3 Tweaks Which Make Firefox 6 Faster

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I hadn’t experienced speed issues with Firefox until recently. The problem appears to affect those who upgraded to Firefox 6, but I suspect it impacts versions 4 and 5 and those who did a fresh installation. If it hits you, the browser will become increasingly sluggish: tab switching, page loading, JavaScript execution, CSS hovers and even typing text into an input box are agonizingly slow. Fortunately, there are at least three options which can fix Firefox’s lethargic performance.

1. Clear the History

Older versions of Firefox allowed you to set the number of days Firefox retained browsing history. The option has been removed in version 6 and your history will be retained indefinitely (there are about:config options, but it’s not clear how these impact the size or efficiency of the data set). For me, clearing the history had the most dramatic impact on speed. Click the menu > History > Clear Recent History (or Ctrl + Shift + Delete on Windows): Firefox 6 clear history Choose “Everything” in the time range, then ensure “Browsing & Download History” is checked. Optionally, you could select every option if your speed issues aren’t rectified. Click “Clear Now” and, once it’s complete, restart the browser. If the speed issues re-occur, you can configure Firefox to clear the history when it’s closed. Select the Privacy tab in the Options dialog and check “Clear history when Firefox closes”. The Settings button allows to you specify which data is cleared: Firefox 6 history options However, be warned that automatically clearing the history also wipes Panorama’s tab groups. Let’s hope Mozilla address that soon…

2. Clear the Cache

The latest versions of Firefox implement automatic cache management which should, in theory, use the best settings for your PC. I’m not convinced. On my installation, the cache was approaching 1GB and it was probably taking Firefox longer to locate a file than downloading it again. To fix the cache, open the Options dialog, click the Advanced tab, then Network: Firefox 6 cache options Hit “Clear Now” and make yourself a coffee. It may take several minutes and Windows installations often report that the application has become unresponsive. Don’t worry and let it complete. Now, check “Override automatic cache management” and limit the cache to 50MB.

3. Disable Hardware Acceleration

This may be counter-intuitive, but many users are reporting that hardware acceleration can have a negative impact on Firefox’s performance. The fix didn’t noticeably affect my installation so perhaps it depends on your OS, graphics card, drivers or other factors. To change hardware acceleration settings, choose the Advanced tab in the Options dialog, followed by the General tab. Then uncheck “Use hardware acceleration when available”: Firefox 6 hardware acceleration Restart Firefox and check the speed. You can re-enable acceleration if there’s no discernible difference.

If All Else Fails…

If speed remains problematic, you may need to create a new profile or completely uninstall Firefox then install again. Or switch to Chrome. I hope these tips help you. My installation has become usable again.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Making Firefox 6 Faster

What are some of the tweaks I can make to speed up Firefox 6?

There are several tweaks you can make to speed up Firefox 6. One of the most effective is to enable hardware acceleration. This allows Firefox to use your computer’s graphics processor, which can significantly speed up rendering of web pages. Another tweak is to reduce the amount of memory Firefox uses for its cache. This can be done by adjusting the browser.cache.disk.capacity preference in about:config. Lastly, you can disable unnecessary add-ons, as these can slow down the browser.

How can I enable hardware acceleration in Firefox 6?

To enable hardware acceleration in Firefox 6, go to the Options menu, then select Advanced. Under the General tab, check the box that says “Use hardware acceleration when available”. Restart Firefox for the changes to take effect.

How can I reduce the amount of memory Firefox uses for its cache?

To reduce the amount of memory Firefox uses for its cache, type about:config in the address bar and press Enter. In the search bar, type browser.cache.disk.capacity. Double-click on the preference and change its value to a lower number. The exact number to use depends on your system, but 15000 is a good starting point.

How can I disable unnecessary add-ons in Firefox 6?

To disable unnecessary add-ons in Firefox 6, go to the Tools menu, then select Add-ons. In the Add-ons Manager tab, select the Extensions or Appearance panel. Select the add-on you wish to disable, then click the Disable button. Restart Firefox to complete the process.

What other performance settings can I adjust in Firefox 6?

In addition to the tweaks mentioned above, there are several other performance settings you can adjust in Firefox 6. These include adjusting the content process limit, which can help if you frequently have many tabs open, and disabling accessibility services, which can improve performance if you don’t use these services.

How can I adjust the content process limit in Firefox 6?

To adjust the content process limit in Firefox 6, go to the Options menu, then select Performance. Under the Performance section, uncheck the box that says “Use recommended performance settings”. Then, adjust the content process limit to a number that works best for your system.

How can I disable accessibility services in Firefox 6?

To disable accessibility services in Firefox 6, go to the Options menu, then select Privacy & Security. Scroll down to the Permissions section and check the box that says “Prevent accessibility services from accessing your browser”. Restart Firefox to complete the process.

Are there any risks associated with these tweaks?

While these tweaks can improve the performance of Firefox 6, they should be used with caution. Changing the browser’s configuration settings can have unintended side effects, so it’s important to understand what each setting does before changing it. If you’re unsure, it’s best to stick with the default settings.

Can these tweaks improve the performance of other versions of Firefox?

While these tweaks are specifically for Firefox 6, many of them can also improve the performance of other versions of Firefox. However, the exact steps may vary depending on the version.

What should I do if these tweaks don’t improve the performance of Firefox 6?

If these tweaks don’t improve the performance of Firefox 6, there may be other issues at play. It’s worth checking if your computer’s hardware is up to date, if there are any issues with your internet connection, or if there are any other programs running in the background that could be slowing down your browser.

Craig BucklerCraig Buckler
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Craig is a freelance UK web consultant who built his first page for IE2.0 in 1995. Since that time he's been advocating standards, accessibility, and best-practice HTML5 techniques. He's created enterprise specifications, websites and online applications for companies and organisations including the UK Parliament, the European Parliament, the Department of Energy & Climate Change, Microsoft, and more. He's written more than 1,000 articles for SitePoint and you can find him @craigbuckler.

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