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Remember when the first web pages were nothing more than text? And communications was primarily by posting messages on a virtual Bulletin Board? Those days have long gone. Today’s web sites might contain video, audio, interactive elements, and stacks of images.
Current browsers grab and store data in caches to make browsing faster if and when we ever return to a particular page … more on that below. If there are pages that you visit on a regular basis then the stored data in the cache enables those pages to load faster.
But what happens if you visited a page only once but the images, music, text and anything else on that page that was stored, still remains? You may never visit that page again, but it’s still stored on your computer. Over time, under the weight of all that content, your browser can slow down.
But it doesn’t have to be like this. With a bit of timely maintenance, you can ensure your browsing stays speedier for longer. This advice applies across all the major desktop browsers, including Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Microsoft Edge and Internet Explorer, Apple’s Safari, and Opera.
- Remove unused extensions
Just as too many unneeded apps will slow down your computer, too many plug-ins and extensions can do the same to your browser. They take up system resources and can even cause bugs and crashes. Extensions aren’t inherently bad—they can add genuinely useful features to your browser—but it’s a good idea to run an extension audit every once in a while and remove the ones you no longer rely on.
The process is straightforward enough in most browsers, which have an easy-to-find display for the extension menu. In Internet Explorer, click the Gear icon in the upper right corner, then *Manage Add-Ons*, then make sure the *Toolbars and Extensions* tab on the left is chosen. From here you can view and manage your add-ons and extensions. In Chrome, the Extensions option is under the *More tools* heading on the main app menu; in Firefox, choose *Add-ons* from the main app menu; in Opera, select *Extensions* from the main app menu. In Edge, click *Extensions* from the main app menu to see what’s installed.
You don’t need to uninstall all the browser extensions on the menu. These apps can’t be classified as purely “good” or “bad,” but pay attention to the ones you don’t recognize, or don’t really need, and get rid of those first. You might be surprised at how many of these add-ons you can live without. Many are placed there by installing applications, but left behind if that program is uninstalled. If you’re ready for a really drastic cleanup, try removing all of them at once and let your system prompt you to reinstall just the ones you find necessary.
For the extensions you do keep, make sure they’re regularly updated. Your browser should automatically handle this, but it might be worth double-checking. Just like keeping the browser itself updated (of which more in a moment), ensuring you’re running the latest versions of your add-ons keeps them bug-free and running smoothly.
- Clear out the cache and cookies
As you travel the web, your browser keeps a certain number of files on disk, known as the cache, to speed up your browsing experience. The next time you visit a site, the cached files are already present, so your browser only needs to download the new bits from the web. This means less time waiting, and in general, it’s going to speed up rather than slow down your browsing.
However, we’d recommend occasionally clearing out your cache and starting again. Your browser should automatically manage this cache, but it can get unwieldy and cause the occasional bug or glitch. If you want to keep your browsing speed as good as new, then wipe the slate clean every few months or so. Afterwards, you will notice a slight slowdown to begin with, as your browser rebuilds the cache, but it should quickly go back to normal.
At the same time you clear your cache, most browsers let you clear cookies as well. Cookies are bits of data that websites log on your machine to identify who you are, where you’re from, your website preferences, and so on. Usually these cookies are harmless and useful, but a regular purge will quickly get rid of any corrupt or unnecessary ones.
However, please note that by removing all of your cookies, you will most likely lose your current login information to websites if you have checked the ‘remember me’ or ‘keep me logged in’ box. This means you will need to log into many websites again to rebuild those specific cookies.
In Internet Explorer, click the Gear icon in the upper right corner, then *Safety*, then *Delete Browsing History*. From here you can choose which categories in Internet Explorer you wish to delete. In Chrome, head to *Settings*, then pick *Show advanced settings*, and then *Clear browsing data*. In Firefox, you can find the setting under *Options*, then *Advanced* and *Network*. For Opera, choose *Settings* then *Privacy & security*, and click *Clear browsing data*. In Edge, open *Settings*, then click the *Choose what to clear* button under *Clear browsing data*.
- Uninstall and reinstall your browser
We’ve talked about cleaning up extensions and wiping the cache to get your browser back to its original state, which is the best approach for stopping browser slowdowns. It’s sort of like returning your car to its original state by erasing all those little issues and problems that have built up. Well, uninstalling and reinstalling your browser is a quick shortcut to do the same job.
What’s the difference between simply updating the current version of you browser and uninstalling/reinstalling the browser? Won’t you still have the most current version to use? Yes, but the point is that when you simply update, there will be remnants of the previous version remaining in the browser’s application files. These remnants will contain corrupted data caches, unneeded extensions, and legacy material from previous updates. By doing a full uninstall/reinstall, ALL the old files are removed and replaced with current, up to date files.
But if you aren’t comfortable performing a full browser replacement, then please, by all means, keep your browser updated. Staying up to date is so vital in fixing bugs and blocking security threats that modern browsers typically download updates automatically. But to cover all your bases, it’s worth running the occasional update manually.
So how do you go about deleting your browser? It’s not possible to uninstall Internet Explorer or Microsoft Edge from Windows as these applications come embedded in the operating systems. However, Chrome, Firefox, and Opera can be updated manually uninstalled.
Also, please remember that a full replacement of your current browser with a newer, current version doesn’t just eliminate extensions and cookies. It will usually remove your bookmarks and browsing history at the same time. So if you want to keep your bookmarks, make sure you’ve exported them as a backup somewhere else first.
Chrome and Firefox also include handy features for essentially resetting the browsers, which saves you the trouble of uninstalling and reinstalling the entire program. In Chrome, the *Reset option* you want is at the very bottom of the *advanced settings* tab; in Firefox, open up the help menu from the main app menu, then choose *Troubleshooting Information* and *Refresh Firefox*. This type of reset won’t affect your browsing history and bookmarks.
- Manage your tabs
Clearing out behind-the-scenes clutter isn’t the only way to speed up your web experience. Managing your open tabs more efficiently will also help you browse faster. The more tabs you have open, the slower your browser is going to run (though browsers are getting better all the time at managing these demands, another reason why you should always be running the latest, most up-to-date versions).
This can be as simple as keeping the number of open tabs you have down to a minimum. Or just save the site links to your browser’s bookmarks list—you can set up a Temporary folder for this very purpose.
A few well-chosen browser extensions can help with tab management. Although you should install as few browser add-ons as possible, extensions like these are genuinely useful. For example, Auto Unload Tabs for Firefox automatically unloads (empties) tabs you’re not actively looking at, saving memory for the tabs you actually need. When you switch back to unloaded tabs, it will refresh the content again.
Tab Suspender does a similar job on Opera, while Tab Suspender and Tab Wrangler both handle the task in Chrome. For Internet Explorer, which allows a minimal number of extensions, and Microsoft Edge, which only recently began supporting extensions, we haven’t seen a similar option thus far. So if you want to manage tabs in Microsoft’s browsers, you’ll need to rely on your own willpower.
- A little extra
In addition to managing all the above, it is always a good idea to keep your computer running smooth by deleting the Recycle Bin and Temporary Files through the Disk Cleanup feature in your computer. Then Defrag your hard disk if it is the standard platter version. This is not a needed step if your hard disk is a newer solid state version.
And, of course, don’t forget to:
Be Safe – Backup Your Data Regularly!
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