There are few computer-related issues that are more irritating than a slow browser. If it takes more than a few seconds to search for a job, chat with your friends, or post updates to Facebook, the experience can be exasperating. If your browsing is being held back, check these five things to get it back up to speed.
Before you look into these issues, though, take care of the obvious things, like having too many tabs open, updating your browser, and getting rid of malware or spyware. Once you’ve done that, and if you’re still having performance problems, move onto the items on this list.
You might already know this, but it’s so important that it’s worth mentioning first. The browser extensions that you have installed can significantly impact your browsing speed. The first thing you should do is go through your list of installed extensions and delete any that you’re not using. That could make a big difference immediately. Once you’ve done that, if you’re still having speed issues, you can look a little more closely at which extensions are using resources.
On Chrome, all you need to do is go to Menu > More Tools > Task Manager, and you’ll see a window that details how much memory each tab and each extension is using. If there’s an extension or two that seem to be using a lot of memory, you’ll need to decide if they’re worth keeping around. In Firefox, you can install the about:add-onsmemory extension to get the same information. In Safari and Internet Explorer, there’s no way to monitor this, so you’ll have to disable extensions one at a time and see if a specific one is slowing you down.
If you find that an extension is using a lot of memory, but you don’t want to get rid of it, consider finding a different extension or coming up with an alternate solution (like using Evernote Clearly instead of AdBlock Plus).
Annoying Antivirus Software
Inefficient antivirus software will slow down your entire computer, but you might notice it the most when you’re using your browser. Independent testers have done a lot of testing of antivirus packages, and one of the things they usually test is the amount of system resources that they use. Both AV-TEST and AV-Comparatives have done extensive testing, and they’ve revealed a huge discrepancy in how much memory your antivirus could be using.
For example, AV-TEST used a data-copying task in which OS X was used to copy 26.6 GB of data. With no antivirus software running, it took 66.1 seconds. With Bitdefender running, it took 66.8 seconds. Avast, 72.7 seconds. Sophos, 87.7 seconds. AV-Comparatives’ test on Windows showed that Avast, Kaspersky, and McAfee were very fast, while Avira and Sophos were less so.
Check out the results of these tests to see if your antivirus could be slowing down your computer, and if it is, consider going with a different provider. Because there are so many good free antivirus solutions, it should be easy to find another one (if you’re willing to pay for one, even better).
You probably don’t think about browser plugins very often, because their operation is generally automatic. However, if they’re running inefficiently, they can really slow down your browsing. Flash, for example, is known to be a rather resource-greedy plugin. Other plugins, like Microsoft Silverlight, PDF readers, Java, and other content enablers can also run on the resource-intensive side.
The best way to deal with this issue is to turn on click-to-play for all plugins. In a nutshell, this stops plugins from running automatically—they’ll need to get permission from you before they start up. This way, you can prevent them from using system resources when the plugins aren’t needed.
There are settings that you can adjust in Chrome (as well as in Firefox) to enable this setting, and there’s a Safari extension called ClickToPlugin that will do much the same thing. Using these strategies should help speed up your browsing quite a bit if plugins are causing problems.
A DNS (Dynamic Name Server) is like a phone book for the Internet—it tells your computer where to look to find the URL that you’ve entered in your address bar. You might not think that this could make a difference in how fast your browser works, but it can have a surprisingly significant effect. Choosing the best DNS for your location could speed up your connection significantly.
For all the details, check out How to Optimize Your DNS for Faster Internet, which will take you through the entire process.
Boundless Browsing Data
Did you know that your browser stores a massive amount of data about where you’ve been and what you’ve looked at? In addition to this being a privacy concern, it could also potentially slow down your browsing. Fortunately, this is an easy one to take care of: go to your History menu or your browser settings, and find the “delete browsing history” button. Get rid of your browsing history, cookies, download logs, and anything else that you don’t need. While it might not make a huge difference, it could contribute to a faster browsing experience.
Get Up to Speed
After addressing these five issues, your browsing should be quite a bit faster. If it’s not, you might have deeper-seated issues that should be addressed by a tech (or a new computer).
How do you make sure that your browser stays fast? What strategies have you found to be effective? Share your best advice below!