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Browser Slow? How to Make Mozilla Firefox Fast Again

Have you noticed your usually speedy Firefox browser slowing down, or even crashing on you? Unnecessary plugins, extensions, and even browsing data can slow your browser down to a crawl, or make it crash. Here’s how to fix it.

We’ll show you how to speed up Firefox by disabling plugins and extensions and clearing the browsing data.

Image by cindy47452

Disabling Plugins

Plugins help Firefox manage internet content such as Flash, Silverlight, Java, and Office, and there are probably many installed plugins you don’t need. Because they can slow down the browser, you can disable ones you are not using.

NOTE: Plugins cannot be deleted or uninstalled, only disabled. An exception would be a plugin that was installed as part of an extension and you uninstall the extension. Then, the plugin is automatically removed.

To disable a plugin in Firefox, click the Firefox button and select Add-ons from the drop-down menu.

01_selecting_addons

The Add-ons Manager opens on a new tab. Click the Plugins tab on the left side of the tab. For each plugin you want to disable, click the corresponding Disable button.

02_disabling_a_plugin

The disabled plugins display grayed out and the Disable button becomes an Enable button you can use to re-enable the plugin, should you want to.

NOTE: All disabled plugins are moved to the end of the list of plugins.

03_disabled_plugins

You should be safe disabling almost every plugin except for Flash, which is used on a lot of sites on the web.

Disabling Extensions

You can add all kinds of additional functionality to Firefox through the use of extensions, such as extensions to block advertisements, download videos, integrate with social networking sites, enhance Firefox features, and even add features available in other browsers. However, the more extensions you install, the slower Firefox can become. To speed up Firefox, you can disable extensions without having to uninstall them. That allows you to easily enable them again if you want to use them.

To disable an extension, click the Extensions tab on the left side of the Add-ons Manager. If you closed the Add-ons Manager after disabling plugins, open it again as described earlier in this article. Find the extension you want to disable and click the Disable button to the right of the description.

04_disabling_an_extension

Most extensions require you to restart Firefox to be disabled. If you get a restart message as shown in the following image, click the Restart now link.

05_clicking_restart_now

The disabled extensions are grayed out and the Disable buttons become Enable buttons allowing you to re-enable extensions at any time. Notice that the Option button is not available for disabled extensions. All the disabled extensions are moved to the end of the extensions list.

06_extensions_disabled

Uninstall Plugins

As mentioned earlier, plugins cannot be manually uninstalled from within Firefox, at least easily. However, most plugins come with their own uninstallation utilities. See the plugins article on the Firefox Help site for information on uninstalling various common plugins. If an uninstaller program doesn’t work for a particular plugin, there is a way to manually uninstall a plugin.

Remove Extensions

If you want to completely remove an extension, open the Add-ons Manager, if it is not already open, click the Extensions tab, and find the extension you want to remove in the list. Click the Remove button. If the restart message displays above the extension title, click the Restart now link to complete the removal process.

NOTE: You can remove an extension even when it’s disabled.

07_removing_an_extension

Clear Browsing Data

Firefox keeps track of sites you’ve visited, files you’ve downloaded, searches, form data, cookies, and more. All this data collects in the history database, and that database can get very large. There are several ways to clear your browsing data from the database.

Clear All Your Browsing Data

To clear your browsing data for all of your browsing activity for a certain amount of time, click the Firefox button and select History | Clear Recent History from the drop-down menu.

08_selecting_clear_recent_history

On the Clear Recent History dialog box click the down arrow to the left of Details.

09_clicking_details

Select the check boxes for the items you want to clear. Select a time range from the drop-down list at the top of the dialog box.

10_clear_recent_history_dialog

If you select Everything, a warning message displays telling you that the action cannot be undone. Be sure you want to clear your entire history of browsing data before clicking Clear Now to clear it.

11_clicking_clear_now

Clear Browsing Data for a Single Website

If you want to keep browsing data for some websites and not others, you can selectively choose to clear browsing data for specific websites. To do this, click the Firefox button and select History | Show All History from the drop-down menu.

12_selecting_show_all_history

The Library dialog box displays. In the tree in the left pane, click the time frame that corresponds to when you visited the website for which you want to clear the history. All the websites you visited during that time frame display in a list in the right pane. Right-click on the desired website in the list and select Forget About This Site from the popup menu.

