Chrome Tabs Cause Ubuntu Freeze


Ubuntu has been my major operating system on my desktop since Ubuntu 16.04. So far, I have used Ubuntu 16.04 LTS, 18.04 LTS, 20.04 LTS, and 22.04 LTS on a couple of different powerful desktops and I have been satisfied with them overall, given they are free-of-charge and developer-friendly.

However, there is a malignant bug that has never been fixed since I firstly identified it in Ubuntu 16.04 LTS. Given a very powerful desktop that has a top-end CPU, a top-end GPU, and very large memory, the Ubuntu GUI will always freeze if I opened too many Chrome browser tabs. Here, “many” usually means over 100 tabs. I can move the curser but I will not be able to click mouse to open a terminal or anything. Also notice that when Ubuntu GUI froze, there was still plenty of computer resource available.

This bug happens very often to me because I don’t have an habit of closing tabs or browsers, unless I turn off the computer. It is very annoying because it will interrupt the work I was doing in the middle without any warnings.

MacOS and Windows

The problem cannot be reproduced on my MacOS and Windows operating systems. For Windows, it has exactly the same hardware as Ubuntu because they are the dual-systems on the same desktop.

Chromium Based Browsers

I have also been using other Chromium based browsers, such as Brave. The problem can be reproduced, suggesting that probably all the Chromium based browsers will cause Ubuntu freeze if there are too many tabs open.

Root Cause

In fact, I have no idea how to debug this. I also tried to find the root cause of the problem using search engine but I could not find any related technical discussion on this.

Temporary Solution

When I first used Ubuntu a few years ago, I panicked when I encountered this because the only way I knew to resolve this was to press the power button to reboot my computer. But this means I will lose any unsaved data, which is extremely frustrating.

Later I learned that I was able to the non-GUI Ubuntu with terminal by pressing Ctrl + Alt + F3. There, I could use top to find out the browser process number and kill them using kill. In this way, I would only lose the unsaved data in the browser. Once this is done, I could switch back to the GUI Ubuntu by pressing Ctrl + Alt + F2.


Lei Mao

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