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Every few months or so, I uninstall and then reinstall all of the browsers on the PC and MacBook. I do this mainly because browsers tend to fill up with crud eventually, and they slow down to the point where they are unusable. So I delete the whole lot, user profiles, extensions, and all, and start again – after backing up my bookmarks of course. It would be a disaster if I lost the bookmarks.

When reinstalled, there are always some settings that get changed first. Things that would make the browser unusable for me if they weren’t changed. Today, let’s take a look at those must-change browser items. Maybe you do the same, or perhaps you think that the settings should be different?

Google Chrome

I start with the browser I use the most. Chrome is my work browser first and foremost, so I am always ensuring that things are running along smoothly. Otherwise my productivity suffers, my words are not typed out, and my fans wail in despair. Yes, it’s not pretty.

The first step is to make sure that not too many extensions are running. I try to keep it to an absolute maximum of 15, although I aim for 10. More than 15, and it will be crawling along like Ernie the asthmatic snail, as I also keep lots of tabs open Is Chrome Hogging All Your RAM? Make It Behave With These 2 Extensions Is Chrome Hogging All Your RAM? Make It Behave With These 2 Extensions Chrome or Firefox? This might be the hottest question in today’s tech community, and one you’ll never find a straight answer for. Personally, I think both browsers are great, but have been using Firefox more... Read More . Your opinions on this may differ and I would be happy to hear what you have to say about this in the comments. Can Chrome run with 15+ extensions?

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Once I have done the extensions, it’s time to move on to the “Settings“, the engine room of the browser. I change the following as a matter of priority :

  • I sign in with my Google account to start syncing everything, although recently Google has been making total mincemeat of my bookmarks, duplicating them, triplicating them even. Anyone else experiencing this? Any easy fixes?
  • I change the “On Startup” option to “Continue Where You Left Off“. Why? Because there’s nothing more irritating than the browser closing and you’ve lost 20+ tabs.

  • I set up “Guest Browsing” for when people want to use my browser. The last thing I want them to see is my collection of David Hasselhoff webpage links. Oh, the shame if I am caught! Setting up Guest Browsing enables someone to use the browser while not accessing any of my settings. “I’m just looking for freedom….I’m just looking for love….”.

Now open up the “Advanced Settings” and let’s tinker about in there, because there are things in there that need fixin’.

  • The “Privacy” section is a biggie and deserves some time to go through it. As you can see from the screenshot below, I take advantage of all the features, except for the two that call home to the Google mothership. “ET…..definitely NOT call home” from my browser.

  • Now open Content Settings. and scroll down to Location. Make sure it is set to the following:

chromelocation

Unless of course you like being tracked by shadowy government agencies, in which case switch it off completely.

Opinion is divided over whether you should trust your browser to store your passwords Why You Should Use Browsers for Browsing, Not Saving Information Why You Should Use Browsers for Browsing, Not Saving Information Read More , or whether you should use a third party client, such as KeePass or LastPass The Complete Guide to Simplifying and Securing Your Life with LastPass and Xmarks The Complete Guide to Simplifying and Securing Your Life with LastPass and Xmarks While the cloud means you can easily access your important information wherever you are, it also means that you have a lot of passwords to keep track of. That's why LastPass was created. Read More . I personally prefer that the browser stores them – less hassle that way, and they are synced to my other Chrome browsers. My computers are protected with a password. If you break into my house, manage to get past the dog who likes to eat burglars, and crack the password, then you are welcome to the passwords – you’ve more than earned it. The dog takes no prisoners.

Finally there is Google Cloud Print How To Share Your Printer With Anyone On The Internet How To Share Your Printer With Anyone On The Internet Windows 7’s Homegroup feature makes sharing printers on your local network easy, but what if you want to share a printer over the Internet? This has traditionally been very complicated, involving print drivers, firewall rules... Read More , which we have covered in-depth back in 2012. Some of you may find GCP useful, some of you may not. I personally use it so I set it up as a matter of course. But it is entirely optional.

The rest of the options can be tweaked later, including the Chrome:Flags page (I’m a sucker for experimental stuff). But right now, those are the only options I need changing to start work.

