A guide to open-source WoW addon managers and comparison of resource usage among those managers
Trying to find an alternative to using Overwolf for managing your WoW addons? Fortunately, there are many different options available and many of them are faster and easier than Overwolf. In this article, I want to go over those options and the results of some tests which measure the performance of Overwolf compared to its alternatives. So, how can you install WoW addons without Overwolf?
In general, there are two main alternatives to installing World of Warcraft (WoW) addons without Overwolf. You can either install them manually or with an open-source addon manager. Open-source managers are developed by the community and are lightweight and free ways to manage your WoW addons.
If you choose to install addons manually, you will have to download the zipped addon folder, unzip them and place them into your game’s addon folder. You can get a more detailed walk-through of how to do this in my article on How to Install WoW Addons in 2021.
Before we jump into the second method, open-source managers, let’s talk about why some players are shying away from Overwolf.
Why not use Overwolf?
While there is nothing wrong with using Overwolf, there are many players in the community who feel that Overwolf is “bloatware.” The term “bloatware” refers to a piece of software that has many unnecessary features, including data collection, which uses up your computer’s resources and slows things down.
I hesitate to attach that label to Overwolf, especially given the negative connotation. So, I decided to run some tests on the performance of Overwolf compared to its open-source alternatives. I figure that by running the tests, I would be able to see if Overwolf really does eat a computer’s resources more than other options. Before we get to the results, let’s make sure we are on the same page when it comes to the term “open-source”.
What are open-source addon managers?
When a piece of software is open source, it means the code which makes the application is available for anybody to download. This also makes it possible for many different users to contribute to making the software better. So, when I talk about open-source addon manager, I am referring to programs that are built by passionate members of the World of Warcraft community.
Overwolf would be considered to be a closed source software manager because the code which builds it is not available. Additionally, instead of being built by the community, it is built by a team of developers within a company.
What open-source addon managers are there?
There are many open-source WoW addon managers out there. The most well-known ones include:
While any of these are a good alternative to Overwolf, I am going to focus on Ajour and WowUp. These 2 options offer the closest experience to Overwolf in terms of setup and included features. Feel free to check out CurseBreaker or Instawow if you are interested though, they just involve a steeper learning curve.
Let’s take a quick look at our open-source alternatives and then run some performance tests!
Works for: Retail, Classic, PTR, and Beta
The Ajour addon manager features a clean user interface and the ability to back up your addon settings. If you want more information about your addons, you can add additional columns to the main screens under the “Settings” link in the top right. This is also where you can create a backup of your addons and WTF folder (where your addon settings are stored).
There are other quality of life things you can change. For instance, in the settings menu, you can configure Ajour to launch when you start your computer and apply addons automatically. This makes it much easier to stay up-to-date with all of the changes happening with your addons. If you choose not to turn that feature on, you can still click the “Update All” addons button whenever you want.
When it comes to getting new addons, you can rotate between several addon providers including Curse, Tukui, Wowinterface, and TownlongYak. This means you can get all the same mods you get on Overwolf, with the addition of others like ElvUI!
Works for: Retail, Classic, PTR, and Beta
The last open-source addon manager on the list is WowUp.
When it comes to the UI of WowUp, it looks a little like Ajour but has addon images like Overwolf. From a features perspective, it also allows you to set up automatic updates and can be launched at startup.
Unlike Ajour, WowUp does not currently have support for creating backups of your addons.
With that said, I have personally used WowUp for over a year now and have really liked its functionality and interface.
Are open-source addon managers really more lightweight?
Now that you have been introduced to a couple of alternatives to Overwolf, it is time to see if they are more lightweight than the CurseForge app.
To test this, I decided to take a look and see how much memory and processing power each of the addon managers was using on my computer. To start, I opened the addon managers and watched their performance over a few minutes while in the background. I then brought the application to the foreground and clicked around to see how high the CPU and RAM usage would spike during use. Finally, I decided to see what each application did to my computer on startup.
For those who are interested, I ran this test on my laptop’s relatively weak processor (quad-core, 1.3 GHz) with 16 GB RAM.
For the first test, I opened the applications but left them in the background. Here are the results:
|Overwolf||0.5 – 1.0%||~250MB|
|Ajour||0.0 – 0.1%||~155MB|
|WowUp||0.0 – 0.1%||~164MB|
From the results above, you can see that the amount of processing power eaten by Overwolf was generally 5 to 10 times higher than that of the open-source managers. You can also see that it also had the highest utilization of memory by almost a factor of 2!
But, what about performance while the application is in use? How did Overwolf stack up to the other managers in that case? Here are my rough results:
|Overwolf||15 – 40%||~375MB|
|Ajour||6 – 10%||~155MB|
|WowUp||3 – 15%||~250MB|
As you can see in the table above, Overwolf had large swings in how much of my CPU it decided to take up — even going as high as 40% at one point. It was also consistently using the most RAM of any of the programs as well.
While running this test, I also noticed many cases where Overwolf was receiving or sending network traffic, even while it was in the background (likely from serving ads). In contrast, the open-source options only had traffic when I was populating lists of downloadable addons.
The last test I decided to run was to measure the impact of each application when first launched. I then recorded the peak CPU and RAM consumption which you can see in the following table:
|Manager||Peak CPU||Peak RAM|
When it came to the startup test, Overwolf ate my computer alive. Not only did it take most of my computer’s processing power to start it, but it rivaled the RAM usage of Google Chrome with dozens of tabs (I have a problem).
From all of the tests above, it is pretty clear that Overwolf and the CurseForge app use far more resources than any of the open-source addon managers I tested.
Which open-source option should you choose?
If you are convinced to make the switch to an open-source addon manager, you may be wondering which one you should use.
Honestly, it doesn’t make too much of a difference.
If you are playing on a computer with less RAM, it may be helpful to try out Ajour because it consistently required the least amount of RAM and resources. This is probably due to the minimal nature of the Ajour UI, as it doesn’t have images for addons like the other managers.
WowUp also performed much better than Overwolf in each of the tests. I have personally used WowUp for a while now and have really liked it.
From the tests I ran, it was clear that Overwolf uses more of your computer’s resources to run. Overall, I would have to say the open-source addon manager that came closest to Overwolf in terms of features offered, but without the extra bloat was WowUp. However, any of these options are strong alternatives if you are not comfortable with using the Overwolf/CurseForge app.
Thanks for reading!
April Knight says
I’d love to use CurseForge, but it requires Overwolf which I have zero use for, making it the equivalent of bloat in my opinion.
Archdruid Andoris says
Fair enough. I’m hoping that is about to change. It looks like they released an Alpha for a standalone CurseForge client that doesn’t require Overwolf. If you are using Windows you can click the down arrow at this link: https://download.curseforge.com/#download-options under Windows and select the standalone! I’ve been using it and it works pretty well!
How about timing the download and unpacking of addon updates? I’m now using Ajour, which is lightning-fast. Overwolf takes a long time and sometimes fails. Is that to make us look at the ads longer?
Archdruid Andoris says
That is a great question! I think Overwolf takes so long in part because it has so many features that are not related to the addons, but wouldn’t be surprised if they are also trying to increase interaction time.