gnome-shell leaks memory and eventually crashes X

Bug #930402 reported by Stephen A. Goss on 2012-02-10
This bug affects 14 people
Affects Status Importance Assigned to Milestone
Linux Mint

Bug Description

I noticed the other day that gnome-shell was using over 600 MB of memory on my Linux Mint 12 desktop after being up for a few days. I rebooted in the morning. By 1 pm, gnome-shell was using 118 MB of memory, 24 hours later, it is up to 286 MB.

I'm using Linux Mint 12 Gnome 64 bit.

I use a lot of VM's which are a hassle to shutdown and restart to reboot the system, so I like to let my system stay running for days at a time, which is thwarted by essential processes that leak memory. Ironically, I switched to Mint from standard Ubuntu in part because of a similar memory leak in unity-panel-service:

description: updated
Stephen A. Goss (postfuturist) wrote :

Uptime of 5 days (completely idle with screen locked for 3 of them): gnome-shell memory usage is up to 1.2 GB.

Stephen A. Goss (postfuturist) wrote :

My desktop froze. I switch to virtual terminal. gnome-shell was up to 1.6 GB of memory and spinning a processor at 100%, after a minute of that, X crashed and all my apps were lost, had to re-login.

summary: - gnome-shell leaks memory
+ gnome-shell leaks memory and eventually crashes X
Stephen A. Goss (postfuturist) wrote :

If anyone else has this problem, it may be useful to note that I was able to restart the gnome-shell process after it had ballooned to 1.7 GB of memory using the System Monitor app. I just selected End Process and it restarted automatically after a few seconds without crashing the desktop.

Gonzhauser (gonzhauser) wrote :

This bug manifests itself here when trying to switch apps with alt-tab and the switcher window doesn't disappear. Most annoying bug in Mint so far.

Stephen A. Goss (postfuturist) wrote :

Personal record: gnome-shell was up to 2.8 GB over the weekend. System Monitor would not start (notification let me know, surprisingly, that it failed to start because it could not allocate memory), but I had a terminal open and I was able to `kill` it successfully without crashing X.

Stephen A. Goss (postfuturist) wrote :

This bug seems to be triggered by the presence of Google Chrome. On Monday evening, I left Chrome running overnight (with about 20 tabs running, which is typical). On Tuesday morning, gnome-shell was up to 1.5 GB. On Tuesday night I restarted gnome-shell and closed Chrome. Wednesday morning, gnome-shell is using a mere 69 MB of memory.

Stephen A. Goss (postfuturist) wrote :

I was using Firefox before when gnome-shell was leaking about 240 MB a day. With Google Chrome running instead, it is over 1 GB a day. With neither browser running (just Terminal, Pidgin, Thunderbird, and VirtualBox open) it appears not to leak memory at any discernible rate.

Ufuk Kirik (andramalech) wrote :

I don't use Chrome, but can confirm that gnome-shell feasts on memory slowly but surely, it's about 810MB as I write these lines which makes me wonder what all that memory goes to...

It's worrisome to find more and more stability flaws in gnome-shell (yes, I'm one of those that is yet to be impressed with Gnome3) and that no developer has commented to this bug in over a month.

Well this is clearly more of a Gnome issue, a really annoying one. From what I read at Gnome's bugzilla, this issue seems to be fixed after version 3.3.9 of Gnome. The only question is, when will our folks at LinuxMint distribute these updates officially. Maybe they give some advice on this regard.

I hope they give this issue considerable importance as it is quite critical.

Emanuel Angelo (emansije) wrote :

I'm using version 3.6.2-0ubuntu0.2 of gnome-shell and the problem seems to persist, but it really doesn't bother me because there's an easy way to restart gnome-shell: press Alt+F2 and type the command "r" (without quotes) followed by Enter.

Some possibly useful info:

- the memory leak is greatly accelerated by stock "sensors" and "system monitor" extensions. It seems to me that the extensions with frequently run external commands are the ones causing this thing.(1)

- you can restart the shell with "alt-F2 r" (or killall -HUP gnome-shell) and recover most of the memory. But then if you have terminals opened you can land on this bug:


(1) it seems that there is a patch to sensors extension that fixes the problem. I didn't try it. See

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