If Firefox killing the performance of my PowerBook?
November 6, 2007 1:22 PM   Subscribe

Is Firefox churning my Powerbook? When I have more than a few tabs open, I hear (and see- on my little menubar app) heavy hard drive activity. It feels like it gets stuck in some kind of endless swap and the performance of the machine seems to suffer. More importantly, the noise drives me nuts. I suspect Firefox memory management issues. I know Firefox has a bad rep in this dept. Suggestions? Tweeks? Opera?
posted by Area Control to Computers & Internet (18 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Safari in Leopard is much improved, and yes, Firefox is a memory and CPU hog.
posted by grumpy at 1:30 PM on November 6, 2007

Response by poster: I'm running OSX 10.4.10, with no real plans to upgrade. Sorry, this should have gone in the "more info" section.
posted by Area Control at 1:36 PM on November 6, 2007

Sounds like it's thrashing. You don't have a lot of RAM, right?
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 1:43 PM on November 6, 2007

If you're interested in keeping Firefox, your first step should be to create a new profile with no extensions loaded (which will suck to use) and see if you have the same problems. If you do not, it's likely an extension leaking memory rather than Firefox. I run it on a Powerbook with 10.4 and it's ok. It grinds sometimes on JavaScript-intensive pages like Gmail and bloglines, but other than that it's ok.
posted by yerfatma at 1:44 PM on November 6, 2007

What features of Firefox are you particularly needing? Why continue to use it rather than Safari or Opera?

I'm asking mostly because Firefox on OSX has gotten progressively worse, rather than better of the past several months. I'm beachballing several times a week now, and now that Safari on Leopard supports NTLM authentication, I'm just about to make the switch. I'd like to continue to support Firefox, but not at the expense of my sanity.
posted by grumpy at 1:45 PM on November 6, 2007

Firefox is barely better than IE nowadays on Mac.
posted by bonaldi at 1:49 PM on November 6, 2007

Drat, next sentence: but I can't recommend Opera enough.
posted by bonaldi at 1:50 PM on November 6, 2007

Grumpy: I don't know about the OP, but for me, it's extensions. Greasemonkey especially, but not exclusively.
posted by spaceman_spiff at 2:24 PM on November 6, 2007

Camino is a nice alternative to Firefox. It renders web pages using the same code, but it has less memory leaks and performance issues. The only real downside, to me, is that it doesn't support Firefox extensions.
posted by mmagin at 2:35 PM on November 6, 2007 [1 favorite]

I use Camino almost exclusively on my powerbook. While there aren't nearly as many extensions out there, pimp my camino has a pretty good listing of what plugins are available.
posted by chrisroberts at 2:58 PM on November 6, 2007

Look at your /Applications/Utilities/Activity Monitor. If the green slice is really tiny, you've run out of memory and that's why the hard drive activity. Buy more RAM, or quit running Firefox Parallels and Photoshop together on your Macbook.

As long as this thread has devolved into a browser recommendation fest... I'd love to know if Safari in Leopard has the restore session feature of Firefox, and the optional prompt before quitting. I issue a cmd-Q by accident sometimes, which sucks with 50 tabs open in Safari. That's why I use firefox..
posted by maniabug at 4:04 PM on November 6, 2007

Give Opera a shot. I went to it about a year ago after similar problems with Firefox and it works great for me.
posted by Cyrano at 4:26 PM on November 6, 2007

How much HD space do you have? Enough?

Alternatively, have you tried rebooting?
Sometimes when I've been running FF for a long time the memory leak sucks up the last of my hard drive space until I just reboot the whole thing. It did this last night with 1.75 GB -- when I rebooted it was showing 0 KB left on the drive and was constantly thinking. So annoying.
posted by loiseau at 4:51 PM on November 6, 2007

I sympathize. I recently finally gave up on Firefox because of the slowness and memory leaks. Upgrading would obviously help, but if that's not an option...

Saft for Safari has session restore and various other useful missing features, making it much more usable than it is alone. Pimp My Safari has other useful plugins as well.
posted by streetdreams at 6:57 PM on November 6, 2007

If you're anything like us, you hardly ever turn off your computer. We just sleep them most the time. I find it helps to quit firefox once a day.
posted by advicepig at 7:15 PM on November 6, 2007

Response by poster: Wow, thanks for all the interesting responses. Here are the answers to some various questions: I have a gig of ram in this thing, and about 35 gig of free disk space. I try to run with minimal extensions, lately the collection is DownThemAll (nice one click file capture), Google toolbar, Image Resizer (dang Gmail image attachments never fit my screen), And Tab Mix Plus. I guess it's the control that TabMixPlus gives me that makes me want to try to stay with Firefox.

I've got seven tabs open right now and the hard drive is grinding. (Gmail, YouTube, Fazed, Fark, iGoogle, Popurls). I'm looking at the activity monitor and most of my pie is green, which I find confusing. I'm showing Wired: 71 MB, Active: 112 MB, Inactive 223 MB, Used: 407 MB, and Free: 616 MB.

The disk activity chart spikes every 30 seconds or so.
I dunno, I'm confused, and not that inspired to fix this.
I'm going to explore browser options, and put Firefox aside for a while.

Thanks again for the feedback, I feel like I'm headed in the right direction now.
posted by Area Control at 6:10 AM on November 7, 2007

I would say between Gmail, YouTube and iGoogle, that's a shitload of JavaScript going on. The best piece of advice here might be (unsurprisingly I suppose) advicepig's: what happens if you close and reopen Firefox? I've stuck with the damn browser since Phoenix 0.6; using it on Windows made me fairly paranoid about keeping an eye on its memory usage as it sucks up whatever's available and never gives it back.

My Powerbook is just over 2 years old and I'm finding, regardless of Firefox, it needs a reboot every couple of weeks or so.
posted by yerfatma at 6:47 AM on November 7, 2007

I use Camino mostly but sometimes I use Firefox. I find that flash web sites always bring my computer to a crawl. Maybe it's the flash-intensive sites that're causing the problem.
posted by edjusted at 1:37 AM on November 22, 2007

« Older Ghostly Narrators?   |   How can I find good quality classical recordings? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.