How can I solve these Safari browsing slow-down problems?
March 22, 2006 12:41 PM   Subscribe

My computer is driving me insane. Please help. My 1.8gz Macintosh g5 has developed several annoying quirks, the cumulative effect of which is to make browsing the internet an exercise in frustration. Sometimes I want to pull my hair out. Here are the three things that I believe, individually and/or in combination, are causing the slow-downs. I have no idea how to fix any of them:

1. I have a second hard-drive installed as a large data repository. I have no applications or system files or anything on it, just lots of words and pictures and numbers. The generally falls asleep after some period of disuse. When I need to use it, it takes about twenty seconds to wake up. However — and here's the problem — until it falls asleep again, the drive goes through this bizarre "spin-up, spin-down" cycle every few minutes, and each time it does, it causes severe drag on my internet connection. I have no idea why. How could they possibly be connected. What I'd like to do is just tell the stupid drive to stay awake all the time. I'll pay for that power consumption, thank you very much. How do I do this? I've searched OS X high-and-low, but can't find anything remotely like "tell the secondary hard drive to stay powered up". On Windows, I'd find it under power management settings. Where do I find it on a Mac?

2. Flash-based pages are often maddening on my machine. If I have to load a page with some flash-animated banner ad, it takes an extra five to ten seconds for the page to load. While the page is loading, I am locked out of the browser. WTF? This never used to happen. It also happens on my Powerbook, but not on my iBook. I suspect I have different versions of Safari and/or Flash installed on the iBook. How to I make this madness stop? I'd prefer not to have to uninstall Flash.

3. For some reason, it seems that pages with text-edit boxes also cause the browser to pause for a couple of seconds upon loading. Why? Is Safari trying to fetch all the previous information I've ever entered in these text boxes? That seems the only possible answer.

Between these three problems, certain browsing conditions turn me into a raving lunatic. For example, I just edited some photos (which were on my data drive). Then I decided to browse eBay. Hello, hell! eBay is loaded with flash-based banner ads and all sorts of text boxes. Combine this with my computer constantly paging to the data drive for whatever reason (or at least causing it to spin up and down), and you've got a recipe for a very desperate AskMe post.
posted by jdroth to Computers & Internet (31 answers total)
Your drive is dying, and so is the swap space on it.
posted by orthogonality at 12:44 PM on March 22, 2006

Safari worked for me for a long time, and then all of a sudden, it acted really slow and weird, sort of like how you describe. I just stopped using it and switched exclusively to Firefox.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 12:45 PM on March 22, 2006 [1 favorite]

Best answer: #3 might be caused by the autofill feature. In Preferences I turn off "Other forms" and that speeds things up considerably.
posted by revgeorge at 12:48 PM on March 22, 2006

Check out the Energy Saver control panel, found under Apple menu>System Preferences. Make sure the "put the hard disk to sleep whenever possible" option is unchecked. Ditch Safari, switch to Firefox - I've found that Safari is slow, slow, slow. How much RAM is in this machine?
posted by dbiedny at 12:56 PM on March 22, 2006

Maybe you're dedicated to using Safari, but if not, you may want to try Firefox, where you can get a great Flashblock extension that squashes all that obnoxious Flash content as the page loads and then lets you select the individual Flash elements to load, should you so desire.

As for your hard drive problem, I have an external drive connected and have never experienced what you experience. Can you try attaching another drive to see if it's specific to that drive?

(I think revgeorge is probably right on the Sarafi Autofill feature -- I've read a lot of tips saying that it can become so chock full of data that turning it off speeds things up. You can either turn it off or clear the Autofill data.)
posted by veggieboy at 1:01 PM on March 22, 2006

Response by poster: Answers and responses to current replies:

ortho — I doubt the drive is dying. It's only a year old, and shows no signs of data loss or anything else wonky. This seems to me like a systemic issue, not a hardware problem.

re: Firefox — Yes, I've considered switching to it on the Mac (I already use it on the PC), but I like safari a lot. In fact, I'm probably too comfortable with it. I'll install Firefox and use it now-and-then to see if it will do as a replacement.

system specs — OS X 10.3.9 with 1.5gb of RAM, Safari 1.3.2. The "put hard drive to sleep" box has been unchecked for ??? days/weeks/months. (In other words, it's not checked now, and I don't remember unchecking it recently.)

revgeorge — Thanks, I'll try that.
posted by jdroth at 1:02 PM on March 22, 2006

Response by poster: p.s. The drive in question is internal. I can't recall whether my external drive exhibits the same problem, and I don't have it here to test.
posted by jdroth at 1:03 PM on March 22, 2006

Best answer: Clear your Safari cache (Safari > Empty Cache...). Clear your Safari History (History > Clear History). Clear your Safari Autofill cache (Safari > Preferences : AutoFill : "Edit" Button next to "Other Forms" click "Remove All"). Try quitting Safari now and again, too (it seems to have big memory structures that bog it down if left open for days on end).

