What Can You Do To Speed Up Your Browser?

Speed Up Your Browser Intro   What Can You Do To Speed Up Your Browser?If you’re like me and you spend a huge portion of your day browsing the web (whether it’s for research, leisure, or just sheer boredom) then you understand how frustrating it is to have a slow, bloated browser that seems to be on its last leg. While some of that slowness can stem from issues unrelated to the browser, like ISP and computer hardware, there are some steps on how to speed up browser speeds.

I should make a note here that if you’re expecting a drastic, mind-blowing speed increase, you won’t find it in this article. Switching to a faster ISP package and upgrading your computer hardware (in particular, RAM) will offer the biggest boosts. The following tips can and will make your browsing experience somewhat sleeker, but don’t expect a “zero to hero” transformation.

Keep Fewer Tabs Open

My first encounter with tabbed browsing was with Firebird (an earlier incarnation of Firefox), though I’m pretty young so there may have been tabbed browsing before then. But here’s my point: tabbed browsing has been around for a long time and many of us, myself included, have started taking them for granted.

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When people are over my place and happen to see my browser, they inevitably remark at how many tabs I have open. Maybe you’re like that, too. I do it out of convenience and I wouldn’t have it any other way. When I’m browsing and I come across something that seems interesting, I’ll open it in a new tab to browse later. If there’s a page that I want to save but it isn’t important enough to bookmark, I’ll keep it open in a tab, too.

But here’s the downside to convenience: each tab hogs up a bit of RAM and when you have too many tabs open your computer will be bogged down. It doesn’t matter which browser you’re using; sure, some browsers may be more efficient with their RAM usage, but ALL browsers will take up more resources with each new tab. God forbid some of those tabs are Flash-based, because those take up even more RAM!

If you’re a tab addict like me, channel that energy in other ways. Use bookmarks if you need to save items. If you want to mark an interesting article for later reading, use an extension like Instapaper or Read Later Fast.

Use Fewer Extensions and Addons

One of the biggest reasons why users will choose one browser over another is the plugin selection. Firefox calls them “addons,” Chrome calls them “extensions,” and other browsers will use other terms. But they all accomplish the same thing: extensibility and customization for your browser according to your needs.

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It’s no secret that many users have dozens and dozens of plugins installed. You’ve got plugins that spruce up the tab bar, improve readability, and block pesky ads. But just like tabs (explained above), each active plugin ends up using a little more CPU and RAM on your computer, which can result in some big performance hits.

The quickest way to solve this problem is uninstalling every browser plugin that you don’t absolutely need. This is a subjective decision that you need to make. Do you really need that weather plugin? How about that plugin that changes your tab colors? If your browser is slowing down, try disabling as many unnecessary plugins as you can.

Delete Cache and Browsing History

In some ways, your browser is like a car: it needs routine maintenance. Imagine if you never took your car in for an oil change or inspection. It may run well for a long time, but eventually there will be a buildup of gunk and goo and nothing will run at maximum capacity. Similarly, you need to clean your browser’s cache and history every once in a while.

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“But wait, isn’t the cache meant to speed up browsing?” Yes. Browsers will save certain pages and images locally so that the next time you visit that site, it can load them instantly without having to download them again. However, as your cache increases in size, the browser spends more time digging through those images and pages in order to find the right ones. Caches are most efficient when they aren’t filled with too much data.

In Firefox, you can go to Options and look under the Privacy tab where you can delete recent history, cookies, cache, and other things. In Chrome, open the Wrench and navigate to Settings, look at the Advanced settings for “Clear Browsing Data” to wipe out history, cookies, cache, etc. You can do the same in other browsers by looking in their preference settings.

Change Your DNS Servers

I recently wrote an article on DNS servers and how they impact your Internet speeds. In essence, the Internet relies on a network of DNS servers which are used to translate certain URLs (like www.makeuseof.com) into IP addresses. Your DNS servers determine which route your Internet connection takes, which can result in slow speeds if the routing is poor (a simplified explanation, but enough to understand why DNS is important).