If you have a long list of sites, you can use the Search History box to find the desired website.

NOTE: There is no confirmation for this action, so be sure you want to delete the browsing data for a website before you do it.

13_selecting_forget_about_this_site

To close the Library dialog box, click the X button in the upper, right corner.

14_closing_library_dialog

Clear Browsing Data Automatically When Firefox Closes

To clear your browsing data automatically every time you close Firefox, click the Firefox button and select Options from the drop-down menu.

NOTE: It doesn’t matter whether you select Options on the main menu or the Options submenu.

15_selecting_options

On the Options dialog box, click the Privacy button on the toolbar. Select Use custom settings for history from the Firefox will drop-down list in the History section.

16_selecting_use_custom_settings_for_history

Additional options display. Select the Clear history when Firefox closes check box so there is a check mark in the box. Click the Settings button.

17_clicking_settings

On the Settings for Clearing History dialog box, select the items you want to clear when you close Firefox. Click OK. You are returned to the Options dialog box. Click OK on that dialog to accept your changes.

18_settings_for_clearing_history

Now, enjoy speedy browsing with Firefox!

Lori Kaufman is a freelance technical writer who likes to write geeky how-to articles to help make people's lives easier through the use of technology. She loves watching and reading mysteries and is an avid Doctor Who fan.

  • Published 08/1/12

Comments (29)

  1. Ben

    Good tips.

  2. Esteban de Smurfe

    The only real issue I have with this article, which is a clone that many have posted in the past is: Disabling plug ins and add on’s are deleting the things that really drew us to Firefox to start with and made it a worthwhile, go to browser.

  3. Mike_NJ

    Am I weird that I only use 7 addons?

    Technically 6…
    adblock
    Download statusbar
    Forecastfox
    noscript
    Snaplinks Plus
    Xmarks
    #7 was (Mozilla’s) Test Pilot, but I don’t use the Testing channel anymore.

  4. harvey hawley

    Vacuuming the Places database is something that will really make a difference. Not straightforward to do manually but the Places Maintenance add-on https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/places-maintenance/?src=api makes it simple.

  5. John

    Great article, but the same issues will slow down all browsers. The only reason to change from IE to the alternates is for all the reasons mention in this article. So now the truth is, IE’s problems are now Firefox’s and eventually Chrome’s downfall. And for the record, the number of people using Chrome is very deceiving, there are tons of people that are not even aware they are using it, and when asked, don’t know how it even got on the machine.

  6. seiferflo

    You should mention the method to create a new profile for Firefox and migrate all the extensions and all to it. This is the best way to speed Firefox after few months/years.
    It works wonder for me.
    Anyway Firefox will stay slow if you’re using it intensively like me (around 50 to 100tabs opened with the “group tabs” functionality).

  7. barbara hildreth

    how do i reinstall the right hand scroll bar for fox fire thanks

  8. cam2644

    Good info thanks.
    I run a number of plug ins but Firefox has always run smoothly and synced on a number of machines.

  9. oldlad

    i only use ad block,wot,email notifier and i find its all i need.

  10. Richard Steven Hack

    Firefox 13.0.1 has been a disaster for me. Using it with Google Image Search a lot has led to repeated crashes, sometimes two crashes within ten minutes.

    I’m now on 14.0.1 – we’ll see if that’s any better. I’m not holding my breath.

    The real problem is Firefox needs to fix the bugs on its plate rather than devoting massive resources to developing new features that most people never asked for and won’t use.

    They need to start THINKING about what they’re putting in the browser. Google Chrome has the same problem.

    Not holding my breath for that to happen, either – it’s contrary to the nature of the entire software industry…

  11. insanelyapple

    If you use Firefox Sync, disabling history synchronization can help too – ive noticed one day that Sync downloaded history from past year, which caused whole Firefox unresponsive.

  12. FML

    This was an article on the topic “how to speed firefox up”, so why are you jackasses commenting on how many add-ons you use and what they are… I’m pretty sure no one cares.

  13. David

    I’m sorry, but this article is just plumb dumb. It can be summarised as, “if you want your browser to go faster, don’t use it”.

  14. Steve Evans

    or you could just use Palemoon?

