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.
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.
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.
“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).
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.
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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