Is your Firefox fizzling?

About a month ago, I noticed that my trusty Firefox 3.5.x browser wasn’t acting as peppy as it once did.  Browsing was OK, but whenever I went to shut it down, it would sit there for what seemed like forever.  (Mr. Grump and Little Grump would be ready to leave, and I’d have to call, “Wait a minute!  Firefox is STILL shutting down!”  This was not at all helpful for the pre-Christmas rush, I tell you!)

So I did some research and discovered that my problem might not be that hard to fix.  I gave it a try, and… Zoooooom!  My Firefox browser was running faster than it ever had before.  I kind of tucked the info in the back of my brain but didn’t really talk about it to anyone.   After all, I’d never heard of anyone complain of this issue before, so why would I go around and tell anyone about the solution?

This week has been something of a bear (and not the soft, cuddly kind).  On Monday, the first day back from winter break, the network was going nuts and people were reporting weird problems.  As I was about to leave, I ran into one of our sixth grade teachers who is actually one of the most experienced Mac users in the building.  He proceeded to describe a problem on the Mac on his room.  Apparently, it was doing exactly what my MacBook had been doing.

The light bulb went on in my brain.  I think I rather surprised him when I said, “Oh!  I know that problem!  And I know how to fix it!  I’ll stop by tomorrow!”

Tuesday was more of the same.  More network problems.  More weird problems.  Printers were reporting errors no one in the building had ever seen before.  And more frustration for me.  By 3:00, I was ready to fix something, because the whole day had been just a series of chasing bugs with no real resolution.  (I was beginning to doubt my techno-geek mojo!)

So I went and applied the fix.  When I left, the teacher’s Firefox browser was running faster than it ever had. He was truly impressed.

I ran into him tonight at a restaurant that was having a fundraiser for our school.  I was there with a friend.  He was there, just talking to anyone he saw.  When he stopped by our table, he again raved at my genius.  My friend (who already knows my geeky tendencies) was curious and thought that I should post the details of the fix here.  The teacher whole-heartedly agreed, because he wanted to do the fix on his home computer.

So, without further ado, here’s the fix!

Some people don’t realize it but Firefox has a Profile Manager as part of its installation.  The Profile Manager makes it possible for multiple people to use the same account on the computer but still have totally independent browser history, cookies, etc.  By default, it’s turned off (because most people who share computers have their own accounts on the computer).  So most people will never have a need to use it.

This fix makes use of the Profile Manager to create a completely new profile and with it, brand new storage areas for cache, cookies, etc.

Here we go!

  1. Backup your Bookmarks from Firefox. In Firefox 3.5.7 that I run on my Mac OS 10.6.2 machine, you go up to the Bookmarks menu from Firefox and select “Organize Bookmarks.”  Then you click on the Star button and select Backup from the menu that pops up.  Then save the file when prompted to do so.
  2. Make notes about what Add-ons that you have installed. Click on the Add-Ons option under the Tools menu, and look at what’s installed there.  If you like those things, you will need to know them later on.
  3. Quit Firefox.
  4. Now open the /Applications/Utilities/Terminal program, and enter the following:
          /Applications/Firefox.app/Contents/MacOS/firefox -profilemanager

    (You may need to add “.app” after Firefox depending on your OS version.)

  5. Now open up Firefox. Now when Firefox starts, it will give you the option of creating a new profile.  Select “Create Profile” and start Firefox.
  6. Now you’re in Firefox with a whole new profile.  In both cases where I’ve tried this, the speed was significantly faster than it was before!  If it’s not, I can’t help you more than to suggest the general maintenance tasks (disk cleanup, rebooting, etc.).
  7. If it IS faster (and I suspect it will be), restore your Bookmarks. Return to the “Organize Bookmarks” option under the “Bookmarks” menu and click on the Star again to get to the “Restore” option.  Find the Bookmarks file that you saved before, and continue.
  8. After that, you can reinstall the Add-ons that you want out of the list that you wrote down earlier.

This can also be done with Windows’ versions of Firefox, though you must enter “firefox.exe – P” in the Run box of Windows instead of using the Terminal program.  Everything else is pretty much the same!

Beginning to end, the whole process takes about 5 minutes, if that.  What it saves in lags will be returned to you 100-fold if your Firefox currently drags like mine did!

If you like what having the brand new profile does for you and you’re anal about clean-up, you can return to the Terminal to turn on the Profile Manager, and then go back into Firefox to delete the profile.

One thought on “Is your Firefox fizzling?

  1. Batty

    I had issues with Firefox, NoScript, and my Mac. They weren’t playing together nicely for a while, but now, things are back to normal. Glad you got your problem fixed!

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