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.
1. Speed Up Your Scrolling
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.
2. Auto Tab Discard
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.
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.
3. Disable Accessibility Services
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.)
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.”
4. Run Firefox in Low-Resolution Mode (Mac)
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.
5. Toggle Tracking Protection
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).
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.
6. Toggle Hardware Acceleration
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.
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.
7. Increase Content Process Limit
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. 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 far as “7.”
If you start experiencing crashes or other unruly behavior as a result of this, decrease the number until you find a happy medium of speed and stability.
8. Use uBlock Origin Instead of Adblock
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.
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.
9. Free Up Memory
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.
10. Disable Firefox Animations
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.
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.
11. Refresh Firefox
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.
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 June 2018.