  15. Marcel

    Not a lot of great stuff in this article, but if all the advice we get here was great we’d pay for it. If you really want to complain about imperfect service call any government agency you choose, you will of-course be put on hold listening to a recording, those morons get paid heavily.

  16. Andrew

    To make Firefox fast:

    1) Clean install a stable version & create a new profile
    2) Update your graphics driver since FF disables hardware acceleration if you do not.
    3) Clean your malware & viruses off the PC as well as those 10 million toolbars you never use.
    4) CClean your computer & disable un-needed startup/BHO/Tasks/Context items
    5) Disable & reenable system restore to remove your tons of restore points
    6) Defraggle your drive
    7) Use Crucial Memory Scanner & max out your RAM. It’s cheap, & having 256 MB RAM isn’t cutting it.
    8) Update to an ATI 3D card
    9) Get off dialup. Get something like DSL. NOTHING can make dialup scream like a rocket.
    10) Check FF network settings & ensure its on NO proxy.
    11) If your on XP, use Windows 7 if you can. Works better.
    12) Install Adblock Plus. It blocks many ads. It’s worth it!

  17. JAY

    You forgot about Speedyfox!! link here:
    http://www.crystalidea.com/speedyfox

    Check this out i use this once a month and gives a great performance boost it’s a portable package too :)

  18. bedlamb

    @ barbara hildreth

    Quick, easy way…..
    Uninstall, then reinstall FireFox. If you lost it by messing in about:config, no big deal. That’s how we learn. Try it again…. Maybe you’ve learned enough to accomplish whatever it was that you were after.

    Remember to either export your bookmarks, or write down the ones you want back.

  19. Colin Ripley

    I find that the igoogle page, will make firefox useless every time that it updates/connects. This seems to last for a minute, nothing will work in firefox,no mouse or anything, till igoogle finishes updating. Good thing it will be gone in a year or two.

  20. jasray

    I don’t find FF all that slow; the only problem I’ve had was fixed with Firemin (Firefox Plumber). I still receive notices from AVG about high RAM usage unless I’ve started FF with Firemin. Pale Moon does “seem” to run faster–Chrome as well. Waterfox 64? The speed differences for me are all so negligible. If speed is a real issue, I think I would check the Internet settings with something like Auslogics Internet Booster or maybe Cloud System Booster; then change the DNS server with DNS Jumper; then make sure QoS is disabled. That’s my system as of now.

  21. Andrey de Oliveira

    Reduce the internal database vacuuming it also improves performance.

    Vacuum Places Improved extension or Speedfox app does it.

  22. Bodsda

    Wow… out of all the about:settings options you could have got me interested with, or popup blockers or javascript disablers, you decided to tell me to clear my history and delete addons… wow

  23. Adrian

    I’m a former firefox user(switched to chrome),and,I wonder,why does this happen?I mean,I use chrome,and after clearing only the temprary data(yes I have addons but they do not slow down browsing),it works like a charm.Same thing for opera.Now,what happened to firefox since 3.6?Why do I have to undertake such steps just to keep firefox fast?Sure,his is easy for me,as I’m somewhat of a computer guy,but,for gran’ma,this might be a bit more difficult.( even with pictures,trust me).I thnk they chose the wrong software philosophy to follow:windows.If windows works great two weeks after you install it,and then it starts to slow down,and people still use it,why can’t we do the same?

  24. blah blah

    CCleaner clears browser caches and vacuums (compacts) FF’s sqlite db’s, too. You should also avoid Fasterfox. Even though it claims to speed things up, I noticed it slowed down 2 different computers I tried it on regardless of which setting I tried it with. In FF, you can also tweak smoothscrolling and autocorrect off. These help for folks with older comps.

  25. Viggenboy

    But will all of this make it fater to launch, which is my real gripe with it these days, depending on the day/month/wind direction/whether I had burritos for lunch, firefox can take up to 90 seconds to load

  26. Geek

    If you want firefox and running windows. Try Pale Moon….. optimized windows browser with the firefox engine (gecko)
    All add-ons working and still fast !

  27. Bubblemonkey

    Or you can just download Google Chrome… It is very convenient

  28. wizard58

    only problem I have with FF is flash crashes alot playing flash games, FF14.1 was a good upgrade imho

  29. tomal

    or u can just uninstall firefox and re install it xD

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