Q: About a year ago, I heard you guys mention having a couple of browsers on a computer, so I installed Firefox. My Web browsing has gotten HORRIBLY slow these days. BTW, I installed Chrome and everything loads fine. Should I assume I picked up a virus that affects Firefox? — David
A: There are a number of reasons for having multiple browsers on your computer (Windows or Mac), one of them being so you can more easily troubleshoot Internet issues.
It’s certainly possible that you have a malware infection, but I’m more likely to guess it’s something else since Chrome is running fine.
One of the reasons so many people like Firefox as their primary browser is because of all the add-ons that are available to customize your browsing experience and enhance security.
Unfortunately, this wonderful feature is also a large reason many Firefox users experience performance issues.
Just like with your computer, if you load it up with tons of programs and utilities, it will take forever just to get started and it can be sluggish in use as it tries to juggle all the code added by the add-ons.
Taking the Zen approach to computing (minimalism) will go a long way to keeping your computer and browser from getting stuck in the mud, so always be picky about what you allow to be installed.
The easiest way to test this theory is to try starting Firefox in ‘safemode’ which tells it to open a session with the bare minimums, which will strip off all your add-ons. To do this, open Firefox and click on the ‘Help’ menu and select ‘Restart with Add-ons Disabled’ (if the text menu is not at the top, tap the Alt key to expose it).
When the ‘Firefox Safe Mode’ window pops up, don’t click on any of the boxes, just click on the ‘Continue in Safe Mode’ button at the bottom to begin your test.
If everything speeds up again, you will know one or a combination of the add-ons is causing the performance issuer.
You can manually disable your add-ons , one at a time to track down the offending add-on by hitting Ctrl-Shift-A, (Shift-Command-A on Macs) which will open the the Add-ons Manager. Make sure you disable everything (one at a time) in the Extensions, Appearance and Plugins sections as they all contain add-ons that could be causing your issue.
It’s a tedious process, but unless you are willing to throw all your add-ons out and start over, it’s the only way to track down the problem (welcome to the world of computer troubleshooting!)
If running is Safe Mode didn’t improve the speed, it’s possible that your profile database is need of some optimization, especially if you use Firefox a lot. There’s a free utility called SpeedyFox (http://evtnow.com/speedyfox) that will compact your profile database and clean up the corruption or fragmentation that comes from installing a lot of add-ons.
If none of that works, your next step would be to uninstall Firefox completely and reinstall it with the latest version from the Mozilla website: http://firefox.com .
If you have an older computer or one with a small amount of RAM, it’s possible that you opening too many tabs at the same time for your computer to handle. You can easily test this by browsing old school: only open one tab to do all your browsing.
Ken Colburn is president of Data Doctors Computer Services and host of the Data Doctors Radio Program, noon Saturdays on KTAR 92.3 FM or at www.datadoctors.com/radio. Readers may send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.