Internet Explorer 9 was released on March 14 2011 under the auspices that “fast is now beautiful” but I must ask: why is it that 80% of the time I use IE I feel like it’s an indolent child who wants one more snooze out the alarm?
Despite my antipathy toward IE9, when you examine the usage share of web browsers it still has widespread adoption.
Given the ubiquity of IE9 it makes sense to find a way to squeeze every bit of performance out of it. I personally prefer Google Chrome and wrote a post about how to speed that up but if IE is your thing I’ve got you covered too.
1. Stop automatic cache updates
The cache is where IE stores the HTML files and images related to your websites.
The idea is that the browser can retrieve a local copy of the site faster than it can retrieve that same site through the web. This actually keeps the browser running smoothly; however, the problem is that by default, IE9 periodically checks for the newest version of your cached websites.
This means if you’ve visited a lot of sites you’ll have a lot saved sites in the cache. If you have a lot of save sites in the cache then IE9 is getting busy synchronizing all those sites — which will ineluctably slow your browser down.
To tell IE9 to stop checking for new versions of cached sites click the cog icon directly beneath the X in the upper right corner of the browser. Then choose Internet Options. A dialog box replete with tabs and buttons instantly appears. On the General Tab, look near the bottom under the Browsing History section. Click the Settings Button
In the Check for newer versions of stored pages section move the selection bubble from Automatically to Never then click OK
2. Disable Add-ons and Toolbars
The ostensible purpose of Add-ons and Toolbars are to add functionality that improves your web experiences but I often find them to be more of a bane than a boon. I find add-ons slow my browser down more than they speed it up.
You can’t break your browser by disabling toolbars and Add-ons so feel free to disable away.
But first things first: the quickest way to see if Add-ons and Toolbars are the culprit is to start IE without Add-ons.
Click Start and enter the following command in the search box:
IE9 loads sans the junk.
Now, browse the web to your heart’s desire. Hit up all your favorite sites to test the speed; if sites load faster and the browser feels more responsive then you know there’s an Add-on or Toolbar (or group of them) that is tormenting IE in normal mode. Our mission is to find and disable all of them.
This is how: Close IE9 and open the normal version.
Click the little gear icon in the upper right corner of the browser then choose Manage Add-ons. IE combines Toolbars into the Add-on view so you’ll see Toolbars here too.
You’ll see a list of currently loaded Add-ons in the right pane. The add-ons are arranged into six columns: Name, Publisher, Status, Architecture, Load time and Navigation Time. By the way, the difference between load and navigation time is that the navigation time accounts for the additional time it takes to navigate sites. It represents how long you actually have to wait to not only load IE but also conjure up your favorite websites.
If that’s confusing don’t worry it’s not essential.
You only need to be concerned with three columns:
- Load time
Pay attention to Add-ons that have the highest load times. Then check the status to see if they’re enabled. If so you should consider disabling it. If you don’t recognize the name just double click it to see more information like the file path, the full file name, the date it was last used (down to the minute), and the registry Class ID.
There’s a treasure trove of information here so that even if you’re still flummoxed you can just copy and paste the file name into Google or Yahoo and find an answer on random geek forums.
When you find the plugins that are consuming the most load time, just right click it on the Manage Add-ons screen and choose Disable.
3. Up the MaxConnectionsPerServer Value
IE9 defaults to a paltry six concurrent file downloads. Do you see a problem with that?
Microsoft recommends bumping this to 10 simultaneous downloads to speed things up. You can bump this to a higher number too just make sure you increment judiciously. For example, if you bump MaxConnectionsPerServer to 10 and your browser is still slow, don’t indiscriminately kick it up 100 because that could have an adverse effect on the browser. Instead, take small bite sized intervals but I wouldn’t go higher than 25.
Backup the Registry
First: backup the registry. Click Start, type regedit in the search box then press Enter.
When the registry editor loads, select the Parent key, probably called Computer, then click File and choose Export from the menu. Give the registry backup a name like Registry_Backup_July_08 then save it to a secure location such as an external drive.
Depending on the size of your registry it could take anywhere from 1 to 10 minutes to completely backup. Don’t be alarmed if the Registry Editor freezes during this time; mine locked up until the backup finished spitting out my 500MB .REG file.
Now you’re ready to party.
Creating the Values
In the Registry Editor keep expanding the little folders in the left pane (known as subkeys in Regedit lingo) until you drill down to the path below:
With the FEATURE_MAXCONNECTIONSPERSERVER subkey selected, right click an empty area in the right pane, choose New then DWORD value.
- Enter iexplorer.exe as the name
- Change the base to Decimal
- Enter the value 10 for starters.
Do the same thing for the adjacent hive below:
This subkey is similar to the first, the difference lies in the 1_0 part between the word PER and SERVER. Do the same thing with the name, base, and value that you did for the first subkey.
In the graphic above you can verify the registry path in the status bar that rides along the bottom edge of the window.
After updating both subkeys, exit the Registry Editor and start using a speedier IE9. There’s no need to reboot; changes should be instant.
4. Use Google Public DNS
Whenever you enter a web address into your browsers location bar something has to convert that domain name into something all the servers and routers of the internet understand.
For example, when you type google.com into IE9, it finds your DNS (Domain Name Server) which translates the name google.com into the IP address 18.104.22.168. Your DNS is given by your internet service provider; however, if the server is slow your browser will feel slow too.
Open DNS servers are often resolve names faster. There are several Open DNS services you can use, the eponymous OpenDNS is one of them; however, I think Google Public DNS gives the best performance. It’s designed to decrease the time it takes to resolve a domain address into an IP address. It does this by using advanced techniques like Anycast Routing to send users to the closest global datacenter and load balancing servers using multiple cache levels.
To set it up we’re going to add two DNS addresses to your IPv4 configuration:
Add the DNS addresses
Click Start and enter the following command in the search box:
When the list of Adapters displays, right click your Local Area Connection or Wireless Network Connection if you’re using WiFi and choose Properties.
The Properties box for your selected adapter shoots onto the screen.
Select Internet Protocol Version 4 (TCP/IPv4) then click the Properties button.
Next, in the General Tab make sure you put the bullet dot inside Use the following DNS server addresses
Enter Google’s public DNS addressees, 22.214.171.124 and the secondary 126.96.36.199 and click OK.
You’re almost done – just one step remains to prove success.
In order to force your browser to use Google’s DNS right away you should clear the DNS cache.
Click Start, type cmd and press enter.
In the command prompt enter this:
Flush DNS purges the contents of the resolver cache which basically forces the computer to recheck where it should go to resolve names to IP addresses.
By the way, all your browsers will benefit from the DNS change, not just IE9; yippy for serendipity!
The Bottom Line
When IE becomes a slug it can ruin your entire day. It sucks. But by telling IE to stop synchronizing cache changes, disabling Add-ons, disabling Toolbars, turning up the MaxConnectionsByServer Registry Key, and using Google Public DNS you can greatly improve the performance of your browser. If you follow my advice above, IE9 will be quicker; guaranteed.