Much the anti-thesis of my “I hate IE” post, I love Firefox. From principle to practice, it just is what a browser should be.
That said, one of the things that’s been bugging me lately about Firefox is that it is just crap on resources. I admit, I’m terrible with having 19 trillion tabs open at the same time, and that’s bound to slow stuff down. But, what I don’t like is that even after those tabs are closed and I’m back down to me and Google’s minimalism, Firefox can still be tipping the scales at 150+ MB of RAM.
Firefox is too fat
Hunting around a bit I found an excellent little post that explains how to stop this memory vacuum from getting away from you.
- Simply type about:config in your browser’s address bar.
- On the resulting screen, right-click and select New -> Boolean.
- In the input box that appears, type config.trim_on_minimize. Press enter.
- Select True, and hit enter.
What this does is causes Firefox to dump to your hard drive when you minimize it. Upon re-maximization, it loads back into RAM, but at a fraction of the bloated size it was. As an example, I just checked Firefox’s memory usage. With three tabs open, I was sitting around 80 MB of RAM being used. On minimization, this immediately dropped to under 10 MB. The upon maximization, it went up to 40 MB or so.
As I often have a lot of application open at once, the ability to control their memory usage like this is fantastic. If you use Thunderbird as your mail program, you can make the exact same modification. To get into the About Config, simply navigate to Tools / Options / Advanced / Config Editor.
Firefox is too slow
If you’re on high speed Internet, you’re also going to want to consider this little speed-up trick. By default Firefox is set to only download pages to your browser with four simultaneous connections. This is alright if you’re on dial-up, but broadband can handle a lot more than that.
- Again type about:config in your browser’s address bar.
- On the config page, look for these three entries: network.http.pipelining, network.http.proxy.pipelining, and network.http.pipelining.maxrequests.
- Change network.http.pipelining and network.http.proxy.pipelining to True.
- Change network.http.pipelining.maxrequests to a higher number based on your net speed – somewhere between 10 and 30 ought to do it.
- As a final step, right-click the screen and select New-> Integer. Name it nglayout.initialpaint.delay and set its value to “0”. This sets the amount of time the browser sits on its ass before acting.
And finally, if that’s not enough – check out this nifty tool for tuning up Firefox. Appropriately named FireTune, the free application from Totalidea Software tunes up Firefox to work faster (very likely by implementing some of the above).
Clocking the results
So to test if any of these tweaks did anything but make me feel like it should be going faster – I put it through the Stopwatch – a neat little Web app that clocks a site’s load time. The results?
9.0s – With original (non-modified) setup.
8.2s – After FireTune automatic tweak.
9.3s – After the Forever Geek mod (faster, huh?).
7.0s – Combination of the FireTune and Forever Geek mod.
Now, it should be noted, that as I’m located in China, my load times are going to be a bit slower due to sheer distance in accessing most (US-based) sites. Whatever the case, a 1 to 2 second improvement isn’t much to e-mail home about.
Let me know if you have any tricks or tips that you find improve your Firefox or browser experience.