What is Google Chrome Running in the Background?

Google chrome icon

Over the weekend Loren Brichter wrote about Google Chrome and how it makes your computer slow even when it’s not actively running. There is a website going into detail called chromeisbad.com. What’s going on?


The claim:

Google Chrome installs something called Keystone on your computer, which nefariously hides itself from Activity Monitor and makes your whole computer slow even when Chrome isn’t running. Deleting Chrome and Keystone makes your computer way, way faster, all the time.

First, what is Keystone? As The Mac Observer’s John Martellaro wrote back in 2015, Keystone is Google’s automatic software update for its apps. There are two negative aspects about the updater:

  1. Users aren’t told that the updater is being installed, nor given the option to decline.
  2. The update software has an aggressive update cycle. As Guilherme Rambo of 9to5Mac discovered, it checks for updates every 3623 seconds, or every hour and 23 seconds.

Mr. Brichter and others on Twitter say they noticed their Macs performed much faster after deleting Google Chrome and Keystone, although “Google Chrome as a resource hog” has long been a thing. But it seems Keystone in particular may be the secret.

Mark Chang, the project manager for Google Chrome, said Keystone only runs (at low priority) when it has tasks to perform. Check your system logs for GoogleSoftwareUpdateAgent as a user or GoogleSoftwareUpdateDaemon as root. The team isn’t aware of issues that would lead to high CPU usage for Keystone.

The good news is that Google Chrome isn’t the only browser available. Apple’s own Safari is a good choice, and other alternatives include Mozilla Firefox and Microsoft Edge. Mr. Brichter provides instructions on how to fully remove Chrome and Keystone from your Mac.

3 thoughts on “What is Google Chrome Running in the Background?

  • Andrew:
    This is a PSA worthy of a permanent bookmark. I noted your comment about this on Chuck Joiner’s MacVoices the other day, and it reminded me to go back and conduct the laborious procedure in the https://chromeisbad.com/#delete website and do a thorough cyberscrub of a browser that I never wanted. 
    There was a government website that I had to use some time back for some certification procedure that required Chrome or, wait for it, Explorer in order to properly work (not even Firefox). Sloppy website creation, to be sure, but ‘close enough for government work’ as a friend of mine used to say. I used the browser only once, and never again.
    As was pointed out by Mark Fuccio, the problem is not Chrome (and there are other Chrome browsers besides Google’s, like Edge), but Keystone, which as he noted, has been appropriately likened to malware. Whatever it is doing, Mac CPU performance suffers for it. 
    Many thanks. 

  • Well, thank you! It gives me a clue about things happening on an Android tablet that I mainly use for playing solitaire. With no other program running by my intention than that game, Chrome will nag me every few minutes that is has stopped responding. So I click “Report” – they must have noticed by now!

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