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Fast and simple browser performance tweaks

Set Firefox and Internet Explorer to get you to your favorite sites quicker.

Dennis O'Reilly Former CNET contributor
Dennis O'Reilly began writing about workplace technology as an editor for Ziff-Davis' Computer Select, back when CDs were new-fangled, and IBM's PC XT was wowing the crowds at Comdex. He spent more than seven years running PC World's award-winning Here's How section, beginning in 2000. O'Reilly has written about everything from web search to PC security to Microsoft Excel customizations. Along with designing, building, and managing several different web sites, Dennis created the Travel Reference Library, a database of travel guidebook reviews that was converted to the web in 1996 and operated through 2000.
Dennis O'Reilly
2 min read

Browsers just naturally seem to slow down over time. Maybe it's because the add-ons start to accumulate, or because you forget to clear their cache and perform other standard maintenance via Windows Disk Cleanup app. But there are also some simple settings changes you can make to keep Internet Explorer and Firefox running at top speed.

Increase the number of simultaneous connections in Internet Explorer: This tip has been around for a while, but if you haven't implemented it yet, you can see a real boost to your browsing speed. It entails a Registry edit, so create a restore point before you begin, just in case. With your Registry backup in place, click Start > Run in XP, or press the Windows key in Vista, type regedit, and press Enter. Navigate to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Internet Settings, right-click in the right pane, and choose New > DWORD Value. Name the value MaxConnectionsPer1_0Server, double-click it, give it a value of 10, click Decimal, and then OK. Now create another new DWORD Value, name it MaxConnectionsPerServer, double-click it, give it a value of 10, choose Decimal, click OK again, and close the Registry Editor.

Browse without the add-ons: They're great tools for enhancing your Internet experience, but they can also bog things down tremendously, especially when they start to conflict with your browser or each other. To disable add-ons individually in IE, click Tools > Internet Options > Programs > Manage add-ons, select those you don't need one at a time, and choose Disable. When you're done, click OK twice.

Internet Explorer's Manage Add-ons dialog box
Improve Internet Explorer's speed by disabling its add-ons one at a time.

You can also go the extreme route of removing them all at once by resetting IE to its defaults: Click Tools > Internet Options > Advanced > Reset. Keep in mind that this should be your last resort when IE has become too unstable to use.

To disable add-ons in Mozilla Firefox, click Tools > Add-ons > Extensions, select the one you want to disable, and choose Disable.

Mozilla Firefox Add-ons dialog box
Get more browsing speed out of Firefox by disabling the extensions you aren't using.

Open Firefox faster: Right-click the Firefox icon and choose Properties. In the Target field, add a space and /Prefetch:1 after "C:\Program Files\Mozilla Firefox\firefox.exe", and click OK.

Tweak Firefox's about:config settings: Type about:config in the address bar, and press Enter. Set each of these entries to "true" (double-click to change it):
Now set this entry to "8":
Finally, right-click in the right pane, select New > Integer, enter nglayout.initialpaint.delay as the preference, and type 0 as the value. This sets Firefox to render pages immediately.

Monday: get the most out of Office's security features.