If that doesn't help, back up your bookmarks and passwords and try resetting Safari. If that doesn't help, well, I dunno.

In Energy Saver setting you can tell it to not put hard drives to sleep (but I think it's global, not per-drive).
posted by teece at 1:06 PM on March 22, 2006

Response by poster: Holy cats, teece — clearing the cache took almost ninety seconds, during the entire time of which I was locked out of Safari by the spinning ball. It scares me to think that I might not have ever cleared the cache on this machine, but I might not have ever cleared the cache on this machine...

posted by jdroth at 1:15 PM on March 22, 2006

Also it won't hurt to reboot into open firmware (apple option o f) and type reset-nvram (return) and then reset-all (return). this is like zapping the PRAM. Also some cache's can't be cleared that easily. go to Version and downloade cacheout X.
posted by Gungho at 1:24 PM on March 22, 2006

If you want to double-check drive health, open up disk utility, and see what the S.M.A.R.T. Status is for your drives. The word you want to see is 'Verified' (or secondarily 'Not Supported').
posted by I Love Tacos at 1:25 PM on March 22, 2006

No doubt, jdroth. I wish you could tell Safari to limit it's cache size, but there does not seem to be an option. So I've gotten in the habit of clearing it every so often. The cache is helpful, to a certain extent, but I strongly suspect that beyond a certain size it actually becomes an impediment, rather than the advantage it was meant to be.
posted by teece at 1:27 PM on March 22, 2006

I doubt the drive is dying. It's only a year old, and shows no signs of data loss or anything else wonky. This seems to me like a systemic issue, not a hardware problem.

It's a hardware problem. Age of the drive has nothing to do with it. The spin-up, spin-down nature of it makes it a near certainty that the drive is dying. I've seen too many drives do this--usually cheap high-capacity Firewire drives.
posted by Mo Nickels at 2:13 PM on March 22, 2006

I found Flash ads so annoying that I have pretty much made Firefox my permanent browser simply to have Flashblock on all the time.

Not to mention Adblock and Greasemonkey (for the metafilter script, and the amazing Greased Lightbox script) and a far FAR superior Find.

Oh, and shifting tabs around is another feature I can no longer live without.

I had that second drive issue as well, and I am trying to remember how I resolved it, but I can't. I think it may have had something to do with the aforementioned hard disk sleep mode.

Have you tried the "Reset Safari..." option? That clears out a tons of stuff in addition to the cache (saved passwords, etc).
posted by smallerdemon at 2:15 PM on March 22, 2006

Ditch Safari, switch to Firefox - I've found that Safari is slow, slow, slow.

And then, IMHO, ditch Firefox and use Camino. I've used all the browsers -- Safari, Deer Park, Firefox, all except that pile of dung called Opera -- and Camino is by far the best and fastest.
posted by docgonzo at 2:19 PM on March 22, 2006

Oh, and although I hesitate to contradict ortho, but have you tried turning off spotlight?
posted by docgonzo at 2:23 PM on March 22, 2006

Hm, speaking of Spotlight, it could be a corrupt spotlight cache. I think there's some way to clear that out and rebuild the index via the command line, but you'd have to dig around online to find out what it is.
posted by smallerdemon at 2:37 PM on March 22, 2006

Best answer: I'd like to reiterate, for future googlers, the great importance of clearing the autofill cache periodically. If I don't do that once a year or so, Safari becomes hopelessly, uselessly slow.
posted by waldo at 2:37 PM on March 22, 2006

on the SMART thing - don't be so sure that OSX has your back. on 10.3 anyway i've had 2 disks go bad (uncorrectable ECC errors) and disk tool merrily continued to say "Verified" even though smartctl -a showed otherwise.

download and compile smartmontools, its worth checking out what the drive's SMART registers actually say, as opposed to OSX's interpretation of them.
posted by joeblough at 2:47 PM on March 22, 2006

Response by poster: I don't think that, technically, I have spotlight. That's 10.4+ only, right? I just have precursors to it, I think. (Though I'm perfectly happy to be corrected.)

