Apps can run in efficiency mode in Windows 11 to save resources – less CPU usage and better laptop battery life, but you may prefer performance over power saving with efficiency mode.
Windows 11 users have found that some apps are automatically being put into efficiency mode by Windows and this is a great way to limit the resources they use and increase battery life. However, efficiency mode may limit app performance in some circumstances, which is less desirable. What do you prefer, reduced resources and better battery or maximum performance? What if it is a desktop PC without a battery?
A small number of people have said that that an app, Google Chrome Browser, does not work properly in efficiency mode. I have not noticed any problems myself, but I thought it would be useful to look at efficiency mode in Windows 11 and see what is going on. Can it be enabled or disabled? How do you configure it?
Windows efficiency mode
Windows has built-in features to enable what it calls efficiency mode. It can limit the resources that an app uses, like CPU and possibly memory, disk and network activity, and time spent running in the background. This is completely separate from and is not to be confused with features within an app that can perform similar tasks.
Windows can run apps in efficiency mode, but apps can also have their own efficiency features.
Open Task Manager in Windows 11 and then open Edge browser, and Chrome too if you have it. Wait a minute to let them settle down and then take a look. Click the Status column header to sort by status. You will see Edge, Chrome and possibly other apps with a green leaves icon. (Right click any header and select Status on the menu if you do not see it.)
Let the mouse over over the green leaves icon and it says that this process is in efficiency mode. (Those other icons are processes Windows has suspended to improve performance.)
There is an Efficiency mode button in the Task Manager toolbar at the top. Select a process and click the Efficiency mode button to enable or disable it for that app. When it is enabled, an app uses fewer resources. A side effect of this is that it may perform more slowly, but it also means that there are more resources for other apps, so they may run better.
If the Efficiency mode button in Task Manager’s toolbar is disabled when an app is selected, it means that efficiency mode cannot be changed. It may be permanently on or permanently off. Chrome and Edge browser are two examples of apps that cannot be changed and efficiency mode is permanently enabled. Some other apps can be changed though. Run a few and try them. You might need to expand an app and select a process.
For some apps, like Chrome and Edge, efficiency mode seems to be fixed in Windows 11 and there is no switch or setting to enable or disable it. I did see a registry hack for Edge, but multiple people have reported that it stopped working with a recent Windows update, so it looks like Microsoft stopped that.
Configure Chrome efficiency mode
Chrome has its own set of configuration options for choosing between performance and efficiency, and you can choose to limit the resources it uses like memory and CPU. This can be useful or even essential when you have a lot of tabs open, but for maximum performance, you should disable these features. It is your choice.
Start Chrome, click the three dots in the top right corner to open the menu and then click Settings. Select the Performance section in the sidebar.
If you do not see a Performance section, enter chrome://flags into the address box and look for Enable the battery saver mode feature in the settings and Enable the high efficiency mode feature in the settings. Set them both to Enabled. (See How to stop Chrome draining your laptop battery so fast and Boost Chrome performance, reduce memory usage on PC and Mac for more information.)
To enable efficiency mode in Chrome, turn on all the switches in the Performance section. Then select the System section and turn off the switches. This uses the least amount of CPU, RAM and other resources.
For maximum performance, turn off the switches in the Performance section and turn them on in System. This uses the most CPU and memory, but you will browse the web at maximum speed.
Either way, Windows Task Manager shows Chrome in efficiency mode, but this is an unalterable Windows setting and is nothing to do with Chrome settings.
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Configure Edge efficiency mode
In Edge browser, click the three dots in the top right corner to open the menu, select Settings and then select the System and Performance section in the sidebar.
Turn off all the switches for maximum performance and best speed in Edge. Task Manager still says Edge is in efficiency mode, but this is a fixed Windows setting. The browser itself has efficiency settings though.
For maximum efficiency and to use the least RAM, CPU and other resources, turn on all the switches in the System and performance section of Edge settings. There are actually two options in the Optimize Performance section: Balanced Savings and Maximum Savings. It is up to you which you choose.
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Conclusion: Efficiency mode in Windows 11
Windows efficiency mode, shown in Task manager, can be turned on or off for some apps using the button in the toolbar. However, some apps, like Microsoft Edge and Chrome for example, are locked and their state cannot be changed by the user. Efficiency mode may be locked in the on or off state for some apps.