Mozilla Firefox

Now onto my backup browser, which I use for signing into websites under new accounts, as well as using the superior “Down Them All” extension, which puts all other mass downloading apps to shame. I love downloading useful stuff such as eBooks (such as Project Gutenberg), MP3s (the legal kind), old movies (again, the legal kind – check out the Internet Archive) and pictures of old stuff. And throughout my downloading adventures, nothing has come close to beating “Down Them All”. Just apply the filters you want, the app scans the page, and downloads the stuff you specified.

Now, on to the settings. At the end of each recommendation below, I have specified in brackets which category you will find that option.

    • Decide what you want to do when the browser starts up. Again, I would like the browser to remember my last tabs and open them automatically (General)
    • Specify your download folder. You don’t want your porn to disappear into some Windows Explorer black hole (General).
    • Open New Windows In A New Tab Instead. Check that baby off because tabs are just really cool (Tabs).
    • Don’t Load Tabs Till Selected – this will help conserve memory (Tabs)
    • Choose your search engine. I choose DuckDuckGo, due to privacy issues. I know, I use Chrome and I distrust Google search. I am a very complex enigma (Search).

  • In the tracking section, choose that you do not want hacking, tracking, bugged, listened in to, the whole lot (Privacy).
  • In the passwords section, decide if the browser should remember the passwords. I chose “yes” (Security).
  • Everything in “Advanced” is optional as far as I’m concerned, apart from perhaps the “General” sub-category.

Internet Explorer

I never use Internet Explorer, but apparently it is worth using if you upgrade to Internet Explorer 11 Why You Should Upgrade To Internet Explorer 11 Now Why You Should Upgrade To Internet Explorer 11 Now Restoring Internet Explorer to a browser that people actually wanted to use was always going to be a hard road, but it's just possible that with Internet Explorer 11 this stage has been reached. Read More . Internet Explorer 11 has new settings to explore, such as the long-awaited “Do Not Track” feature.

Which Settings Do You Tweak First?

Which settings do you normally tweak first as a matter of priority? Let us know in the comments.

  1. Bobbi
    March 6, 2016 at 12:05 am

    I've used Chrome for years and loved it but the past few months it has slowed so badly I've abandoned it. I'd love to go back. I've uninstalled and reinstalled but still no joy. Can you offer any suggestions. You'll be me hero forever!

    • Mark O'Neill
      March 7, 2016 at 2:09 pm

      Could be several possibilities :

      1. How many extensions do you have installed? The more extensions = the slower Chrome gets. Take a critical look at your extensions and ruthlessly cull any you don't need.

      2. Sometimes a browser theme can be a bit clunky. Try reverting back to the default theme.

      3. How many bookmarks do you have stored? If you have thousands, that might be an area where things slow down. You might want to start paring those back.

      4. If all else fails, uninstall (including the Chrome user profile), and do a clean install. Remember to sync all your bookmarks and passwords to your Google profile first.

  2. chris
    March 25, 2015 at 6:48 pm

    hello mark
    thanks for the article
    i am trying to migrate from firefox to chrome i guess because it leaner for use on other devices other than my laptop

    BUT
    is the an extension in chrime that is seemless and fore fox down load helper which downloads any video with 2 clicks of the mouse

    thanks thanks

  3. Robb S
    January 21, 2015 at 10:39 pm

    So you list extensions for Chrome - why no extensions for Firefox, which has (arguably) easily as many as Chrome, and many which significantly harden Firefox security from prying eyes, trackers, profilers, hijackers, interceptors, and redirectors lurking out there in the ether...

    • Mark O'Neill
      March 26, 2015 at 10:33 am

      I could have also listed Firefox extensions, but that would have doubled the size of the article. And then I would have had users of Safari and Opera complaining that I missed them out!! I have to make the article not THAT long!!

      That is why I tried to make the article more general with principles that would apply equally to whatever browser you are using.

  4. HN
    January 8, 2015 at 6:22 pm

    I do not use browsers much, but when I do, I only use a few. [http://i.imgur.com/weompTs.png]

  5. Luis Justo
    January 1, 2015 at 3:31 pm

    I miss No Squint in Chrome, is there any good replacement?

