12 Ways to Speed Up Firefox Quantum

From Firefox 57 onward, Mozilla’s browser has gone through a whole load of changes, overhauling its under- and over-the-hood functions to ostensibly run faster than ever. Firefox Quantum, as it’s currently known, finally has a shot at overtaking Chrome – in speed if not popularity.

The switch to Quantum also means that a lot of trusty old tricks to speed things up don’t work any more (bye-bye pipelining). The good news is that there’s a slew of new tips to replace them, and we have them for you here.

Firefox Quantum was designed to increased browsing speeds by turning Mozilla’s browser into a multi-process one like Chrome. While this has worked for many people, some have found that Firefox has actually been slower since the big upgrade.

This may be because your PC isn’t handling the demands of multi-process windows very well, in which case you can disable this feature.

Go to “about:config” in your Firefox browser, then search for the preference browser.tabs.remote.autostart, right-click it and toggle it to “False”.

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Ever since multiprocess Firefox was introduced back in November 2017, the default number of content processes used by Firefox was bumped up to four, but you can further increase this up to seven on more powerful machines. If you have an older PC on the other hand, you may want to decrease this number instead. To do this:

1. Go to Firefox Settings.

2. Scroll down to the “Performance” heading.

3. Untick the “Use recommended performance settings” box, then use the dropdown to increase the Content process limit as high as 7 or as low as 1.

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If you start experiencing crashes or other unruly behavior as a result of this, adjust the number until you find a happy medium of speed and stability.

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If you tend to read long documents online, you may find that scrolling down the page becomes a chore, as the browser struggles to keep up with your physical scrolling speed, and you’re restricted to the rigid scroll settings set by the browser.

Enter Yet Another Smooth Scrolling WE (YASS), a Quantum-compatible extension, that lets you tweak your scrolling to match your speed. You can change scrolling smoothness and step size, and – crucially for those long web pages – increase the acceleration by travel distance, so the longer you scroll the faster the scrolling.

It takes a bit of customization, but done right it’ll optimize your scrolling speeds plenty.

A lot of nifty add-ons have become redundant since Firefox went Quantum, but one that quickly made the jump over to the new browser is Auto Tab Discard.

This add-on lets you set up rules to automatically discard browser tabs that you leave open. This doesn’t close the tabs – just suspends them so they’re not hogging precious memory when not in use. If there are certain tabs you want active all the time, you can whitelist them so they’re exempt from your Auto Discard rules.

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To useAuto Tab Discard, add it to Firefox, then go to “Settings -> Add-ons -> Extensions” and scroll down to the various settings for the extension.

A lot of people have reported some serious slowdowns when using Firefox Quantum – with symptoms ranging from memory leaks to crashes to mild sluggishness. In some, but not all, cases this could be a result of a bug relating to Firefox Accessibility Services.

The fix is to disable accessibility services which include screen readers, braille functionality and so on. (Of course, if you or the Firefox user rely on these, you should look to a different browser until this issue gets resolved.)

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To turn off accessibility features in Firefox, go to “Settings -> Options -> Privacy & Security,” then tick the box labelled “Prevent accessibility services from accessing your browser.”

This one’s specific to Mac users. (We know you’re out there.) It turns out that the super-crisp high-res image of the Apple Retina display doesn’t always play nice with Firefox, causing browsing to be slower than it should be.

A temporary fix for this is to use Firefox Quantum in low-resolution mode (obviously not an ideal solution in the long term).

To do this, right-click the Firefox app icon and click “Get Info.” In the Info window tick the “Open in Low Resolution” box to open Firefox in a lower resolution. It will keep opening in low-res until you untick the box.

In theory, tracking protection is supposed to make your browsing faster. The idea is that it prevents sites that rely heavily on tracking scripts, third-party content and so on from loading all their tracking content. Depending on how much such a site relies on such content, you can expect these sites to load twenty to ninety percent faster with Tracking Protection, according to this research (which, it should be pointed out, was carried out by a former Mozilla software engineer).

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But with Firefox Quantum, some users have reported the opposite effect, and for them, actually switching tracking protection to “Off” has sped up their browsers.

So have a toggle of Tracking Protection and see what works best for you. Go to Options in Firefox, click the “Privacy & Security” heading on the left, then scroll down to Tracking Protection and switch it as appropriate.

Depending on your circumstances, you may want to enable or disable hardware acceleration, which will dictate whether Firefox Quantum uses your GPU to accelerate browsing.

Generally, if you have a relatively recent PC (especially if you have a dedicated GPU), it’s a good idea to switch hardware acceleration on. If you’re on an older machine without a dedicated graphics card, then leaving it on could actually slow down your browsing, as your GPU is too weak to carry out hardware acceleration properly.

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Click the menu icon in Firefox, then Options, and under the General heading scroll down to ‘Use recommended performance settings’ and untick the box. Finally, tick or untick the “Use hardware acceleration” box depending on your circumstances.

Adblock may be the most popular kid on the… adblocking block, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best for everyone. If your PC isn’t the most powerful, then there’s a good chance Adblock is slowing down your Firefox performance because it’s not all that efficient with its memory usage.

