Mozilla’s Firefox browser is already in most cases faster than its main competitor, Internet Explorer, but in this issue of tech tips I will show you how you can hack Firefox to make it even faster.
Begin by opening up your Firefox browser and make sure you have the latest version installed by selecting “check for updates” in the help menu. If there are available updates, install them before continuing.
Now that you have the latest version, start by typing about:config into the address bar at the top and press enter. A new interface that might look a bit advanced or overwhelming will come up but don’t worry I’ll explain everything. Across the top, you will see the filter bar. Under the filter bar, you should see a huge table filled with data. Each row of the table represents a specific preference or option within Firefox. The column called values stores what the specific option is currently set to. For example, there is a preference called browser.tabs.tabMinWidth (you can easily find this preference by typing the name of it, in the filter bar) that determines how small the tabs in Firefox will get before they start scrolling off the side. The default value for this tab is 100, which means once the tabs are 100 pixels wide they will start scrolling off the screen, instead of getting even smaller. You can double click on this line and change this value to any amount of pixels that you like. This is a just a simple example, but now let’s go on to changing the preferences that will actually affect the speed of the browser.
First let’s look at the line called network.http.pipelining. If the value of this line is set to false, like it is by default, Firefox will not send pipelining requests to the server on which the page resides. If the value is set to true, then it will send pipelining requests. Now I know you are probably thinking this is getting to complicated, but don’t worry, I will explain what all this means. Each time you load a page into your browser, your browser sends a page request to the server for that page. When the server receives the request, it will send the page back to the browser. Pipelining occurs when the browser sends multiple page requests before the browser receives the page from the server. This reduces the page loading times; therefore if we set this value to true it will speed up our browser.
Next, let’s look at the setting called network.http.pipelining.maxrequests. As you can probably tell from the title of this setting, it is very closely related to the one we looked at previously. This value determines the max amount of pipeline requests that the browser will send. This line can be changed to any number between 1 and 8. The more requests the faster it will be, so change the value to 8.
Up next, let’s look at network.http.proxy.pipelining. As you would guess, this is also very closely related. Earlier I explained that pipelining speeds up your browsing, but what I didn’t mention was that some servers do not support pipelining and if these browsers receive pipeline requests, they may behave strangely. That is where this preference comes in, if this preference is set to true, it will check to make sure the server supports pipelining before it sends any pipelining messages.
Now let’s get into a not-as-closely-related-but-still-somewhat-related-preference called network.dns.disableIPv6. Basically, every computer that has internet access has its own unique IP address. An IP address is a set of 1, 2, or 3 digit numbers separated by periods. The first widely known type of IP address is IPv4, it uses 32-bit addressing, meaning there are 2^32 (4,294,967,296) possible IP addresses. All these addresses are being used up by the huge amount of internet connected computers that we have in the world today and there is now a new IP protocol called IPv6. This is a 128-bit system which means it allows for 2^128 (340,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000) possible IP addresses. There are still problems with the new IPv6 and it can cause substantial delays because not all servers support it yet, therefore it is faster to disable IPv6, by setting this option to true.