    • Mark O'Neill
      January 2, 2015 at 11:36 am

      It's already built into Chrome. Just go to Settings-->Web Content-->Page Zoom.

  6. Michael
    January 1, 2015 at 3:05 am

    Just courious about the book marks in Chrome. I always back up my bookmarks but I have never needed to load them in when I reinstall chrome, they are already there. You could be getting duplication from Chrome install loading them and then you install again from your backup. Just a thought. Happy New Year.

  7. Robert
    December 31, 2014 at 8:27 pm

    What I do is use Firefox sync to save my addons (Ad-block plus, HTTPS Everywhere, Disconnect, etc.), Xmarks for bookmarks, and Lastpass for passwords.

  8. Ben S
    December 31, 2014 at 5:59 pm

    I love extensions, and a few years ago I had around 15 running in Firefox. It wasn't uncommon for the browser to reach 1 GB of RAM usage or more, and I've since been using Chrome and love it again.

    I stick to a few: Disconnect, Pushbullet, LastPass, Google Dictionary, and HTTPS Everywhere are the main ones. I also use a YouTube extension that puts all videos in HD, because I hate having to manually toggle it every time.

    Extensions are amazing and terrible. I feel like you have to balance their powers with your browser's stock speed.

    Great article, Mark.

  9. nickle
    December 31, 2014 at 4:28 pm

    For Firefox I always set the download to "ask where to save" that way my items are organized right from the get go

  10. Rod
    December 31, 2014 at 3:49 pm

    YES. Those bookmarks from Chrome are just awful these days! What gives?!

    • Mark O'Neill
      January 1, 2015 at 12:38 pm

      They were duplicating themselves for weeks at my end, and I had to tediously sit and delete the doubles. But it seems to have stopped now.

      I lost count how many times I uninstalled and reinstalled Chrome in an attempt to get the bookmarks to work.

    • HN
      January 8, 2015 at 6:53 pm

      Firefox used to do the same. I hope it does not do that anymore. But, to make sure, I import bookmarks into Internet Explorer (for I can do that any number of times, with any set of bookmarks, and IE will just delete/replace the duplicates), organize them there, then import everything to Firefox. Which is a stupidly complicated way, but -.

  11. Nathan
    December 31, 2014 at 2:45 pm

    I currently have 30 extensions running (46 including apps) and 14 tabs open in chrome without any compromise to performance.

    • Mark O'Neill
      January 1, 2015 at 12:35 pm

      How can there be no compromise to performance if you have that many extensions running?! You must have one hell of a computer! How much RAM do you have?!

  12. Prosthetic Lips
    December 31, 2014 at 9:26 am

    "I use Chrome and I distrust Google search. I am a very complex enigma"

    You also dislike sending data to Google, yet you send your half-typed searches to a completion webservice, and use a webservice for spelling errors. What do you think they do with that data? Your complexity is getting more ... complexified. ;-)

    • Mark O'Neill
      December 31, 2014 at 11:27 am

      I know, complexified is my middle name. ;-))

    • Sharky
      December 31, 2014 at 4:33 pm

      Well, to be fair to Mark- different browsers for different purposes. I have never used Chrome, but actually use IE under one user for work purposes due to certain site compatability issues and Firefox with DDG search engine (with several of the extensions mentioned here) under another user. Tor gets used only within a VM environment.

  13. jena
    December 31, 2014 at 9:04 am

    Hi, nice article :)
    One tip for your "nothing more irritating than the browser closing and you’ve lost 20+ tabs" problem:
    You can restore your accidentally closed session from Menu->Recent tabs :)

    When I discovered this I switched to "always open certain pages after launching" approach (my apps page in particular). This forces me to deal with tabs that were just sitting in my browser for days and even weeks for the "when I have time" era to finally come. Now that I know they won't be here after I close chrome I deal with them before closing it as follows:
    1) Some of them are thrown to my Read later list with Diigo extension
    2) Some of them are send to my phone without saving to my Diigo cloud - less important stuff mainly
    2) The ones I need opened over multiple instances (i.e. after reboot) I pin :)

    I've prevented a lot of distractions with this change and some resources of my computer too :)

    • Mark O'Neill
      December 31, 2014 at 11:27 am

      Funny you should mention this! A few days back, I found the "Recent Tabs" feature!! It was staring at me right in the face right from day one.

