Browser

Video: Firefox about:config hacks that can speed up and customize your browser

Unbeknownst to many users, Firefox has a whole host of hidden settings that can fine-tune and potentially speed up your browsing experience. Bill Detwiler shows you how to access and modify Firefox's preferences using the browser's about:config feature.

Unbeknownst to many users, Firefox has a whole host of application settings (called preferences) that aren't found under the regular Options or Preferences interface. These preferences, both hidden and not, are stored in a prefs.js file. Prefs.js is a plain text file located in the Firefox profile folder. You could edit the file using a text editor, but there's an easier and somewhat safer way. In this IT Dojo video, I'll show you how to access and modify Firefox's hidden preferences using the browser's about:config feature.

For those of you who prefer text to video, you can click the Transcript link that appears below the video player window or you can also read Jack Wallen's article, "10 handy Firefox about:config hacks," on which this video is based.

You can also sign up to receive the latest IT Dojo lessons through one or more of the following methods:

About

Bill Detwiler is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and Tech Pro Research and the host of Cracking Open, CNET and TechRepublic's popular online show. Prior to joining TechRepublic in 2000, Bill was an IT manager, database administrator, and desktop supp...

54 comments
pgotta
pgotta

I did the recommended adjustments which ended up slowing down my system. Then I played around. I change the first two values back to false, and then changed 96 to 48; and 32 to 16. I got an amazing boost in speed. I have retained the remaining hacks. And will until my system crashes. Since I really don't know what I am doing, the initial following the instructions which are greatly aided by using the transcript, comforts me in playing around. Since the original directions worked, I trust the restore to defaults will work just as well

averitte
averitte

This tip was the best tip I've had here so far! It's just GREAT!!!

said.fox
said.fox

Thank you it is really useful tips about FireFox. I liked your English talking, I could able to listen to it very well.

jmaddox
jmaddox

What about disabling the stupid certificate warning especially since it doesn't actually store the certificate permanently

chasrodgers
chasrodgers

Thanks. It's great to have such well constructed education.

jfkvault97
jfkvault97

I loved it,i tried the ones mentioned and worked great for me. The little things that are taught in the class room vs what we trial and error at our work place is quiet interesting, thanks IT-nojo

petersonba
petersonba

Awesom Bill!! Thank you very much.

jmlouer
jmlouer

FYI...there is an add-on called "network tweak settings" that will allow power user default (as settings in this article) or allow you to push settings to your machine's limits...

cmbaker
cmbaker

I tried this and found it slowed things down to the point where I backed out to the prior settings. Performance returned to what I had seen before.

beben10
beben10

thak for your information it's greeeeeeeat !

PumpkinField
PumpkinField

Very professional. If it works as advertised it should be a great hack. It is running now with no observed problems. Net result seems to be a significant plus.

anifine
anifine

I love the tweaks, and am gonna give it a shot. Thanks Bill.

jossyy578
jossyy578

Hi,Just wanted to say thank you, you are always very helpful

ivangeer
ivangeer

I like the way this info was given Ivan

dennis004
dennis004

Next time you could for beginners; on how to save changes :) Great video

salmons
salmons

Thanks for these useful tips and links to the supplemental article. And the bloopers were a nice add-on.

JCitizen
JCitizen

But I use Firefox on a Vista x64 system and the performance is so blazing now, I don't think I'll try any of those hacks. But my clients will greatly appreciate them, I'm sure!! I still prefer IE 8, but with Redmond's apparent refusal to fix the cross-scripting vulnerability; I'll just keep using FF; Thank you very much!

bdossett
bdossett

The last time I tried TR's Firefox hacks, I hacked up my browser (both on my home and work computers) and it performed much worse than the standard setup. So no thanks.

specialfx63
specialfx63

Nice video. Concise and to the point. Always enjoy watching them. Keep it up.

cristianods
cristianods

Most of them I knew, but seeing on a video is way more fun

chas44
chas44

Why a video and not something I can read at my own pace? A video IMHO appeals to folks who need to have info presented to them, in a controlled manner and pace rather than expecting the learner to have the ability to make their own decisions. My .02

sapsavoir
sapsavoir

Many thanks, Bill, for these tweaking tips. I've implemented them and immediately noticed a clear improvement in response time by Firefox! Very useful.

averitte
averitte

This is the best tip for me at this point! Thanks IT Dojo!!

Bill Detwiler
Bill Detwiler

I'm glad you find our tips useful. Thank you!

Bill Detwiler
Bill Detwiler

Using Firefox's about:config interface, there is no need to "save" the changes. Once, you edit a value, the change is written to the pref.js file.

jpom22
jpom22

no change w/tweaks but good to know config exists. you're a natural performer bill! thnx

OldER Mycroft
OldER Mycroft

Surely you'd have spotted the damage after you'd "[i]hacked up[/i]" your first browser?! Can't see how you'd do it twice. ;)

Bill Detwiler
Bill Detwiler

I'm sorry that the last set of Firefox tweaks didn't work for your system, but it's not uncommon for a hacks to work on one system but not on another. That's why we always recommend backing up your system before changing critical system or application settings.

Bill Detwiler
Bill Detwiler

Almost every IT Dojo video has an associated online article or PDF download, which I link to in the blog post. We also offer full transcripts for most IT Dojo videos. There is a link below the video player window (within the blog post) that should display the full transcript in a pop-up window. We're all about choice--online HTML, PDF download, audio podcasts, and videos. You pick the format that fits your learning style.

JP-470
JP-470

You should have read further, there is a transcrited version of the video.

bullma99
bullma99

Thanks for the about:config hacks. I can't wait to get home to tweak FF. Again, Muchas gracias

dcfinlay
dcfinlay

I tried tip #1 and it brought Firefox to screeching halt. I am using Vista on a T5800 Gateway laptop with 3 GB of RAM. It took forever to load new pages on anything but the first Tab. I had to reverse Tip #1 to restore performance. I guess this wasn't meant for me.

markyannone
markyannone

Perhaps instead of "saving changes" he meant saving the original settings. Many folks never learned the basics of PC 101.

dtaylor2
dtaylor2

Backing up Prefs.js was useless. It seems the one I copied is not really the one used. I searched for Prefs.js, and copied the latest, changed Firefox using about:config--but the copied Prefs.js date did not change. As I use vista 64, I copied the latest one in my Users:user:AppData:Local:mozilla:Firefox:Profiles:[DefaultWithToday'sDate]:Extensions, and used the one with the latest date, although there were several. I guess I don't understand enough, as, after the disaster, I actually opened up the copy and the original Prefs.js, and there is only one line of text there. Sigh. AND, Start:firefox -safe-mode does not work. It only opens the Firefox home page.

torovictim
torovictim

Worst advice I've ever followed. I'm usting XP on an HP. After applying these tips, firefox take about 20 minutes to load a page.

jkramer
jkramer

These broke my Firefox 3.0.11. I reset the changes, and thing work great now.

Bdub360
Bdub360

I haven't tried weeding out what tweak did it, but I had the same problem after installing all of Bill's hacks. So I just reverted back to the original configurations and works just fine!

dennis004
dennis004

For those beginners trying to follow the video, it could be wise to explain how the changes are instantly updating the prefs-file. I believe man people are used to the normal procedure on how to change preferences there the update don't take effect until you press save/apply etc. Therefore is it my suggestion to put a comment regarding this in the next video, in order to make sense for wider audience.

bbanks69b
bbanks69b

If you can't copy and save a text file, then you probably don't need to be in the about:config setup area anyway

Editor's Picks