Google Chrome recently turned 10. It celebrated it’s 10th birthday on September 4, 2018. Over the last decade, Chrome has eclipsed all its rivals – accounting for more 60% of web traffic (as of November 2018). Two billion copies of Google Chrome have been installed, and a staggering one billion people use it every month.
Chrome continues to be a triumph of design and speed. The browser allows you to browse the cornucopia of web content at amazing speed. However, depending on how you use it, Chrome can sometimes slow down significantly. Using a slow browser is enough to begin anyone’s slow descent into madness, but don’t worry, this article will reveal a few simple tricks that will make your Google Chrome browser snappy again and make your overall browsing experience better as well.
If you’ve been having trouble with Chrome running slow, review the following…
Run an Antivirus or do a Malware Scan
Installing even a basic antivirus could go a long way in making your Chrome browser run faster. An antivirus eliminates the malware and the viruses that could be causing your browser’s slowness. Many viruses and malware install files that cause Google Chrome to launch additional useless or even malicious browser windows. They could even run background programs on your PC and cause not just slowness in Google Chrome, but in your overall computer.
I’m very hesitant to recommend third party antiviruses because the matter is very subjective. There are big names everywhere and free and paid options too. However, I continue to actively recommending the built-in Windows Defender security suite. For most users, I still think Windows Defender is good enough. Just make sure it is enabled and you actually use it.
Make Sure Chrome is Updated
Keeping Google Chrome up to date is one of the simplest things you can do to make it keep running fast and without issues. By default, Chrome automatically downloads and installs updates. But this only happens after you close and re-open the browser. So if you have the habit of closing Chrome from time to time, you probably won’t even have to do anything.
But I personally hardly ever close my Chrome browser. I always have at least a couple of tabs open even when the computer is sleeping or hibernated. If you’re like me, you will need to manually apply Chrome updates when they become available. You will usually be notified of an available update by an icon at the top right of Google Chrome’s omnibox. Looks like this:
Notice how the regular 3 vertical dots in Chrome’s menu has been replaced by a green update icon. This is Google Chrome’s silent available update notification.
After a Chrome update, it will close and re-open. It generally retains all of your open tabs and windows. However, since a recent version of Chrome, I’ve been noticing that after an update (or after any relaunch of Chrome), it is necessary to sign in to Chrome again using your Google account in order to continue syncing your browsing activity.
Change Image Rendering Speed
Social media is one of the major things people do with their browsers. Online shopping too. Both of these activities involve lots of pictures. Think about the number of selfies, groupies, food pictures, etc., you see every day. These pictures could be causing the slowness of Google Chrome that you are noticing. Most of these photos are raster graphics, and browsers use raster threads to read these images. So, by increasing the number of raster threads in Google Chrome, you could achieve a faster browsing experience.
To change the rendering speed of images by increasing raster threads, you need to tweak one of Google Chrome’s flags, but since Chrome flags are experimental (they have been experimental since like forever), a word to the wise: follow the below instructions to the letter and don’t mess with anything else.
- Type chrome://flags in Google Chrome’s omnibox (address/search bar) and you will be shown a list
- Press Ctrl+F to search to the whole page for a specific Chrome flag
- Type “number of raster threads” in the resulting “find” box
- Change the setting for the number of raster threads from default to 4 in the drop-down menu
- Relaunch Chrome for your new setting to take effect
Your browser should now load images faster and therefore be faster overall.
Use Google Chrome’s Prediction Service To Load Resources More Quickly
This (I believe) is the default setting. However, you should probably check to confirm that you have it already set up.
But first, some background.
Google Chrome has a resource prefetching feature that works by looking up the IP addresses of links on the web pages you browse. Chrome then automatically caches the resources for those linked pages because there is a high probability that you will visit those pages too. This is really cool since if you do visit those linked pages, they will load immediately since Chrome already has their resources in its cache.
Generally, this prefetching or prediction feature works great and certainly makes Chrome run faster. However, you might also want to be aware of two of its potential downsides:
- Since you are loading resources for pages you may never visit, you may end up using more bandwidth and system resources.
- Secondly, in order for Chrome to cache resources from pages you might visit, it also has to set cookies in your browser for those pages as if you actually visited them. This might be a privacy concern for some people.
In most cases though, and in my opinion, the browser speed benefits trump the above potential downsides. So if you want to set up or confirm Google Chrome’s prediction service, go about it like this:
- Open up Chrome’s options menu in the top right (the three vertical dots). Choose Settings.
- Scroll down to the bottom and press Advanced.
- In the “Privacy and security” section, select “Use a prediction service to load pages more quickly”.
Remove Or Disable Extensions You No Longer Use
Google Chrome extensions are programs downloaded and installed into the Chrome browser via the Chrome web store. They can be quite useful since they provide a lot of features that Chrome doesn’t offer out of the box. However, they use up system resources too. And many people never remember to cleanup extensions that they no longer use. These older extensions may not even be receiving much support from the developer anymore.
With more browser extensions, you potentially have more browser features at your fingertips. However, the idea is to strike a good balance between added features and browser performance and speed. And when Chrome starts to slow down, too many extensions are often the problem.
The good thing though is that, you don’t necessarily need to uninstall or delete your extensions (if you think you may need them again later). Google Chrome offers a simple way of disabling your unused extensions. And if you do decide you need them in the future, you can just toggle them back on.
