My laptop had its 2-year birthday a couple of months ago. It wasn’t the fastest processor on the block to start with, but with the time it has gotten much, much slower.
I’ve already written about How to Speed Up Your Computer, but after you take all those steps, what do you do?
For me the answer was look at the browser. I’ve been using Firefox for years and years. When I got the new computer, I imported my Firefox profile so I’d have all my browsing history. I make extensive use of autocomplete in URLs, so that history is very useful to me.
When your Firefox profile has 7-8 years of history, bookmarks, and other information it takes up a lot of memory. That slows everything way, way down.
Things were going so slow, I almost bought a new computer… almost.
A couple of days ago, I decided to attack the problem. In traditional, non-Lazy, fashion, I may have taken it to the extreme. Here are some of the things I did to reclaim my browser and my computer. A lot of these will work on the browser platform of your choice, but since I use Firefox, I’ll be writing specifically to that.
- Say Goodbye to Firefox – Say hello to Firefox’s brothers and sisters. Firefox has alternative versions such as Pale Moon and Light. I’m tempted to give Light a try, but no spell checker? Ouch.
- Create a New Firefox Profile – This was the most obvious fix. Firefox profiles allow you silo all your data from the application itself. I can still go back to my old profile if I need something in a bookmark or auto-complete, but this gives me a fresh start. Think of it like buying a new house, and keeping the old. You move only the things you need and suddenly you have a lot more space and efficiency. To do this, you are going to want to install the Firefox Profile Switcher add-on.
- Disable Flash – There was a time when many websites needed Adobe Flash. Since mobile browsers don’t use Flash, many developers have found new ways to do what they need to do. The Firefox add-on, Disable Flash, gives you a button in the tool bar to easily turn Flash on and off. I’d say that 99.5% of the websites I visit work fine with Flash disabled. I found that doing this sped up my browsing immensely.
- Use One-Tab – I’m the kind of person who has 50 browser tabs open at any given time. One-Tab allows you to move all the tabs to… you guessed it… one tab. It’s far more efficient to work with 4-5 tabs at a time and have the other tabs for later reading.
- Use Pocket or InstaPaper – These two services take any articles that you might be reading and save them for later reading. I don’t need to keep a dozen browser tabs of articles that I want to read. I simply push them to my Instapaper account and read them on my phone when I have downtime.
- Use Ghostery – Ghostery is an add-on that is mostly for privacy. It stops websites from loading all kinds of scripts and cookies. The result isn’t just privacy protection, it is a faster browsing experience. You have to be a little careful with this as it can block some scripts that websites need to function. For these you can “Whitelist Site.” When I find that a website doesn’t work it was usually because Ghostery blocked a necessary script.
- Use a Password Manager – I’m not really sure if this makes browsing faster, but I’m going to include it anyway. Instead of storing all my passwords in Firefox, I use LastPass. It’s awesome for passwords protection. Not storing passwords makes my Firefox Profile leaner, but I may give up this speed advantage in storing them in the LastPass vault.
- Use this Simple Trick – A couple of weeks ago Lifehacker wrote about speeding up Firefox by enabling its new HTTP cache. You don’t need to understand what it means, but the instructions are there. I didn’t notice a huge speed increase when I did it, but I did it after doing all the above to make my browser fast.
- Lie to Websites – You can get the Firefox User Agent Switcher to make websites think you are using a smartphone. Websites, including this one, often have mobile-friendly pages that have fewer bells and whistles. I switch my user agent to mobile Safari by creating a User Agent with the following string:
Mozilla/5.0 (iPad; CPU OS 6_0 like Mac OS X) AppleWebKit/536.26 (KHTML, like Gecko) Version/6.0 Mobile/10A5355d Safari/8536.25)
and the websites think I’m using an iPad. Many websites work fairly well like this as they don’t want to lose the huge iPad audience. If you go this way, be sure to customize the toolbar, and add a button for it so that you can do it quick and easy to switch back.
- Tweak the Heck out of Firefox – There are a number of tweaks that you can do to speed up Firefox. I found a good number of them at I’m Programmer. With all the above hacks, my Firefox is going crazy fast, so I only implemented the pipelining solution as I saw it in three other articles.
Bonus tip: Listen to the Experts – I didn’t want to include this, because I don’t think it qualifies as a hack. Firefox has some troubleshooting information that may help you if you have problems. Of particular interest is the “Refresh Firefox” option, which may be the solution to my Firefox profile problem.
Give these a try in your browser and let me know how they worked for you.