The Disk Tools do show the disk as "not supported" and a quick verify says it's fine. I'll check out smartmontools...
posted by jdroth at 2:58 PM on March 22, 2006

Sorry, missed your OS version. You don't have spotlight.
posted by docgonzo at 3:23 PM on March 22, 2006

For #1 my first inclination is that it's a hardware problem, but fiddling with Energy Saver a bit may be worth a try.

For #2, try uninstalling the Flash plug-in and instead configuring QuickTime to play Flash movies. (This is in the QuickTime preference pane somewhere.)

For #3, Put this in your crontab:

0 4 * * * find $HOME/Library/Safari/Icons -type f -atime +7 -name "*.cache" -delete

It deletes icons that haven't been used in the past week at 4 AM each day. (Put it at a time the computer is likely to be on, though.) Others have covered the bit about the autofill, it's a shame that your only option there is to blow it all away.

These problems seem to have been ameliorated in Tiger AFAICT.

As for Firefox being faster than Safari, HA!
posted by kindall at 3:41 PM on March 22, 2006

I second Camino. Maybe it doesn't have all the whiz-bang extensions that Firefox or Safari has, but it's my primary browser because it sure is zippy.
posted by alidarbac at 4:34 PM on March 22, 2006

I've never cleared any of my Safari caches. I just did, now, and it didn't take any time at all.

I strongly suggest upgrading to 10.4.5. You can't reasonably complain about software not working if you're using a version that's over a year out of date.
posted by ikkyu2 at 4:54 PM on March 22, 2006

Response by poster: You can't reasonably complain about software not working if you're using a version that's over a year out of date.

In theory, all iterations of software should work. The thing that makes me mildly cranky (but only mildly) is that, from what I can tell, it's Safari 1.3.2 that made things bog down for me. My iBook still has 1.3.1, and it doesn't have these issues. Today I asked my brother about his mini, and he doesn't have the problems, and he's still on 1.3.1. It makes me suspect that something in the latest version of Safari caused the woe.

Latest versions are not always best versions.

That being said, I do intend to upgrade my OS, but not until the next full upgrade comes out. Essentially, I hope to skip a version. I just didn't find Tiger compelling enough to upgrade...
posted by jdroth at 5:01 PM on March 22, 2006

Jesus, don't just "switch" to firefox. Safari is much faster than firefox on my iBook.
posted by justgary at 5:49 PM on March 22, 2006

You can't reasonably complain about software not working if you're using a version that's over a year out of date.

Nonsense. In fact, with updates and bug releases, the year old software should work BETTER than the newest.

Software companies must love you.
posted by justgary at 5:51 PM on March 22, 2006

You should have just bought a Mac.

posted by flabdablet at 6:27 PM on March 22, 2006

In fact, with updates and bug releases, the year old software should work BETTER than the newest."

Justgary, that's my point. In fact, I'm not sure you have any idea what you're talking about, because apart from the snark, you just agreed with me.

10.4 was essentially an update and bug release, with something like three new technologies tacked on. 10.4.2 through 10.4.5 were bugfix releases. The original poster is running 10.3.9. That means he's essentially missed out on a year of updates and bugfixes.

Safari gets worked on quite a bit, but if you're stuck at 10.3.9 you don't get the full benefits of that work; only some of the bugfixes get applied. This is straight from my buddy who writes installers and software updates at Apple.
posted by ikkyu2 at 8:38 PM on March 22, 2006

For #3, Put this in your crontab:

0 4 * * * find $HOME/Library/Safari/Icons -type f -atime +7 -name "*.cache" -delete

Security issue here. Always use /full/path/names for executables in the shell. $PATH exploits suck.

0 4 * * * /usr/bin/find $HOME/Library/Safari/Icons -type f -atime +7 -name "*.cache" -delete
posted by secret about box at 9:24 PM on March 22, 2006

I didn't really think about that, but yeah, you're right.
posted by kindall at 11:16 PM on March 22, 2006

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