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Tech tips

Browser feeling sluggish? Speed up Chrome, Firefox, Safari and Edge

All of us are relying on the internet more than ever these days for work, school and shopping. Because of the pandemic, most of us are doing all of our daily routines online — which is why having a fast, secure connection is so important to so many people.

If you think your connection is fast now, just wait until you see what 5G has in store for you. Tap or click here to see the kind of internet speeds you’ll be seeing in the next few years.

But just because your devices are capable of high-speed internet doesn’t mean you can always reap the benefits. Multiple aspects of your web browser like cookies, extensions and software bugs can appear to slow your internet connection speeds to a crawl. If you’re looking to speed up your web browser, these are the tricks you need to try first.

1. Clear out those cookies and caches

Your browser saves small pieces of data from websites you visit to help them load faster the next time you return. This collection of data is called your cache. Other bits of data called cookies help websites you visit remember who you are.

Ever notice how once you’ve logged into a website you can return without logging in again? This is a cookie in action.

But not all cookies and cache data are created equal. Some cookies can track your activities on other parts of the web, and cache data can slow down your browser by forcing it to reload outdated information.

Thankfully, every web browser gives you the option to clear your cache and cookies out. If you’re experiencing sluggishness online, give this a try to speed things up:

Chrome:

  1. Open Chrome on your desktop.
  2. At the top right, click the three-dot icon.
  3. Click on More tools, followed by Clear browsing data. (You can also get here by typing Ctrl + Shift + Delete.)
  4. At the top of the page, choose a time frame. To delete your entire cache and cookie history, select All time.
  5. Check the boxes next to Cookies and other site data and Cached images and files.
  6. Click Clear data.

Firefox:

  1. Open Firefox on your desktop.
  2. Click the three-line menu button in the top right corner and select Options.
  3. Select Privacy & Security and locate the Cookies and Site Data section.
  4. Click Clear Data. Check the boxes next to Cookies and site data and Cached Web Content.
  5. Click Clear.

Safari:

  1. Open Safari on your Mac.
  2. Click Safari on the menu bar at the top of the screen and select Preferences.
  3. Click Privacy, followed by Manage Website Data.
  4. Click Remove All.

Edge:

  1. Open Microsoft Edge on your desktop.
  2. Click the three-dot menu in the upper right and select Settings.
  3. On the Settings page click the three-line menu in the upper left and select Privacy, search, and services.
  4. Under Clear browsing data, click Choose what to clear.
  5. Under the section labeled Time range, choose a time frame.
  6. Select Cookies and other site data, then click Clear Now.

2. Check your extensions and cut the ones you don’t use

Browser extensions can give you access to tools and features not baked in to your browser. But sometimes, these extras come at the expense of performance.

Case in point: An extension that automatically checks your spelling scans the pages you visit for errors, and the time it spends scanning can slow things down significantly. On newer, faster computers, this isn’t usually an issue — but extensions rarely perform 100% perfectly on every computer out there.

Here’s how you can check the extensions and add-ons you’ve installed. We recommend combing through this list from time to time to remove the ones you no longer need.

Chrome:

  1. Open Chrome on your desktop.
  2. At the top right, click the three-dot icon.
  3. Click More tools, followed by Extensions.
  4. Locate the extensions you want to remove and click Remove.
  5. Confirm by clicking Remove again.

Firefox:

  1. Open Firefox on your desktop.
  2. Click the three-line menu button and select the puzzle-piece icon for Add-ons.
  3. Click Extensions and scroll through your list of extensions.
  4. Click the three-dot icon for the extensions you wish to remove and select Remove.

Safari:

  1. Open Safari on your Mac.
  2. Click Safari on the menu bar at the top of the screen and select Preferences.
  3. Click Extensions.
  4. To uninstall an extension, select the extension and click Uninstall.

Edge:

  1. Open Microsoft Edge on your desktop.
  2. Select Settings and more, followed by Extensions.
  3. Click Remove under the extension you wish to remove. Click Remove again to confirm.

3. Still slow? Try uninstalling and re-installing

Sometimes, a browser can become bogged down with errors or software glitches of its own. No program is perfect, after all. If your browser seems beyond repair, your best option is to completely uninstall and reinstall the program. Think of this as the equivalent of turning it on and off again.

Keep in mind Safari and Edge are baked into macOS and Windows, which means you can’t uninstall them. These programs are effectively re-installed every time you update your computer.

Here’s how you can uninstall and reinstall Firefox and Chrome.

Windows 10 PCs:

  1. Click the Start menu button and scroll through your list of apps until you find the browser you want to uninstall.
  2. Right-click on the app, then choose Uninstall.
  3. Once you’ve finished uninstalling the app, download your browser again from its official website at Google.com/chrome or Mozilla.com.

Macs:

  1. Click the Finder icon in your dock (the blue square with the smiley-face).
  2. Click Applications on the left side of the page. If you don’t see it there, click Go from the menu bar at the top of the screen and select Applications.
  3. Find the icon for the app you want to uninstall and drag it into your Trash. Alternatively, you can right-click the icon and select Move to Trash.
  4. Click on the Trash icon from your dock and click Empty in the upper-right corner.
  5. Once you’ve finished uninstalling the app, download your browser again from its official website at Google.com/chrome or Mozilla.com.

4. Too many tabs weighing you down?

When you visit an Apple Store because your browser is crashing or performing poorly, one of the first things the Apple Genius will do is check how many tabs you have open. Each tab is like a separate browser window and having too many open at once is just like running too many programs at once.

Most sites load almost constantly, populating new ads and content. Your computer has to handle each window, and that can demand a lot of digital resources. If you want a quick way to speed up your browser, your best bet is keeping your tabs in check.

We recommend closing the ones you don’t need as your work or browse. At the very least, clear them all out before you close down your computer.

Of course, clearing out your existing tabs is only half the battle. If you find yourself opening several tabs at once, a good tab-management extension can keep them organized.

For Chrome, try out TooManyTabs, a free extension that lets you group your tabs together into folders to clean and organize your browser window. It also gives you the ability to search through your tabs and pause activity on idle ones so that they won’t bog down your system.

As for Firefox, check out OneTab. It allows you to convert multiple tabs into an easy-to-manage list. This helps reduce load times and can speed up your system quite a bit. It also makes it easy to save links for later without saving them to your bookmarks.

For Safari try out Tabs Saver for $4.99. In addition to tab management like the other extensions we’ve mentioned, this one features a memory-saving feature that will restore any tabs you lose should your browser window or computer crash.

Microsoft Edge also has its own Tab Manager, which gives you the ability to pin tabs in place that you want to keep open on your browser. It’s also capable of grouping and managing tabs like the other extensions listed here.

5. Ditch your browser for another option

Believe it or not, there are two browsers out there designed to work seamlessly with Windows and macOS. The reason: They’re designed and built by the same engineers that made the operating systems themselves and are optimized the same way that your built-in calculator and file viewers are.

For Windows, you have Microsoft Edge. On macOS, you have Safari. Both of these browsers are lightweight, and won’t bog down your computer the same way as resource-hungry Chrome. Plus, they’re plenty fast and often perform better than their competitors in speed tests.

Tap or click here to see how all of the most popular browsers compare against one another.

These methods should help your browser run fast and smooth. But if you’re still having issues, that might mean your computer is in need of a tune-up itself. Tap or click here to see the best ways to speed up your computer.

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