[HOWTO] Speed Up Your Web Browser!

Category: Browsers

If it seems like Web pages are “taking forever” to display, you might assume the problem is a slow computer or flaky Internet connection. But sometimes, 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 Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, Firefox, 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 Settings, 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 Appearance, Plugins, and Services 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.

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 Google.com) or none at all.

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 "[HOWTO] Speed Up Your Web Browser!"

Posted by:

13 Apr 2017

Bob, Thanks for the Chrome Task Manager reminder. What slows up my browsing experience is basically the nuclear proliferation of ads on some sites. Even with ad-blocking software enabled,and the auto-nonplaying-of-html5 enabled, I still ads floating ads as well as videos (sure, they have the audio disabled). The main site I am bombed on is the ny daily news site. This started happening in recent days.

To your points, they are correct. I have 8 GB of RAM on my Win 7 system, so for the most part regular use of the system is ok.

Posted by:

13 Apr 2017

As Stephen said, a large part of the problem is with auto-playing videos on web sites. Yahoo! is a horrible offender, as is Cnet, who regularly runs articles on how to prevent them from loading.

One thing I've noticed recently is that some sites are blocking ad-blockers, refusing to load the page. If they'd keep things in check, maybe some of us wouldn't block their ads.

Posted by:

13 Apr 2017

i use pale moon browser because it will work with java games and the rest dont except internet explorer but it quits or hangs up to much. glad i found the pale moon it was tpold to me bye one of the game players it works good on lot of things.

Posted by:

13 Apr 2017

The folks who defragment their computer's RAM are the same ones who believe their car needs regular headlight fluid refills and that the dealer is the only one qualified to do it.

Posted by:

13 Apr 2017

I'm fairly new to Bob Rankin's page. I'm a novice at best but have tried two of his suggestions and have benefited from both. Thanks much

Posted by:

13 Apr 2017

I am guilty of keeping lots of tabs in Chrome. Using "The Great Suspender" helps by freeing up RAM. One other trick I use when I have been on the same session and Chrome slows to a crawl is to save the session and restart with wi-fi turned off. When all the tabs appear and the hard drive stops spinning and task manager shows that CPU usage drops down, turn the wi-fi back on. The tabs use very little RAM if they can't open, and will open very quickly when you click on them. This just takes a minute and speeds things up tremendously.

Posted by:

13 Apr 2017

Because I work with social media, I have a lot of tabs open at one time in Chrome. I've found that the "OneTab" extension makes things run a lot faster. OneTab keeps your tabs in a list, and you can restore them individually or all at once, as you need them. It's also available for Firefox. More info here: https://www.one-tab.com/ Did I mention it's free? It's free.

Posted by:

Mark Miller
13 Apr 2017

Having worked in a service (gas) station many years ago, I recommend replacing the air in your tires on a regular basis, Nothing rides like fresh air!
Bob, thanks for the good advice.

Posted by:

Old Man
14 Apr 2017

Mark Miller
I found that creating a slow leak works quite well. When the tire gets low, just pump it back up again. That replaces the old stale air with new fresh air - working much like breathing does for our lungs.

Posted by:

Old Man
14 Apr 2017

I notice you did not mention the RAM usage for Edge. According to Task Manager, Edge uses less than 10% of the RAM Firefox uses. Since these are the only two I use, I can't compare Edge with the others.

Another thing that causes the browser to seem slow are ad connections. Many times I've had most of a page load, then stop because of trouble connecting to one or more ads (as indicated in the status bar).

If no particular site is used for the start/home page, it could be set to about:blank. That's how I have my new tab setting, and it really speeds things quite a bit - even faster than Google.com.

Posted by:

17 Apr 2017

It's now the time of the year when you should replace the winter air in your tires with spring air....and then summer air....and then fall air...

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