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Fortunately, there’s a tool that I recently discovered called DNS Jumper which easily changes your computer’s DNS settings to what you want. It’s portable (no installation), easy to learn, and has an internal database of different DNS services, including Google Public DNS and OpenDNS. If you don’t know which one to use, you can use the “Fastest DNS” option and DNS Jumper will select the fastest one for you.

If you don’t want to use DNS Jumper or if you’re on a system that doesn’t support it, then you can use a program like NameBench to optimize your DNS settings. It works on Windows, Mac, and Linux.

Conclusion

Web browsers may seem simple at first glance, but there’s a lot of technology under the hood that keeps the web browsing experience as smooth as it is. Like any other machine, if you don’t keep your browser well-oiled and clean, it’ll start to hang and sputter and slow down your system. Keep the above tips in mind and your browser won’t feel as laggy as it normally does.

Have any other tips, tricks, programs, or plugins that might help with how to speed up browser loads? Please share them with us in the comments! We all know how frustrating it can be to have a languid browser and we’d all benefit from more suggestions.

Image Credit: Browser Via Shutterstock

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42 Comments -

1 votes

dragonmouth

Some years back, during one of the big Window virus scares, our entire IT department, not just the techs, was sent out into the field to install AV patches on users’ PC. The process started with re-booting the PC. After waiting for 15 minutes real time for this user’s PC to boot, I shut it down and used a Linux LiveCD to check it out. The user had over 500,000 Temporary Internet Files and his Cookies and TIF folders totaled over 850 MEG. No wonder this user’s PC would not boot in a timely manner!

0 votes

Norman P

Wow that is just crazy! See and My wife wonders why I won’tn let her touch my machine! If I use her laptop I can’t help but be amazed at all the junk she downloads and how unorganized it all is! I’ve tried to get her to understand that her machine runs slow because of all the nonsense that has been downloaded and never cleaning out temp files or unused programs. I’ve stopped cleaning it for her in an attempt to let it get bad enough that it just flat out annoys her and when she comes to me I’ll hand her my old “Desktop Repair and Maintenance” book from college and say “Good Luck!” just to see the look on her face!

0 votes

dragonmouth

Fast response time for our users has always been priority #1 where I work. Upper management gets very annoyed when response time is not almost instantaneous so any time a user complains of “slow” response on the network, we drop everything to check it out. Very rarely does it turn out to be a network problem. When it is, all users are affected, not just a few. When we get to the complaining user, we invariably find apps such as BonziBuddy, WeatherBug, along with 15 different toolbars installed on the “slow” PC.

1 votes

Tina Sieber

Downgrade your wife to a Mac. It’s designed to make those decisions for users who can’t be bothered.

0 votes

Erica C

@Tina- I agree.
good advice,-even though a little pricey

5 votes

Catherine M

Timely article, spent most of the day trying to figure out why my system kept shutting down only to discover it was the internet causing the problems. Will be reading this article several times

6 votes

vicntc

Even if you keep your extensions to a minimum, sometimes you have to switch to make progress. For example, I recently had a serious slow down in Chrome. IF I tried IE it was faster to the same sight (leaving the discussion of presentation and function for another day). Then I tried Chrome in InCognito mode and it was equally as fast as IE. As I enabled and tested each extension, I found ADBlock was causing the slow down.I then switched to ADBlock Plus and swoosh! Right back to light speed.

0 votes

Joel Lee

Man, I hope the speed difference between Adblock and Adblock Plus isn’t an intentional bottleneck put in place by the addon devs. That would be really annoying, in my opinion.

5 votes

TucsonMatt

Tried DNS Jumper and was shocked to see that the fastest by far for me was AT&T of all things!!!

Handy too… thanks!

5 votes

Zhong J

Apart from modifying the settings of the browsers, the browser itself is also a consideration and how it impact your system. Chrome definitely won in speed but firefox is customizable with good web standards and have improved memory usage. Making sure your browser is up to date and plugins is a good habit to get use to. Firefox have tweaks guides on modifying the internal settings such as pipelining, reduce memory,…etc.

