked “Free up RAM”, and it took about a minute to go from showing 2 GB free to 3 GB free. So, yes, mindfulness-ing is fine, as is grabbing my iPhone to play a few moves on WWF. But my question for the assembled multitude is that this revelation from Rob makes me wonder if buying a new MBP (thinking of the Retina Pro with 8 GB ram and 256 GB SSD…) would actually result in less slowing or freezing on the web or lately, when trying to read or delete email (using PostBox, which I am also thinking about changing…). Feedback is welcome; thanks for your continued great work, Rob and happy mindfulness meditation (I heartily recommend “the Meditation podcast” on the Podcast ‘store’ in iTunes).

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  5. I have been struggling with this since the beta macOS 10.12. It was temporarily cured by the 10.12.1 update but it is now back in a different form. I don’t see the processes show red (non-responsive) but Safari does stall and sometimes PWOD (pin wheel of death) then like a burp, comes back as if it timed out on something. For many sites it works fine. But for some, every single URL/URI requested the browser hurls into this death match with something, then comes out with an “oh, never mind” and shows **most** of the page.

    When I say **most** of the page, I just started noticing that in my teams service desk software (Web HelpDesk) there are some basic HTML tables that magically do not have any data in some of the cells but display easily. I open the same page / URI up in Opera and the data is there. This is a new symptom as far as I can tell.

    In any regard, I am hunting this with a vengeance now. It is not a matter of some little plug-in or Internet extension causing the issue. It is not a matter of corrupted caches, nor disk problems, nor network issues. I have run the diagnosis thus far to something that builds gradually in the user profile. To prove it, find the site that causes the issue regularly and predictively. Go to that site under your current user profile and observe the problem. Create a new user profile on the same machine. Without logging out of your current profile, fast user switch and then open Safari to same URI. You will notice that there is no problem in Safari on the new user profile. But this is not a fix, it is merely a band-aid (temporary and falls off when washing hands)

    The unfortunate case is that even if you relegate yourself to create a new user profile and even hand moving your data and anything else but you need to this user profile, you will find the problem recur eventually. I am on my third macOS 10.12 rebuild from scratch, and my fifth user profile. At this point I spent more time trying to fix my Mac been using it. Just today, six hours of working on this.

    If anyone else decides to play, be sure to test each of your changes to look for effect individually. In between changes, recommend kill all processes that belong to Safari to try to ensure no residual impact from something not fully changed. I do this by:

    sudo killall -9 -m “Safari”

    – to do this from the admin level
    – takes a name rather than a process id
    – means “no, I’m not asking, I’m demanding you die” because killall is normally just a suggestion
    -m “Safari”
    – means it will kill any process or process group with the word “Safari” in it. This captures those strange processes that look like web site links as they are part of the process group “Safari Web Content”.

    As for explicatives, if you are so inclined, you can make your Mac have feelings… Give your Mac the “Hey Siri” ability and then tell your Mac off… It can be quite satisfying… but she will give you a lecture . 😀

  6. I just found this site looking to see if there was a fix for Safari hogging ram to the fatal gorge.

    So I guess there isn’t an update or patch as of yet.

    I guess I will just have to do restarts and reopens till then.

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