How to speed up Safari

Safari Mac

When Safari starts to inch along slower than Internet Explorer, then you know you have an egregious problem on your hands.  Usually Safari is a zippy browser and it renders pages with alacrity.  Most of the time it doesn’t fuss: you click, it obeys; however if you find yourself finishing episodes of Breaking Bad before your web page loads then you should try these five tricks to make Safari fast again.

1. Reset Safari

Safari downloads and stores frequently accessed information on your local computer as your browse the internet.  The prevailing rationale behind this is that browsers can retrieve web elements faster from your local computer than they can from across the internet.

Reset Safari

So… Safari blithely tells itself:

Hey, I’ll cache passwords, cookies and form autofills to make the world happy

And this is fine until an inordinate amount of stuff like saved website data, location warnings, thumbnail images and history starts to accrue on your computer.  Ineluctably, these bits and pieces of data stack up and will burden your browser.

To flush your settings and start anew, make sure the Safari application is in the foreground of your screen, then click Safari in the upper left corner of the menu bar and choose Reset Safari…

Reset Safari Settings

Safari warns you that you’re about to nuke your settings.  Read it and leave everything checked.  To get the maximum performance increase, I recommend leaving everything checked and clicking Reset.

2. Disable Extensions

Extensions are like mini-programs that alter the behavior of the browser.  Usually they provide enhancements such as by blocking ads or revealing your displaying unread gmail messages but sometimes they’ll clog the browser and will need your attention.

Press Command + , (comma) choose the Extensions tab and then select the plugin you wish to disable or uninstall from the left pane.

Display Safari Extensions

3. Empty Cache

This doesn’t always do the trick, but sometimes emptying the cache really boosts browser performance.  The cache can become corrupt or too large.  When that happens, it can take longer to search the cache than it does to find the same content on the internet.

To clear the cache press Command + , (comma) to open the Safari Preferences.  Next, pick the last tab called Advanced and put a check mark in the little box on the bottom that says Show develop menu in menu bar.

Safari Show Developer Menu

Astute geeks will notice a new menu option called Develop between Bookmarks and Window.  Go to Develop and then click Empty Caches to dump your cache.

Empty Safari Caches

You might not get any warnings after you do this so it might feel like nothing happened.  But give it a quick test by browsing a few web pages to see if they load faster.

4. Delete your Preferences File

All the preferences for your applications are stored in a preferences folder usually as files with a .plist extension (short for Property List).  Sometimes for reasons only known to Steven Hawking, these files get damaged and need to be rebuilt.

If you’re noticing a lot of page timeouts you should zap this file to get your Safari browser back to its happy place.

First close Safari (Command + q) then open the Finder (Command + n) and hold down the Option key while clicking Go in the menu bar to reveal the Library option.

Mac Library

Now in the search bar in the upper right corner of the window, type:

com.apple.Safari.plist

Safari .plist file

If you don’t see any results, make sure you have Preferences selected and not This Mac.

Keep in mind after you delete the preference file any saved preferences such as, for example, your default home page, will get irrevocably expunged.  So make sure you really want to do this.   Everything else will be fine but your browser preferences will get go away.

5. Delete Favicons

Website icons shown in your favorites are known as favicons.  These are the little bookmark logos that decorate the left side of your tabs.

These little guys are benign in seclusion; however, if enough of them band together they can collectively slow your browsing experience.  Everytime you load your favorite page Safari has to find the icon and display it.  Yes, I know favicons are small.  Most are only 16×16 pixels or 32×32 pixels; however, if you’ve had your computer for a long time or used it a lot then the aggregate size of these icons can start to goober things up.

It never hurts to flush your favicons to wake Safari up and give it a fresh kick in the pants.

To get started open the Finder and press Command + Shift + g to open the Go to the folder window.Finder Go to the Folder

Now depending on how old your Safari version is you should type one of two commands:

Newer users should use this command

~/Library/Safari

While old schoolers should use the second one here:

~/Library/Safari/Icons

By the way, that little tilde character that starts the command is just a shortcut for your user account name.

Now in the Finder,  select the file called WebpageIcons.db and press Commandi to view the file size.  If this file is larger than 2MBs then you should delete it; anything less than that might not yield any substantive improvementsDelete webpageicons.db

The Bottom Line

When Safari takes as long as a three-toed sloth to open webpages it’s time to break out a few tricks to make it fast again.  Resetting Safari, disabling extensions, emptying the cache, deleting your preferences file and purging favicons will undoubtedly result in a significant speed improvement.

If you really want to find out why specific web pages are super slow and have a knack for web development, trying adding Yahoo’s ySlow extension to Safari.  This little extension analyses web pages and displays statistics showing you web components and reasons why they could be taking so long to load.  It’s mainly geared for web developers; however, laypeople can benefit too.

Have you had any success with the tips above?  Let me know in the comments!

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Posted in How To, Mac OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion, Safari, Web Browsers Tagged with: