Speed Up Firefox 3.5 Startup


Part of the big improvements for Firefox 3.5 was it is suppose to be faster. Unless you have started using Firefox 3.5 with a clean profile, you are going to notice that the initial startup of Firefox can be a bit (or for some user painfully) slow at times. This is especially true for those on Windows. There are a couple quick fixes to improve the startup time of your Firefox. These involve cleaning up temporary files (Windows users) and vacuuming your databases. Both tips come courtesy of Percy at Mozilla Links.

Cleaning Up Temporary Files (Windows Only)

Part of the slow down in Firefox 3.5 is due to a change in how Firefox 3.5 gets the randomness it needs for security purposes on Windows. The procedure involves scanning some temporary folders looking for bits normally added by OS and other applications operations. Firefox 3.5 looks for more files and deeper (more subfolders) for increased randomness, but it has led to unexpected results for users with too many temporary folders or files resulting in slow startups. This is a known bug (501605) and should be corrected when Firefox 3.5.1 comes out in the next couple months.

Window is a pack-rat and has a hard time letting go of files it is no longer using. As a result you can end up with a very large and sizable folder. There are two parts to this cleaning up process, Windows Temporary Files and Internet Explorer’s Temporary Files.

Cleaning out Windows Temporary Files

Windows XP users should delete ALL (some may be in use and therefore can not be removed) the files within these folders:

C:\Documents and Settings\*user*\Local Settings\History
C:\Documents and Settings\*user*\Local Settings\Temporary Internet Files
C:\Documents and Settings\*user*\My Recent Documents
C:\Documents and Settings\*user*\Temp\

Windows Vista users can not easily get to their temporary files via Windows Explorer. There are a couple ways you can clean out your temporary files. You can use the Disk Cleanup Tool which comes with Vista via clicking the Start button, clicking All Programs, clicking Accessories, clicking System Tools, and then clicking Disk Cleanup. A quicker method is getting to the Temporary Files folder itself by clicking the Start button then typing %Temp% in the Start Menu command box. This will open an explorer window showing the content of your Temporary Files folder. From here press CTRL+A to select all then press Delete. You will get the usual warning dialog box about deleting files, click Yes. Again, any files that are in use you will not be able to remove, but this only should be a small handful of files.

Cleaning out Internet Explorer Temporary Files

Note: This only removes Internet Explorer’s temporary files, this will not affect your settings in Firefox. Much like Windows, Internet Explorer holds on to files as well. But in the case of Internet Explorer it is so pages will load faster the next time you visit. There are a couple ways to clear out this content. If Internet Explore is running, go to Tools, Internet Options. Look for a Temporary Internet Files or Browsing History section with an options to Delete. If you don’t have Internet Explorer running or care not to run it, you can get to the Internet Options via the Windows Control Panel. Warning: Having a large number of Temporary Internet Files may cause the Internet Options window and/or Windows to be unresponsive for anywhere up to a couple minutes.

Vacuuming Your Databases (All Platforms + Firefox 3.0/3.5/3.6)

Much like your hard drive when adding and removing content, your Firefox databases can become fragmented resulting in both bloated database files as well as slow access times. places.sqlite can come become quite bloated with the recent changes to the default history time span, being raised from 9 to 90 days. This can be fixed very quickly and easily by vacuuming your Firefox databases. There is a Windows based program, IniFox which will do this for you. For those on other platforms (and Windows users) you can download sqlite3 a command line based SQLite database manager and refer to Percy’s post for directions on how to use this manager.

A word of warning about IniFox, the site as well the application itself are in Spanish. However, it is very simple to use so don’t worry if you don’t understand Spanish. Once you download and install the application you will simply double click on IniFox.exe to run. You will get a command prompt type screen with a red background and yellow text in Spanish. This is a welcome screen and informs you to close Firefox and press any key to continue. Once Firefox is closed go back to the application window press any key and wait a couple seconds (yes it only takes a couple seconds to vacuum your databases). You will get another screen (also in Spanish) which informs you your databases have been vacuumed and press any key to exit the application. Simply press any key or close the application window.

Update: There is a now a Firefox Extension which does this for you.  Vacuum Places Improved will allow you to vacuum your places.sqlite  databases from within the browser. Plus it can be configured to automatically vacuum after a given number of starts or remind you (displays a vacuum in the status bar) after a given number of starts.

You should notice several things:

  • Reduction in the size of your .SQLite database files
  • Faster cold start up
  • Faster warm (restart) start up
  • Better performance from the Awesome Bar

It is recommend you vacuum your databases every few weeks or if you cleared out some of your browsing history. Mozilla is looking at way to make this an automated process. Part of the issue is Firefox needs to be closed in order to vacuum the database files. For this reason it may be become part of the update process. Once the Firefox updated is downloaded and installed the databases will be vacuumed during the restart process.

Does it work?

I can say for sure vacuuming the databases made a huge difference when I restart Firefox. All my tabs loaded nearly instantly. A couple days ago I removed the Internet Explorer Temporary files, but at time I couldn’t figure out how to access my Temporary Files folder on Vista. While writing this post, I found out how to (and) remove the Windows Temporary files. I shall see next time I do a cold start up.