Calm down – Chrome probably isn’t slowing down your Mac’s performance
Or, maybe it is. There’s a lot to unpack here.
You might have seen a report circulating on Twitter that Google Chrome for Mac is crippling the performance of macOS. In fact, the developer who made the claim, Loren Brichter, even paid $5 for chromeisbad.com to break down the problem and explain how to purge Chrome for good.
Because this is the internet though, and the internet always has somebody on hand with an answer, 9to5Mac decided to put Brichter’s claims to the test. Turns out Brichter’s findings were drastically different than those seen by the outlet.
She suggested that when you install Google Chrome, it also installs something in the background called Keystone. This sneaky little auto-updater apparently manages to hide from your Activity Monitor and takes up huge swathes of your CPU, even when Chrome isn’t running. It’s understandable to think this could happen, but it’s usually Apple slowing their own devices down so that people upgrade to the newest iPhone, not Google.
Putting it to the test on his own 16” Macbook Pro, as well as his family’s 2015 iMac, she deleted everything she could find relating to Google and restarted his system. And wouldn’t you believe it, the computers instantly ran faster in both cases.
When 9to5Mac did their tests though, their first port of call was whether a process can even hide from the Activity Monitor in the first place. While there was no definitive answer to this, they basically said it seems like a pointless thing to do, and they can’t find any evidence that Keystone is doing so.
Their tests then checked two separate services, located in the same binary – Keystone User Agent and Keystone XPC Service – to see how often they ran. The former was set to run every 3623 seconds (or about once an hour if you can’t be bothered doing the math), while the latter only runs when Google apps want to check for updates. It’s an on-demand service.
Just because they’re only set to run every so often doesn’t mean they can’t be doing something unseen (and nefarious) in the background though. So, a 16” MacBook Pro with a Core i9 and 16GB of RAM was used in testing, both with Google Chrome and all updater services installed, and without.
The results speak for themselves. There’s barely any difference between the CPU used when installed compared to uninstalled. Certainly not enough of a difference to cause noticeable performance issues.
On the other hand…
Even with these results, it seems that opinions vary across the board. A look through the responses to this tweet shows lots of opinions agreeing with Brichter’s.
She’s collated anecdotal responses to show plenty of instances where his suggestions have worked. There’s also another link showing Keystone has been causing problems on Mac for a while now.
It feels as though even with the evidence presented to show otherwise, uninstalling Google Chrome and Keystone can make a big difference for some people.
After all this work, 9to5mac thought the whole idea probably gained traction due to two possibilities. The Placebo Effect, where the mere suggestion of something fixing the problem makes you think it worked, or Confirmation Bias. If you hate Google (and I assume most of us do, just a little bit), then you’ll instantly believe anything that tells you their programs suck.
They also make it clear that the instructions on Brichter’s website say to restart your system, which isn’t an essential part of the process when uninstalling Keystone. Rebooted computers just naturally run faster than one that’s been constantly switched on for weeks at a time.
Tl;dr – restart your Mac once in a while and it’ll run faster.
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