Boost Your Web Browser Speed

Category: Browsers

Sometimes it seems like Web pages are “taking forever” to display, so you might assume the problem is a slow computer or flaky Internet connection. But perhaps it’s your Web browser that is performing sluggishly. A little maintenance can speed things up. Read on to learn how browsers bog and some practical pointers for putting more pop in your page loads...

Slow Browsing? Here's Help.

Several factors can contribute to poor performance when browsing the Web. If you've already read my articles on how to measure or improve your Internet speeds, then we can focus on your Web browser, whether it's Google Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Edge or Opera.

Let's start with memory. Like any other program, a browser needs enough working memory (physical RAM) to do its job without constantly swapping data to and from the virtual memory pool on your hard drive. Close unnecessary programs while using your browser, to free up RAM and minimize disk-swapping.

If your system is short on RAM, consider adding more. I recommend a minimum of 4GB of RAM for most users. My article How to Upgrade Memory to Boost Performance will show you how to find out how much RAM memory you have now, and how to easily add more.

Speed Up Your Browser

Some browsers need more working RAM than others; Internet Explorer and Google Chrome are notorious RAM hogs, especially if you keep more than 5 tabs open. Opera and Firefox have made some big strides in recent years on conserving RAM. If you typically surf with just 1 or 2 tabs open, it won't matter much which browser you use. But if you like to have 5, 10 or 20 tabs open at once, switching to Firefox could make a difference.

RAM “cleaners” and “optimizers” are often recommended to free up idle RAM, defragment RAM, and generally make the most of available RAM. Such utilities may be marginally effective on older PCs running Windows 98, XP, or Vista, but Windows 7, 8 and 10 have very good memory management modules. Third-party utilities don’t make an improvement that’s worth the extra overhead, complexity and the risk of malware they add to your system, in my opinion.

Can I Get (rid of) an Extension?

See my related articles Should You Reset Your Web Browser? and [SOLVED] The Out of Memory Error for some additional tips on improving your Web browser's performance.

Browser extensions, plugins, and add-ons of all kinds can hog RAM and waste processor cycles, slowing down the rendering of Web pages. Toolbars are the first things to get rid of; most are unnecessary and they often report your Web activities to their creators. Browser extensions also tend to accumulate and persist long after you have stopped using them. Review your list of extensions and delete those you don’t regularly use. Here's how:

Chrome: Click the options button (three dots on the top right of the browser window), then More Tools, then Extensions. A new tab will open and show all your browser extensions. From there, you can disable or remove any of them. ALSO, Chrome's built-in Task Manager is a useful tool to see how much memory and CPU each of your add-ons and open tabs are using. Press Shift-Esc to open the Task Manager

Firefox: Click the options button (three horizontal bars on the top right of the browser window), then Addons. A new tab will open and show your browser extensions. From there, you can disable or remove any of them with just one or two clicks. You'll also need to click the Extensions, Plugins, and Themes tabs on the left side of the screen to check for unwanted items in each of those categories.

Internet Explorer: Click the gear icon (on the top right of the browser window), then Manage Add-ons. A popup will open and show your browser extensions. Right-click an entry in the list to disable it.

Edge (WIndows 10): Click the three dots in the top right corner of the browser windows, then click Extensions.

Cache, History and Other Factors

Emptying your browser’s cache of locally stored Web content can speed things up, even though the purpose of caching locally is to speed things up. A lot of files that get cached are used infrequently; their presence just gives the browser more files to sort through when searching for a cached copy of requested content, and that slows things down. Caching made a big difference back in the days of dial-up modems when Internet speeds were measured in kilobits per second. It makes far less sense now if your average download speed is 50 or 100 megabits per second.

Regularly clearing the browsing history will help keep it filled mostly with frequently-visited URLs. You don’t have to remember to clear cache and history. Most browsers have a setting that does one or both each time you close a browser, so you always start it up with a clean slate.

The home page that your browser opens automatically each time it starts may be slowing you down. If it’s a “content-rich” page full of video or audio files or lots of little images and frames, it can take quite a while to load every time you start your browser or hit the “Home” button. Consider switching to a simple, fast-loading home page (I prefer or none at all.