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For a long time uBlock Origin has been used as a viable alternative precisely because it manages CPU and memory resources better, thereby causing less strain on Firefox and helping it run faster. It does a great job of blocking ads, too, in case that was ever in doubt.

If you are continuously using Firefox and find it slowing down, then you can free up some memory to speed it up. To do so, type about:memory in the Firefox address bar and press Enter. On the next page click on “Minimize memory usage” under “Free memory” to free up memory.

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Similar to how you can speed up a Windows PC by disabling animations, you can also speed up Firefox by disabling its animations. To disable animations in Firefox, type about:config in the Firefox address bar and press Enter.

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Now, type “animate” in the top search bar, and set the value to all entries that show up as “False.” This should make your browsing experience faster, but you will lose all the smooth animations that make the browser look cool.

If the above tweaks aren’t enough, or your Firefox browser is acting up (including crashes) due to continuous use, then refreshing Firefox could be a fix. Firefox lets you refresh it and change all its settings to default and remove all the third-party data (like add-ons). Type about:support in the Firefox address bar and hit Enter. Click on the “Refresh Firefox” button on the right, and confirm the prompt to refresh it.

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Don’t worry, this will not delete your personal data like browser history, passwords, cookies, bookmarks or auto-fills.

You can use the above-mentioned tips to speed up your Firefox experience. Some of these tips can further speed up Firefox, even if it is working fine for you, so do give them a try and reap the benefits. Also, if messing with the entries in the “about:config” page is negatively affecting your browsing experience, then immediately revert the changes and let us know in the comments to help other users.

This post was first published in June 2016. It was updated and rewritten to reflect the changes in Firefox Quantum in September 2018.

36 comments

  1. I have the latest Firefox, and I checked the settings you’ve given for pipelining. I had them as you’ve listed except for Network.http.pipelining.maxrequests, which I had set at 32 instead of 8. To see what the default is I reset the value and it was 32, not 8 or some value lower. I left it at 32, but in your opinion is it worthwhile to raise it above 32, like 64, or as is suggested in the comments to Derrik’s article, to 100? And any reasons pro or con?

    • It is total number of connections Firefox is allowed to make with the servers. There needs to be a balance between them as too many connections can slowdown the process and some ISP’s may also not be comfortable with it and may limit your bandwidth. Most people suggest 8 as a good balancing point, not too much; not too less. 16 may work as well, but try to avoid more.

      • So even though the default is 32, you’re suggesting I lower it still further to 8? Why would the default be set so much higher if it’s counterproductive?

    • if the above answer wasn’t enough to understand the concept, let me know. I can provide real-life implementation and step-by-step process of how it works.

    • Pipelining has been removed from Firefox 54 onwards. They now favour HTTP/2 speed and performance enhancements.

      These options will no longer be available.

    • after firefox 57.0 was released piplining was removed so these tweaks wont work since the devs updated the engine in the browser.

  2. Thanks for the tips! You explain things well and make it easy to follow your steps. My Firefox performance has greatly improved. Much appreciated!

  3. If you do step 9’s REFRESH FF, is the refresh to default settings only for that session or permanently for future FF sessions as well?
    Thanks,
    Dan

  4. Excellent advice, and this comes from someone who has been using computers since the days of punched cards.

    Kudos to the team for your continuing work, your advice is generally spot on and a big aggravation saver.

    Two thumbs up!

  5. Step #9, REFRESH, seems like a very drastic measure. Over the years I have made quite a few ‘about:config’ tweaks, most of which I do not remember. I would hate lose those tweaks.

    Does REFRESH FF delete all the add-ons or does it only disable them? Again, I customized my add-ons and would hate to lose the changes.

    • I’m the same, are you testing the Quantum version ?
      Also tried to install the suggested add-on to configure it automatically but it’s not compatible with Quantum.

  6. I use Firefox every so often and made several of the changes suggested and, indeed, it’s much zippier!

    Would love to read a similar piece on Chrome, my preferred browser!

    Thanks for the great info.

    • As AdeyJ, mentioned in the earlier posts, Pipelining has been removed from Firefox 54 onwards.
      But I created those elements and added the prescribed values as none of the network.pipline options were available.
      The latest FF updates use different tech to speed up FF

  7. As of th release of FF57 this article is mostly worthless. It needs to be re-written from scratch, not just updated. FF Quantum is as different from FF as FF is from Phoenix. They are entirely different browsers.

  8. If up you do “about:support” as #11 suggests, are the changes only for that FF session or for all FF sessions henceforth?

  9. This is a very useful guide! Please update it for Firefox quantum.
    Also I searched “startup” strings on the about:config page – maybe we could modify some values to reduce delay in startup, and make it better? Will wait for the new article thx :)

  10. The information about resetting Firefox’s settings should have been first — so that people can try that first, and start with a clean slate before making further changes.

  11. For newbies who might not know (if just browsing and not inputting) use SpaceBar bar or Shift/Spacebar to go north/south rapidly. And Ctrl/LeftArrow or Ctrl/RightArrow move sideways, not a letter, but a whole word at a time.

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