  14. Peter
    December 31, 2014 at 8:58 am

    If you certainly want to give up your privacy use Chrome...

    • Mark O'Neill
      December 31, 2014 at 11:24 am

      You certainly do have to weigh up the pros and cons of using it, yes. The main reason I use Chrome is because of the synchronization. Yes, Firefox has sync too, but I feel it is not as good as Chrome's.

      I was thinking the other day that I may decide to transfer my bookmarks to Evernote, so sync doesn't become an issue. Then go back to Firefox.

  15. Misled Again
    December 31, 2014 at 5:32 am

    I had to click as soon as I saw the teaser "Must-Change Items in Internet Explorer". Thanks for all the help.

    • Mark O'Neill
      December 31, 2014 at 11:25 am

      Misled again?

  16. Dan
    December 30, 2014 at 11:00 pm

    10 extensions for Chrome is too many! I have four (an adblocker, a password manager, a youtube download extension, and HTTPS Everywhere). Same with Firefox, except I also use noscript.

    • Mark O'Neill
      December 31, 2014 at 11:22 am

      4?!! I couldn't envision using a browser with only 4 extensions. The ones I have are absolutely essential for working.

  17. ReadandShare
    December 30, 2014 at 7:42 pm

    Chrome is my favorite browser, but I am leery of Google following my every browser click. So, I use two browsers -- Chrome and a Chrome lookalike (Comodo Dragon).

    I treat the first browser like a PIM app -- it automatically opens up to four tabs - Gmail, Google calendar, Task and Voice. Cookies are forbidden -- except for Google.com.

    The second browser is used for all internet browsing. Cookies are allowed -- except for Google. Google services/tracking are all turned off. Extensions/plugin's include Adblock, Ghostery, Click&Clean, and Startpage search.

    • Mark O'Neill
      December 31, 2014 at 11:21 am

      As I said to Rob, Firefox or Tor would be a good second browser. I keep both as well as Chrome and spread out stuff so no one browser gets my full browsing history.

    • HN
      January 8, 2015 at 5:07 pm

      ReadandShare, you basically allow everybody to track you, right?

  18. ReadandShare
    December 30, 2014 at 7:33 pm

    @Mark:

    Even with Google sync, we lose a lot of our customizations -- esp. those relating to extensions.

    But just like how we do a "system backup" when we have all our desktop settings just the way we want it... why not do something similar for our browser? Once you have your Chrome browser just the way you want it... why not copy the whole lot (it's all nested within 'Chrome' folder) to wherever you keep your backup data? The next time your browser becomes cluttered and unresponsive... simply replace with the backup copy -- and have yourself a great starting point instead of starting all over again. Updating from that point -- such as updating bookmarks -- will be trivially easy.

    • Mark O'Neill
      December 31, 2014 at 11:19 am

      That is actually a very good idea. I never thought of that. Thanks :-)

  19. Rob
    December 30, 2014 at 4:41 pm

    Going through this Chrome checklist now! Thanks for the pointers. The power chrome consumes with multiple tabs and extensions is getting pretty ridiculous now though- I've started looking for something less demanding...

    • Mark O'Neill
      December 31, 2014 at 11:19 am

      Well, Firefox is supposedly getting better in the CPU department. Or what about Tor? A little slower because of the anonymity issues, but still supposed to be a good browser.

  20. George Zerenia
    December 30, 2014 at 3:48 pm

    "I never use Internet Explorer, but apparently it is worth using if you upgrade to Internet Explorer 11. Internet Explorer 11 has new settings to explore, such as the long-awaited “Do Not Track” feature."

    Change the title of the article to not include Internet Explorer, please.

    • Jameos
      December 30, 2014 at 6:26 pm

      What George said.

    • Ashay
      December 31, 2014 at 9:30 am

      I thought he would give only one advice. Uninstall!

    • Mark O'Neill
      December 31, 2014 at 11:17 am

      This was actually a discussion I had with my editor - whether or not to include IE. Initially I didn't want to, but in the end, we decided to include it because it would have been unfair to exclude IE users.

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