I mentioned this in the sidebar, but there are times when your browser gets borked and just needs a complete reset. My article Should You Reset Your Web Browser? goes into detail on how to get that done.

Every request for a Web page requires multiple DNS lookups, so the speed of your DNS service is a critical factor in browser performance. My article, Speed Up Web Surfing With Alternate DNS explains how to find the best alternate DNS service for your system; how DNS works; and identifies some reputable, reliable alternate DNS services.

And that brings me to one final point. Most of the time when browsing seems slow for me, the problem isn't my computer, my connection, or my browser. It's the website on the other end of the wire. If you're trying to access a popular website, or download the latest version of a hot program at the same time as 100,000 other people, you'll probably have a frustrating experience. Unless a website is built to handle massive spikes in traffic, it will slow to a crawl as it tries to give each user a tiny slice of attention.

But following the steps I've outlined here are still a good idea, to ensure that nothing under your control is slowing you down online. Your thoughts on this topic, and other browser speedup tips are welcome. Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "Boost Your Web Browser Speed"

Posted by:

09 Apr 2019

Useful hints. But the main problem nowadays is not the browser or the website. It's loading ads and trackers from 20 or more third-party websites. All the extra processing really hurts older computers or slower connections.
Install an ad-blocker or script-blocker and you'll notice a big speedup!

(You can switch the block off for friendly sites that don't swamp your computer).

Posted by:

09 Apr 2019

Put a "hosts" file in Windows, Linux, Android, Mac, and it will dramatically increase your browsing speed because:

1) Your computer won't retrieve sites containing stupid ads, adware, malware, trackers, Google and Facebook BS stats, - etc, etc

2) The retrievals will be re-routed back to your computer so it doesn't actually go to any of the above websites.

I use this on all my computers.

Also the "hosts" file should be updated periodically.

There are many places to get this file here is a good one:

Industrial Strength:

Posted by:

Dave in Indy
09 Apr 2019

Thanks. If I leave Chrome open for more than a few hours, it doesn't respond well. Best to close it periodically.

Posted by:

09 Apr 2019

I strongly agree with previous post by BillK. Adding the "uBlock Origin" extension to Firefox, Chrome & Opera vastly increased the speed of those browsers on my XP Pro boxes. It also noticeably increased the speed of those browsers on my older (underpowered) WIN7 laptops.

The other thing I do that also helps speed up (& protect) my web browsing is that I use the MVPS HOSTS file to block unwanted connections on ALL my desktops & laptops. I've been using it on all my systems since 2007.

Posted by:

09 Apr 2019

I have four tabs, two Google Voice, one Rankin, and one github. I've been bouncing around, so there is some history over the past couple of hours. Firefox has seven processes, using about 1.6 GB. Task Manager says memory use is 3.5 GB. So 4GB is indeed a minimum.
Incidentally, the 1969 Apollo 11 moon landing was controlled by two on-board computers. The Apollo Guidance Computer had 2K 15-bit (yes, fifteen) words RAM and about 74K words ROM. The other computer had millions and millions of neurons, inside Neil Armstrong's head.

Posted by:

09 Apr 2019

You mention IE and Chrome as memory hogs and some others as less hoggish but didn't say anything about Edge.

Posted by:

10 Apr 2019

Check out Vivaldi, seems quite fast!

Posted by:

10 Apr 2019

A year or two ago, I believe Bob mentioned Vivaldi. I installed it and have been delighted with it. It is fast and has many great custom features. Vivaldi does not track you.

Posted by:

12 Apr 2019

1. Information is everything always was and always will be.
2. That being said most websites want all of the information they can get out of the device connecting to their website so they can deliver ads and pull as much information from you as you let them.
3. ISPs are also a big culprit of playing big brother causing slow downs.
4. I could go on and on...
5. Simple thing is to install an ad blocker ie uBlock Origin, keep your browser updated and block tracking attempts.
6. Use of a Pi-hole will increase speed because it a network wide ad blocker.
7. Change your DNS from the one provided by your ISP. Note* Some ISPs hijack google's

Posted by:

24 Apr 2019

Can you combine the host files into one?

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