How to Make a Browser Run Faster

By Kevin Lee

Browsers may seem magical sometimes, but they're not much different from other applications. Like an image editor or game, a browser can slow down and make it difficult for you to use it efficiently. Problems may range from slow data entry to Web pages that take forever to download. Because computers, software configurations and Internet connections differ, a solution that helps your neighbor may not help you. However, it's often possible to find a solution that gets your browser running productively again.

Browser Helpers:The Solution and the Problem

Add-ons, extensions and plug-ins are small programs that enhance your browser. These browser helpers can also slow things down or even lock up the browser. A Firefox add-on, for instance, can interfere with another add-on, causing the whole browser to act sluggishly. If you can't figure out why your browser is slow, deactivate an add-on or plug-in and see if the problem goes away. If it doesn't, deactivate another and repeat the process. Eventually you may discover the one that's slowing things down. If you do, deactivate that helper program and check the Web page from which you downloaded it; the author may have posted information about the problem. As a last resort, you may have to leave that add-on, extension or plug-in deactivated until a newer, more stable version comes out.

Watch Out for Renegade Web Pages

Since anybody can put a Web page on the Internet, it's possible for a poorly written script to take over your browser. Most browsers will warn you that a script appears to be slowing things down; however, it may take a while for that warning to appear. If the browser appears to hang every time you visit a particular website, avoid that website or adjust your browser settings so that it blocks scripts from that site. Consult your browser's help if you need assistance.

Out With the Old, In With the New

Using the latest version of a browser is an excellent way to increase security and take advantage of fixes the browser developer made. Ensure that your browser settings allow it to update itself when its developer releases new versions. Some plug-ins, such as Flash, allow you to disable automatic updates. Enable these updates if they're disabled; an outdated plugin could cause browser problems.

Too Many Tabs Spoil the Session

Each browser tab that you open consumes system resources. The amount of resources depends on the contents of the Web page the tab displays. If you have many tabs open, close the ones you aren't using to free up some memory. Sometimes, browsers do not release all the memory a tab was consuming when you close the tab. Some Web apps that you visit may also have memory leaks that cause the browser to gradually use more and more memory. If closing unnecessary tabs doesn't speed up the browser sufficiently, close the browser and launch it again. Closing it releases all memory it was using and starts you with a fresh new browser that should work faster if no other problems are causing it to slow down.

Clean House

Regardless of how much memory your computer has, it can reach a point where too many running programs compete for limited system resources. When your browser slows down, close as many unneeded programs as possible. Things can really slow down if you're trying to run two browsers at the same time and both browsers have many tabs open that consume memory.

Destroy the Digital Invaders

Malware doesn't have to erase your hard drive to cause major problems. Some viruses can simply consume extra system resources while performing their clandestine deeds. If that happens, your browser may slow down noticeably. Always keep your anti-virus program running and your firewall active. When your browser slows down and you can't determine why, instruct your anti-virus program to perform a full scan. It may discover malware that's causing your problems.

Upgrade Time?

Your browser and other apps will run more efficiently when your computer has sufficient memory. If your computer has 1 or 2 GB or RAM, consider adding additional RAM. If you use an older computer or laptop, it may only have a single-core processor. Computers with more cores can help you browse and run multiple apps at the same time productively. If your browser has always seemed slow and you're using a computer with limited RAM or a single core processor, a computer upgrade can speed things up.

Blame it On the Web

Web pages display faster when your browser can retrieve information quickly from Web servers. If you have a slower Internet connection, your browsing speed may pale in comparison to a friend who has a fast broadband connection. If you need to view Web information quickly or stream media files efficiently, upgrade to a faster Internet connection. Ask your Internet service provider about current specials they might have. You may discover a money-saving upgrade package that fits within your budget.