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Making FireFox a whole lot faster

A few simple tweaks to speed up FireFox

     
10:39 pm on Jun 2, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Mod note - 2006/07/12: An updated version of this guide is available here:
Faster Browsing with Firefox (2006 edition) - Updated information on how to get the most out of Firefox [webmasterworld.com]


Disclaimer: This is not, and is not intended to be, a FireFox vs. Opera thread. The following are simply some basic guidelines for increasing FireFox performance, and is not meant to be a comparison of any kind! ;)

I've heard it said, here and other places, that Opera is the fastest browser available. It is fast - there's no denying that - but there are ways to make FireFox render pages every bit as quickly, with just a few easy "tweaks." I had thought these adjustments were pretty well-known, but it's beginning to seem as though they may not be. So I thought it was worthwhile to bring these "hidden settings" more into the light.

To get started, type "about:config" in your FireFox address bar. The settings you're looking for are:

1.) network.http.pipelining
2.) network.http.pipelining.firstrequest
3.) network.http.pipelining.maxrequests
4.) network.http.proxy.pipelining
5.) nglayout.ititialpaint.delay

Set #1, #2, and #4 to "true". Set #3 to a high number, like 32. Set #5 to 0.

Enabling the pipelining features allows the browser to make multiple requests to the server at the same time. The "maxrequests" is the maximum number of requests it will send at once. I've heard that 8 is the most it will send at once, but setting it higher won't hurt, just in case. The initialpaint.delay is the length of time (in milliseconds) after the server response before the browser begins to paint the page.

Adjusting those settings will help pages render much faster in FireFox. In fact, my own observations have been that, tweaked in this manner, FireFox will render faster than Opera (and yes, I realize that others may experience different results).

The FireFox Tuning thread [forums.mozillazine.org] over at Mozillazine has more information for different connection speeds, etc.

[edited by: encyclo at 2:27 am (utc) on July 13, 2006]

12:04 am on June 3, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Holy crap. What a difference. Thanks! Now if only thunderbird was as good as M2...
12:26 am on June 3, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Now THAT'S the way I like it.
12:40 am on June 3, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Is there any reason why these wouldn't be the default settings?

edit: I rarely use Firefox, but I did test it out on one of my sites after making these changes and it's definitely lightning fast now, not sure how it was before though.

Jennifer

12:49 am on June 3, 2004 (gmt 0)

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....not sure how it was before though....

Well, "before" it was MAGNITUDES faster than IE.... now it's even faster (for me, on dial-up, and ANTIQUE phone lines at that....) than is Opera.

Bless you MatthewHSE!

1:32 pm on June 3, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Is there any reason why these wouldn't be the default settings?

I think because there is some very slight sacrifice of rendering stability using these adjustments, mostly on fixed-width table layouts. For instance, one time out of ten visits to a particular page, a table may expand to 100% instead of remaining at 760px.

In my experience, these rendering "problems" are erratic, infrequent, and will rarely - if ever - actually "mess up" a page. In fact, I haven't noticed any related rendering issues at all since upgrading from FireBird 0.7 to FireFox 0.8.

1:23 pm on June 6, 2004 (gmt 0)

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I just found another setting that made things even faster. In about:config, find the following:

network.http.sendRefererheader

Double-click it and set the value to 0. This disables sending the referer header, and seems to further increase the browser's speed.

My only concern with disabling the referer header is that it might be a little inconsiderate to site owners who want to know where their traffic is coming from. However, the vast majority of the sites I visit are from my Bookmarks or type-in, so I don't feel too badly about disabling the referer header.

5:33 pm on June 6, 2004 (gmt 0)

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My mail form verifies the referrer so that no spammer can use it
my style switcher uses the referrer too
and so on
5:38 pm on June 6, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Well today was the first time I had ever used firefox, so I gave this idea a try out :)

I downloaded and installed a very standard firefox browser, I surfed around for a while then made the changes you suggested. I then went for another surf and can say I noticed a pickup in performance.

Mack.

6:06 pm on June 6, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Double-click it and set the value to 0. This disables sending the referer header, and seems to further increase the browser's speed.

I'd recommend against disabling the referrer header. It can break random pages you may not expect. Some sites won't allow images to be downloaded without the referrer header. Some won't allow file downloads. Etc.

7:42 pm on June 6, 2004 (gmt 0)

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There is an extension : prefbuttons that allows you to modify almost all the useful setting.
If a site blocks you or if pipelining is a problem, you just untick in the toolbar.
11:35 pm on June 6, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Holy Mother of Pearl! This thing is smoking!
Thanks MatthewHSE! It seems to be quicker than Opera on almost all sites.
4:38 am on June 7, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Quick note about why these aren't the defaults:

(1) Pipelining isn't supported in IE, so there are still a few old servers with buggy pipelining implementations floating around. This causes files to not be matched up properly with the correct request. Personally, I've been using pipelining since it was first implemented in Mozilla (1.0 or a little before, if I remember correctly) and I've had very few problems. The more latency there is in your connection the more it will help. If you're using a satellite broadband service, for example, it should be a night-and-day difference on complex pages. On cable or DSL, the difference will be much smaller.