0 votes

Joel Lee

Indeed, some browsers are just faster than others. I was just trying to give tips for how you might be able to speed up your browser regardless of which one you use. :D

0 votes

Abhishek Rai

can anybody help me on this – my google chrome keeps on crashing all the time and it all started 2-3 days before, back then i have no problem with it. chrome is upto date and no plugins installed, it crashed as soon as i enter web address and hit enter. my all other browsers are running smooth even IE. I have also reinstalled chrome several times but all in vain

1 votes

Alex Neuman

Run COMBOFIX. Your machine’s probably being hijacked by something you installed – willingly or otherwise.

6 votes

James Johnston

I tend to leave a lot of browsers tab open (20-30) and then I open more browser windows and the same thing happens. But lately I am limiting the amount of browsers open.

My main frustration is script crashes. When they crash, the browser stops. It doesn’t matter what tab you are on when it fails. Then it takes forever for the browser to recover and I find the failed script tab. I find its faster to Control+Alt+Delete close Firefox. Usually this works but its annoying…

I normally don’t have these problems with Chrome, but I’m not a big fan and only use the it certain computers…

DNSJumpers looks interesting I think I will have to try that out.

5 votes

Nevzat A

I agree all of the above suggestions. However, changing/upgrading my cable modem from a DOCSIS 2.0 compatible to DOCSIS 3.0 compatible one affected way more than all of them. Browsers fly now, I can use tens of tabs without slowness. What a relief :)

5 votes

Rama moorthy

I always use 20+ tabs .. Now using onetab chrome extension .will clear browser cache ‘s once inn 6 months , and using google Public dns .. so no problem while browsing ..
Still If I open Incognito window for multiple dropbox acc., my IDM plugin crashes sometimes ….

Nice article :)

5 votes

Chris Hoffman

Fun fact: Opera was the first major browser to introduce tabbed browsing. Some people disagree with this because Opera’s implementation was technically more of a “multiple document interface,” but that’s just arguing semantics.

0 votes

Joel Lee

Nice, I never knew that. My first experience with tabbed browsing was Firefox (known as Firebird back then) and I had a mind-blowing experience. I had another mind-blowing experience the first time I used Opera! A lot of cool things have come from that browser’s development.

5 votes

Scott M

I also use Soluto to keep my computer running at peak performance.It adjusts and programs daily keeping unnecessary apps from draining power and it also increases my start up speed.

0 votes

abhishek

I agree all of the above suggestions. However, changing/upgrading my cable modem from a DOCSIS 2.0 compatible to DOCSIS 3.0 compatible one affected way more than all of them. Browsers fly now, I can use tens of tabs without slowness. What a relief :)

5 votes

Chris Marcoe

MMmmm…DNS. We are just starting to learn DNS in my IT program. Evidently, its an evil beast that everyone hates.

Question: can you use DNS jumper while you are on a network that has its own DNS server? If you can, would it be any faster? Because my DNS server it local. As in, within about 50 feet of me. that seems like it would be about as close (fast?) as you could get.

6 votes

Alex Neuman

If your corporate firewall allows outgoing DNS requests (it probably shouldn’t because of possible security issues from hijacked machines) then it should work for you. You will lose, however, the ability to recognize local machine names.

That being said, your local DNS server could forward requests to a quicker outside service like Google DNS. You’d get the best of both worlds like this.

0 votes

Chris Marcoe

Cool. Its actually a tech school. I’ll talk to the server manager and see if he’ll let me play around with it. But, I’m not gonna hold my breath.

0 votes

winstonleong

Thanks for sharing..

0 votes

null

A lot of these browsers start out fast, and then get bloated over time.

5 votes

dragonmouth

“A lot of these browsers start out fast, and then get bloated over time.”

