One minute, you’re browsing the web and minding your own business. The next minute, Safari is sending you an error message saying that one of your webpages is using up “significant energy.”
What does this error message mean — and does it spell trouble for your Mac? Here’s what you need to know about “significant energy” or “significant memory” alerts in Safari on macOS.
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What does using Significant energy mean in Safari?
First off, we have to define what we mean by this error message. There are actually two different messages that users report getting at different times.
Getting an alert that says a certain webpage is using up significant energy sounds pretty concerning, but the cause of the error message is actually pretty simple.
Safari will generally show you this message when you have a website that’s using up quite a bit of system resources. (Generally, it’ll just be one open tab that’s pulling the most resources.)
“Energy,” in this case, basically means battery life. That means the webpage in question won’t “mess up” your computer, but it may use up quite a bit more battery life than a normal operating webpage. If you are not sure, you can check the battery cycles on your Mac by following Apple’s directions.
Because of that, this is more of a concern if you aren’t working with your Mac device on battery. If your Mac is plugged in, there’s less reason to worry.
You can also view which apps are using up a lot of battery life by clicking the battery life indicator in the top menu bar.
A slightly less common alert has to do with memory. Safari may say that a webpage is using up significant memory. Basically, like with the energy alert, it’s just letting you know that one of your tabs is using up quite a bit of your system’s RAM.
Although it’s worth noting, RAM usage on your Mac probably doesn’t work the way you expect it to. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t really want idle RAM because it isn’t doing anything for you. Your browser uses that RAM, which would otherwise be useless, to speed up and optimize your browsing experience.
You can also check out whether or not Safari is using a significant chunk of your RAM, as well as some of its own resource statistics, by opening and using Activity Monitor.
Of course, there’s always the chance that your browsers s using too much RAM and it’s actually slowing down your system. In these cases, we recommend taking some of the actions in the tips section below.
What causes this?
It isn’t exactly clear why some webpages will cause Safari to send you a “significant energy/memory” alert, but we have a few theories.
Webpages that have video content are usually big offenders when it comes to resources. Websites that have large and active comment sections can also use up system resources pretty quickly.
On the other hand, getting this error message isn’t automatically a bad thing — it just means that Safari is being a watchdog for the sites that you visit.
It does not necessarily mean that your Mac is slowing down or using up significant battery life. (Although, of course, it’s possible to get sluggish performance and poor battery life in conjunction with this message.)
If you don’t get an alert within Safari stating that a webpage is using up a lot of energy, then there isn’t a way to track down the specific tab that’s at fault.
Despite that, you can run these troubleshooting tips to try and address the problem.
Force quit Safari
The first thing you can try and do is simply force quit Safari and relaunch it. Occasionally, it’ll just be a buggy website that’s drawing resources and a force restart could allow the site to reload and behave normally.
- Click the Apple logo menu in the upper-left corner.
- Select Force Quit from the dropdown menu.
- Click on Safari.
- Click the Force Quit button.
Once you’ve exited out of Safari, try relaunching it to see if the problem has been solved.
On a related note, it may also be worth restarting your Mac to see if it mitigates the issue.
Use a content blocker
Most websites today have a ton of extra gunk — from clandestine trackers to resource-intensive advertisements.
Safari does a good job at blocking some of these additional website components on its own. But if you need a bit more firepower in the content blocking sphere, we recommend going with a good content blocker like uBlock Origin.
Try adding uBlock origin to Safari and perusing your favorite sites. See if it makes a difference. If it does, then those trackers and ads were probably to blame.
Sometimes, these alerts can be caused by buggy Safari behavior or a simple lack of optimization for certain websites.
These don’t just contain Safari improvements and bug fixes, but they also pack critically important security updates that can protect your data.
We’ve included these additional Safari troubleshooting tips in case the previous steps didn’t work.
To be clear, these mostly focus on speeding up Safari if it is running sluggishly. They won’t necessarily do away with a “significant energy/memory” error message. But still, they’re worth a shot.
- Check your extensions. Go to Safari —> Preferences —> Extensions. Deactivate all extensions, and then reactivate them one at a time to see if a particular extension is causing the problem.
- Check your Plug-Ins. You can try going to Safari —> Preferences —> Advanced. From there, uncheck “Internet plug-ins.” Test to see if that alleviates any error messages.
- Clean your cache. Enable the Develop menu by going to Safari —> Preferences —> Advanced and selecting Show Develop menu. Then, click on the Develop menu bar and select Empty Caches.
Suggesting that you don’t worry about this alert may sound counter-intuitive, but let’s explain. Safari, by sending you this error message, is just looking for you and is attempting to warn you of a website that’s drawing on system resources.
But some things are outside of your control. If you get this error message and you don’t notice a significant reduction in performance or battery life, then it may be best to just ignore it. We hope that Apple addresses this warning message in future versions of Safari and macOS. If you are seeing a general sluggishness or constant crashing of Safari after your macOS upgrade, you should definitely look at this article.
We hope you found some of these tips helpful. Please let us know in the comments below if you have any questions.
Mike is a freelance journalist from San Diego, California.
While he primarily covers Apple and consumer technology, he has past experience writing about public safety, local government, and education for a variety of publications.
He’s worn quite a few hats in the journalism field, including writer, editor, and news designer.