Customize Firefox for some REAL Speed.Posted: November 9, 2011
Firefox, or Mozilla Firefox if you wanna get technical about it…geez, is nothing more than a free web browser. It isn’t an operating system (OS), it won’t manage your enterprise network, hell it won’t even ask you how your day is going. It’s primary objective is to make navigation of the Internet possible. It’s fundamental purpose is no different than any other web browser; such as, Internet Explorer (IE), Google Chrome, Opera, etc. So, what’s the big deal and what’s all the hype Firefox generates about? Basically, Firefox is dynamic, has ever expanding features that make surfing the web easier, and it’s open source (meaning Firefox’s source code is freely available for everyone to use). Firefox is the most customizable web browser available to date.
But you just said Firefox was just a web browser like IE right? Well, I said it’s primary purpose was the same, so indirectly I suppose so…Don’t try to church it up Ray Ray is it a web browser or not?! Calm down pop tart, yes it’s a web browser… Ya know, you might consider laying off the red bulls in the morning…just saying. So what’s wrong with Internet Explorer? If their all web browsers what makes Firefox so special?” To answer your first question, IE used to be the best browser, but years of no competition caused Microsoft to grow complacent and basically put it on auto pilot where now it’s full of security holes, is slow, etc. That changed when Firefox exploded on the market, but it blew past IE so fast, Microsoft had to release a security patch! Firefox is the rockstar of the web browser market. Let me “church this up” for you one time: Firefox is the Led Zeppelin of the browser business and IE is, at best, the Conway Twitty. Although Conway must know what he’s doing, because despite the massive influx of Browser competition from Chrome, Opera and Safari; Firefox comes in second only to IE (Hello Darlin’). Nevertheless, we can argue browsers till Conway Twitty stops writing songs about being sorry for cheating on his wife, but that’s not what this post is about. So, let’s get on with it and look at how we can customize Firefox for speed.
WARNING: Rest of Article Pertains to Modifying the about:config File and is Intended for Advanced Users! Customize at Your Own Risk!!!
There are several minor ways to increase Firefox’s speed (I.e. Profiles, Add-Ons, etc.); however, if you want some real speed you have to get under the hood and tweak the engine. The engine under the hood that can make Firefox a hot rod (or a scrap heap) is the about:config file. I’ll say this one last time before proceeding: about:config: this IS NOT something you need to mess with if you don’t know what something does! This is the main configuration file that makes Firefox work, please know you could do irreparable damage to the browser in here. On the other hand, it can also really make Firefox screaming fast, and that’s what we intend to do today.
Let’s Get Under The Hood and Have a Look at That Engine
To get to the main configuration file type about:config in the address bar of your Firefox Browser and press enter. After accepting the warning prompt you receive, Firefox will present you with a large range of settings in alphabetical order. Any changes that are made to the about:config file are stored in your Windows Profile folder in a file called Prefs.js. I would highly recommend backing up this file before modifying the about:config file as a precaution, as some changes to the about:config file cannot be easily reversed without manually editing or restoring the Prefs.js file. If you are reading this, because have already gotten yourself into this type of pickle, and forgot to backup this file there is still hope for you. You can manually edit the Prefs.js file by opening it in any text editor (I.e. Notepad, notepad+, etc.) and remove the lines containing the modification you don’t want, and it will be reset back to it’s default. Now back to the list; you will see 3 main types of variables in the about:config file: integers (can only take whole number values), Boolean (can only take True [on] or False [off] values), and String Variables (any combination of letters and numbers). If you are unfamiliar with these terms you should consider turning back now, or at the very least, be very vigilant.
Now Let’s Get Our Hands Dirty
Now we are finally ready to start “turning some wrenches” on this hot rod to get some real speed increases. While there are a ton of settings, as you can see, there are only specific ones related to speed and those are the ones we’re looking for. I’m assuming that all who are reading this have Broadband connections – if you are on dial up I’m sorry but there is nothing here for you but education. If you are on a Broadband connection (and most, if not all, of us are) then you can use pipelining to speed up your page loads. Pipelining will allow Firefox to load multiple things on a page at the same time, instead of it’s default one at a time setting to allow for dialup connections. Here is how to change this:
While in about:config, type network.http in the filter field and change the following settings (double-click on them to change them):
– Set network.http.pipelining to “true”.
– Set network.http.proxy.pipelining to “true”.
– Set network.http.pipelining.maxrequests to a number like 30. This will allow it to make 30 requests at once.
– now search for max-connections :
– Set network.http.max-connections to “400”
– Set network.http.max-connections-per-server to “32”
– Finally, right click anywhere and selectNew>Integer. Name it nglayout.initialpaint.delay and sets it’s value to “0”. This number governs the amount of time the browser waits before it acts in information it receives.
If you are using broadband you will load pages MUCH faster. If you use dial up and made these changes anyway, you likely won’t load pages at all. Refer back to the restoring the Prefs.js section, then go eat some glue or something.
While there are a ton of settings in about:config that can make Firefox load faster, display faster, download faster, etc. These features depend on the speed of your PC, your technical knowledge and connection speed. If you were completely lost and would have to spend hours figuring out what each setting means and what it does to make these changes, then there is a tool for you. Firetune presents the about:config file in a very friendly easy to use graphical user interface (GUI). You can download the program for free here from their homepage For the rest of you, enjoy blazing a train through the Internet like you have never seen. Keep it saucy….