The browsers don’t do it on their own. The users just can’t resist adding more and more “can’t do without” plugins to their browsers. Then they start installing “speed up your browser” add ons that ironically slow the browser down even more.

0 votes

harold craig

i used tabs all the time back in the day it was a great to get stuff done fast, for me sweepstakes sites done on diffrent site was made easy with tabs. but some butthead programmers messed that up. cause you could get pass pop up without go to the site. everything we used get block cause it usefull like auto fill in how is that a problem. but most site block us from useing it why to keep you longer on that site to sale you something. day if you hit a word on some sites when reading it take you to a new site telling you to buy you won something you don’t give a bag of rock about. i get it you there to make money. but don’t use trickery and deception trying to get use to buy or try stuff

5 votes

Nick Major

One neat little extension in Chrome which helps with the first problem (too many tabs) is One Tab. It condenses all of the tabs down into a list of addresses, which can be restored as needed, but keeps them all tidied away.

1 votes

Anna L

One Chrome extension which answers the excess of plug-ins issue — is called ‘Context’.

Its summarized description is: ‘Sort extensions into groups and easily switch between them’.

Simple and intuitive, it’s one of those ‘must-haves’ in terms of true usefulness.

5 votes

Nancy B

Great article! Thanks for the info!

I knew about cleaning the cache as one of the games I play in Facebook had told us about it, but I didn’t realize having multiple tabs open would affect the speed at all.

Now I know :D thanks!

0 votes

SSK

I came across TooManyTabs for Chrome by Visibo. It is useful for managing tab numbers.

0 votes

Scott Belcher

Some good tips. Tried them all apart from DNS. Will give it a go.

5 votes

Stephanie Staker

Great article, Joel. I use Chrome and Firefox as my primary browsers since I find that IE slows down in a hurry. I tried watching some TV episodes on IE and it was a disaster. I simply don’t have those problems with Chrome and Firefox. However, I have specific issues with Chrome. When I have Facebook open for any length of time, FB gets slower and slower if I want to type a comment or share a page. I don’t have that issue in Firefox. Do you know what causes that? Kind of irritating, you know? You are very right about too many extensions in Chrome. I am guilty as charged and on a regular basis, I go through the list and trash the ones I haven’t used. Some sound really cool or handy, but then I don’t use them! You have to be hard-hearted and hit the trash can. :)

0 votes

Joel Lee

If you keep a tab open for a while and it slows down over time, the culprit is almost always a memory leak. You can reset your browser’s memory by restarting it or sometimes closing the slow tab will work, too.

What causes the memory leak? There are too many variables to say for certain. Could be an extension, could be some element on the tab’s webpage, or something else altogether!

5 votes

Jane McCarthy

G’Day Joel !!!! Thank-you for such an informative lesson in keeping our browser cleaned & a bit quicker…I learned a few facts that I wasn’t aware of, so it was greatly appreciated!!

0 votes

Joel Lee

Glad you could benefit, Jane! Thanks for your kind words. :)

5 votes

Darren Charles

Just tried DNS Jumper. What a difference it’s made!!!!!!!!!!

0 votes

Aman Tandon

its ossom yesterday i signed here and now realised what experiance i was missing..love you guys and your post keep posting

0 votes

Aman Tandon

its ossom yesterday i signed here and now realised what experiance i was missing..love you guys and your post keep posting

1 votes

Terry C

This article is lucid and fine as far as it goes but I feel it is ‘tuning’ rather than solving serious performance issues. My Firefox browser has gone from OK performance to absolutely appalling in a few days AND I HAVE NOT ALTERED ANY PARAMETERS before anyone suggests changing ‘this’ and ‘that’. Seems to apply across other browsers but not as badly.
My real query is ‘How do things change so drastically without any human involvement?’

0 votes

Joel Lee

That would be due to software updates and you can’t really do anything about that unfortunately.

1 votes

WiseFace

Thanks for the advice, I tried many things and plugins to speed up my Chrome Browser, but the best way so far I found is http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O4rZ6UMDIkE,