(2) Disabling the initial paint delay slows down page display and causes things to jump around a bit due to reflows. It will, however, appear to be faster in many cases because the period of time between the request and the first display of an incomplete page will frequently be shortened.

8:14 am on June 7, 2004 (gmt 0)

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I've been using it in Mozilla for ages. No disadvantages seen.

Following should be default features:
- pipelining enabled
- tabs enabled

8:46 pm on June 7, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Thanks for the tips, my firefox browser just entered hyperspace.
8:53 pm on June 7, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Thanks a ton for those tweaks. Now I like FireFox even better.
2:33 pm on June 15, 2004 (gmt 0)

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I dl-ed FireFox 0.9 and tried to find these commands. And,

2.) network.http.pipelining.firstrequest
5.) nglayout.ititialpaint.delay

are missing?

2:49 pm on June 15, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Yes, they are, don't know why. They were there in 0.8 but disappeared in 0.9. So far I haven't found out if there are any equivalents in 0.9.

I did find one new setting, browser.turbo.enabled, which, when set to true, seems to make a difference. I have no confirmation other than my own perception, however, which could be flawed.

0.9 seems to be faster than 0.8 anyway, once pipelining is enabled.

3:03 pm on June 15, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Thanks, MatthewHSE. Yup, it's pretty quick with pipelining
3:09 pm on June 15, 2004 (gmt 0)

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I found those two settings on my copy as well as the browser turbo one....

Is it because I didn't uninstall 0.8 first like I'm apparently supposed to? :(

Jennifer

3:13 pm on June 15, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Really? Are you using the 0.9 RC or 0.9 final, and did you use the installer or the .zip version?

Neither the options Chndru mentioned are available in my 0.9 Final .zip copy.

3:14 pm on June 15, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Final and the installer. But, I'm wondering if it's because I didn't uninstall 0.8 (I'm not used to having to uninstall a browser when a new version comes out ;) ).

Jennifer

3:45 pm on June 15, 2004 (gmt 0)

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I didn't uninstall 0.8 either, but I always install different versions of browsers in different directories. Did you use different directories too, or just over-install over your 0.8?

Or maybe the installer version has those options and the .zip version doesn't. (I never use the installers; that's one reason I love FireFox!)

7:37 pm on June 15, 2004 (gmt 0)

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I over-installed.

Jennifer

8:45 pm on June 15, 2004 (gmt 0)

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That's it. Since preferences are stored in your profile, that preference - and the option it belongs to - were carried over to your new installation. I doubt it's doing anything, though I suspect it might detract from overall performance. Until 1.0 comes out, FireFox will always give better performance with a new profile after upgrading.

Jezza

8:47 pm on June 18, 2004 (gmt 0)

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I did a clean install of 0.9RC on my Linux machine, and they're not there in mine. I used the installer version!?!
8:59 pm on June 18, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Setting browser.turbo.enable in Firefox does nothing, since Firefox has no library preloader like Mozilla does. (That is what this pref controls.)

Only non-default prefs are shown in prefs.js. The correct way to set prefs is to use about:config, which is much, much friendlier.

9:15 pm on June 18, 2004 (gmt 0)

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I couldn't resist, and just got Firefox 0.9.

I found the following options using about:config

network.http.pipelining
default value false, change to true

network.http.pipelining.maxrequests
default value 4, change to 8, not higher apparently, some debate about server load or something, see link below.

network.http.proxy.pipelining
default value false, change to true

on Firefox 0.8 I tried setting the ngpaint delay to less than 250 milliseconds and ended up getting too many rendering errors, text running out of table cells, javascript failures etc, so I put it back. If I understand that right, it's just an illusion anyway, it makes it look like page renders faster, but doesn't really make the page come faster from begin to end load. Opera seems to have this set very low, I noticed on 7x that displays repaint themselves as they load, personally I don't like that affect, it's distracting.

paintdelay doesn't seem to be present on 0.9.

browser.turbo.enabled is apparently a leftover that does nothing, read this mozillazine thread [forums.mozillazine.org].

4:02 pm on July 5, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Matthew:

Thanks for the suggestion.

I just made the changes you suggest, except in my version of firefox there is no entry for network.http.pipelining.firstrequest , nor is there one for nglayout. There are two that begin with word nglayout but the letters after nglayout are not the same as you mentioned.

Going to give the speed a try now. It was lightning fast before compared to IE6. I am on cable so I have a very fast connection.

LARRY

4:46 pm on July 5, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Holy crap thats freakin fast :P heh
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