If you are troubleshooting to find out which extensions are causing Chrome’s slowness issues, it is a good idea to disable your extensions one after the other and check if your browser speed is affected.
To view the extensions you currently have in your browser, from Chrome’s menu option, highlight “More tools” and select “Extensions”. Or you can visit the extensions page directly by pasting chrome://extensions/ in Chrome’s omnibox.
Play around with your extensions and enable, disable, or remove them based on your usage. You should see significant speed improvements in Chrome with fewer extensions.
Revert Chrome to Default Settings
If you want Google Chrome to function at the speed it did when you first installed it, then restoring it to its default settings should do the trick. This is especially true when you know you’ve made settings changes but can’t exactly remember the changes you made. Or maybe you use a bunch of Chrome extensions that may be slowing down your browser. And not being sure of which extension is causing the problem, you just want to clean everything up and start afresh.
To restore the Chrome browser to its default settings, simply open up the menu in the top right (the three vertical dots). Choose Settings. Scroll down to the bottom and press Advanced.
At the bottom of the advanced settings, you will find a section to “Restore settings to their original defaults”. Press that. Do any necessary confirmations and proceed to reset everything in your Chrome browser to their default settings. You should then notice speed improvements.
Speed Up Chrome Using Extensions And Tab Managers
While extensions are usually among the suspects when Chrome starts getting slow, not all extensions are bad. In fact, some extensions are specifically designed to speed up your web browser. Most of these extensions help improve speed by doing intelligent tab management.
Let’s talk some more about Google Chrome tabs…
I love browser tabs. At any time, I usually have a least a few open simultaneously. When used correctly, they can be a great help with process and thought organization. But when you start to go overboard with the number of tabs you have open at the same time, bad system resources and speed-related things start to happen.
In the above screenshot I have about 30 tabs open. While this is not very typical for me, it certainly does happen from time to time. Good thing is, my PC is relatively capable and is usually able to handle the extra resource demand. But for even the most capable PCs, there comes a point where Chrome tabs become too many and things start to slow down (or worse, even crash).
But sometimes, we just want to keep our tabs open for later reading. They may not be important enough for us to bookmark them. Or they may be so important that we fear if we bookmark them, we give ourselves a good excuse to procrastinate the work.
In Google Chrome, each tab runs as its own process on your computer. Without going into the technical meaning of that, the behavior is usually a good thing because each tab is isolated from the other. So if one tab crashes, your entire Chrome browser does not crash as well. The impact of this though is that, each tab needs its own PC resource allocation and with more tabs open, RAM and processor usage ramp up really quick.
The good news is, with some nice Chrome extensions, you may be able to eat your cake and still have it on the matter of tabs.
For example, GreenBoost clears your cache, prevents popups, closes unused tabs, etc.
If you would rather not have your tabs automatically closed, try The Great Suspender. It “pauses” Chrome tabs and helps to free up your computer’s resources.
When The Great Suspender pauses a tab, the tab just sits there without consuming any system resources. Just waiting until you decide to visit the tab again. You can also configure the extension to suspend tabs automatically if they have been idle for a certain amount of time.
Restrict Flash Permissions
Flash is old, hated, and has been on its way out of web development for a long time (see Steve Job’s iconic Thoughts on Flash). However, it can still be found on the web (and in certain banner ads) and it has the potential to compromise your browser’s speed as well.
If this isn’t already set, you can instruct your browser to always ask your permission before it runs Flash. You can even block Flash completely if you like. This should help increase your browser speed on web pages that still serve Flash content.
To manage Chrome’s Flash permissions, visit chrome://settings/content (copy and paste that into Chrome’s address/search box). Locate the Flash option. Click on it to reveal the settings. Now you can either make Flash always ask your permission to run (the default setting), or block Flash entirely. You can also manually define sites where Flash is allowed or blocked.
Talking about Flash and browser technologies, you’d love this: 5 Old Web Development Trends That You Should Remove from Your Site.
Should I Clear My Browser Cache, Browsing History, And Cookies To Improve Speed?
This one is controversial and you will often find “experts” recommending it. But generally, except in special scenarios, I don’t recommend clearing your browser data as a method of speeding up your browser (any browser).
The thing is, a primary reason why browser caches, history, and cookies exist in the first place is to make your browsing experience faster. They significantly speed up your browser because they allow it to load resources from your local disk instead of downloading it every time.
True, there may be situations where browser caches grow so large and become “unwieldy”. But it should be quite rare before a browser speed problem can accurately be described as having been caused by too much cache. In my experience, the reverse is usually the case. Lots of cache usually makes for faster browsers.
In addition, even though, a browser might be experiencing issues because of too much cache, the situation will not be one that can easily and accurately be diagnosed by a regular, not very tech, user. So, I think it is just usually better to leave your browser cache alone if speed improvements are your primary goal.
NOTE: There are many other scenarios where you certainly need to clear your browser data. Clearing cookies for privacy reasons is one example. There are many others. In my software development experience, clearing at least some browser data is almost a daily thing. The above advice is my opinion on whether clearing browser caches will improve browser speed for the majority of Internet users. And as explained, I don’t think it would. It will probably even have the reverse effect.
Did any of the above suggestions help speed up your slow running Chrome browser? Let me know in the comments section. Or if you find another trick I missed, I’d be happy to hear it too.