Firefox is a free, open source browser that has become a popular alternative to Microsoft’s bug-ridden Internet Explorer. Since Mozilla makes it easy to customize and tweak Firefox, lots of “how to” performance tips are circulating on the Internet. After testing some of the more popular Firefox performance tweaks, here are a few that really will speed up your browsing experience.
The “about:config” Window
Most Firefox speed tweaks are done in the “about:config” window, which lists advanced configuration and system settings for Firefox. Run Firefox then type “about:config” (without quotes) in the address bar, then hit “Enter.”
Play it Safe
Speed tweaks and modifications can mess up Firefox if they are not performed correctly. Before making permanent changes to Firefox, write down the original settings so you can revert back to them if you break something.
Speed Up Page Rendering Time in Firefox
By default Firefox waits 250 milliseconds before rendering a web page. To decrease page rendering time to zero, right-click anywhere in the about:config window, then select “New” and then “Integer.” Name the integer “nglayout.initialpaint.delay” (remember to omit the quotes), enter a value of “0” and then click “OK.”
Increase the Number of Page Requests in Firefox
Normally browsers make a single request for a web page. Enabling pipelining allows Firefox to make several requests at once, which dramatically speeds up page loading time (depending on the server).
Type “pipelining” in the about:config filter search bar then locate “network.http.pipelining” in the results. Right click on the entry, then click “Toggle” to change the value to “True.”
Now locate “network.http.proxy.pipelining” in the search results. Right click on the entry, then click “Toggle” to change its value to “True.”
Next find “network.http.pipelining.maxrequests” in the search results, right click on the entry, then select “Modify.” Change the value to “10” then click “OK.”
Increase the Number of Connections in Firefox
This setting controls the number of connections that Firefox is allowed to make at one time. Typically, faster connections like cable or DSL require a higher value, while slower connections like dial-up require a lower value. Experiment to find the best setting for your type of connection.
Type “max-connections” in the filter search bar. Find “network.http.max-connections” in the search results and right-click on the entry. Set the value to “40” then click “OK.”
Cause Firefox to Release System RAM
After Firefox has been minimized for a period of time, it continues to hold system memory (RAM) that cannot be used by other programs or applications. This tweak will cause Firefox to only use around 10MB of RAM while it is minimized.
Right-click anywhere in the about:config window, select “New” and then “Boolean.” Name the entry “config.trim_on_minimize” then set the value to “True.” If the entry already exists in your version of Firefox, right-click on the setting and click “Toggle” to change the value to “True.”
Clear the Firefox Cache and Increase Privacy
If you are low on disk space, you can set Firefox to automatically clear its cache after every session. Click on “Tools” then “Options,” and then check “Always clear my private data when I close Firefox.” Not only does this free up disk space, it also keeps prying eyes from seeing your browsing history.
Restart Firefox to enable the changes. If you find some of the tweaks made things worse, reapply the original settings you wrote down as you applied the tweaks.
The Mozilla website lists more Firefox tweaks that you can experiment with. Keep in mind that Internet connection speed, available physical and virtual memory, and especially browsing habits all play a role in the way any Internet browser performs.
CNET TV: Speed Up Firefox, http://cnettv.cnet.com/quick-tips-speed-up-firefox-page-display/9742-1_53-50002642.html
Mozilla Firefox Support, http://support.mozilla.com/en-US/kb/
Mozilla Firefox Add-ons, https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox