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Microsoft Edge (Chromium) “Startup Boost” Feature

16 Mar 2021
 

Background

I’ve been using the Microsoft Edge (Chromium) browser as my default browser on my main work PC for a little over a year now and have to say it works pretty well for me.  I still have Google Chrome installed for personal email and other purposes, but Edge is now my default browser for work.

 

Earlier this week I noticed that there were a number of Microsoft Edge (msedge.exe) processes running even though my browser was closed so I wanted to dig a little deeper into why this was.  In task manager I see 5 msedge.exe processes:

 

 

 

At the time of writing I am using the Microsoft Edge 89.0.774.0 build, however this behaviour is a result of a change in Microsoft Edge 88 onwards which introduces a feature called “Startup Boost”.  Essentially this feature allows Microsoft Edge to launch itself at logon for users automatically and when Microsoft Edge exits it respawns itself waiting for it to be launched again making the startup faster.

 

It can be configured via the Settings > System option as shown here:

 

 

When the feature is enabled there is a new entry in Startup to launch Microsoft Edge:

 

 

Disabling the feature also removes the Startup item.

Without going into too much detail the msedge.exe process is launched with the –no-startup-window parameter which essentially launches msedge.exe core processes in a windowless mode.  When Microsoft Edge loads the processes are flipped over and the already running ones are used and brought out of windowless mode.  On exit of the browser a new set of msedge.exe core processes are launched waiting for the next use of the browser.

 

Reading around the topic and running some tests a few things to note:

  • Automatic enablement occurs when;
    • Microsoft Edge is configured as the default browser
    • An SSD or similar “modern disk” is detected
    • The O/S is not a server based O/S

 

My desktop PC is a few years old but has Windows 10 Enterprise, 16GB RAM and a decent SSD installed so Microsoft Edge has automatically enabled the feature for me.

 

Our Virtual machine infrastructure is mostly SSD based, however, as the VM’s see the disk as a virtual disk and Windows doesn’t see this as an SSD (even though the underlying hardware is SSD) so this feature is not automatically enabled.

 

Currently I cannot explain why Windows 10 machines with over 4GB RAM don’t automatically enable the feature, maybe the heuristics are incorrect.

 

For anyone wanting to enable this, the feature can be controlled via a Group Policy ADMX template.  Downloading the Policy templates for Microsoft Edge from version 88 onwards there is an entry called “Enable startup boost” under Microsoft Edge > Performance (both Computer and User are available):

 

 

Enabling this policy appears to enable the feature even on server O/S’s or machines without SSD capabilities.

 

What are the implications of using the Startup Boost feature?

 

Over the last few years one of the common issues I’ve come across is the CPU utilization on Win10 deployments around the point at which a user logs on and the desktop becomes visible to the user.  At this point OneDrive, Teams and other system tray processes are all starting up so adding another Startup item may need to be considered in light of the benefit the Startup Boost feature adds.

 

With regards the performance benefit, this seems to depend on what the home page is set to and what other tabs are configured to open on startup.  Using the default Microsoft Edge page there does seem to be an improvement, however using other pages the benefit seems to be lower as most of the overhead is the retrieving of page content rather than the launching of the msedge.exe processes.

 

If you are an Avanite WebData Control customer, the Startup Boost feature may need to be disabled depending on the features being used and the configuration being deployed.

 

There are 2 scenarios where the feature should be disabled to ensure everything works as expected:

  • When using the Favorites Synchronization features for Microsoft Edge
  • When using the WebData Management “On Exit” processing for Microsoft Edge

 

In the scenarios above the continuous running of the Microsoft Edge browser means the browser never exits so synchronization and on exit processing only occurs once per session.

 

Should you have any questions on this please reach out to us at support@avanite.com

 

Peter Jones - CEO

 

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