Software

3 ways to speed up slow Safari downloads

Download speeds on your MacBook's Safari browser may be slower than in browsers like Chrome or Firefox. Here are three tips that might help you out.

Soon after realizing my MacBook Pro battery life was greately extended by using Safari, I realized that the download speeds for Apple's browser were really, really, really bad. So bad that I'll open up Chrome (a MacBook battery hog) to download larger files and then close it once the download is complete. Or, in cases where I can easily copy the download URL, I'll open up a terminal window and use the wget command for really speedy downloads.

I am convinced this dogged speed was by design—in order to keep battery usage to a minimum. Even with that bit of conspiracy theory in check, there are things you can do to help Safari speed up the downloads. Although these tips won't have you seeing magical results (with Safari downloading as quickly as either Chrome or Firefox), you will see some improvement.

With that said, let's get to the tips.

Clear that cache

This is the biggest culprit. Why? Unlike other browsers, Safari doesn't handle it well when a cache becomes too large. It's a rarity that Chrome or Firefox will trip up, due to cache. Safari, on the other hand, not so much.

So how do you clear the Safari cache? It's really easy, so long as you don't mind clearing out your history as well. What if you don't want to delete them all, in one fell swoop? To do that, you have to jump through a hoop. Here's how:

  1. Open Safari
  2. Click Safari | Preferences
  3. Click on the Advanced tab
  4. Click to enable Show Develop menu in menu bar (Figure A)

Figure A

Figure A

Enabling the Develop menu in Safari.

Now that you've enabled the Develop menu, close the Preferences window and click Develop | Empty Caches. That's it. Your cache has been cleared (without taking down your history as well).

SEE: Wireless networking policy (Tech Pro Research)

Set static IP and DNS addresses

On any network you have control over (such as your home or company network), you can give your MacBook a boost by setting static IP addresses. To do this, follow these steps:

  1. Click on the Network icon in the top bar
  2. Click Open Network Preferences
  3. Select the network to be configured
  4. Click Advanced
  5. In the resulting window, click the TCP/IP tab
  6. Select Manually, from the Configure IPv4 drop-down
  7. Fill out the necessary information (Figure B)

Figure B

Figure B

Setting a static address for your network.

Once you've added the static address, click on the DNS tab, click on the + button (Figure C), and add a new DNS address. Do this such that you have a primary and secondary DNS address (such as Google's DNS addresses 8.8.4.4 and 8.8.8.8).

Figure C

Figure C

Adding static DNS addresses.

Click OK and you're done.

Reset Safari

What if you've been using Safari for quite some time and neither of the above tips makes any difference? It could be that Safari simply needs a reset. Unfortunately, the latest iterations of Apple's browser saw the Reset Safari entry removed from the Safari menu and the only really dependable way to do this is via the command line. To do this, close Safari, open up the terminal window, and issue the following commands:

rm ~/Library/Cookies/*
rm ~/Library/Caches/com.apple.Safari/*
rm ~/Library/Caches/Metadata/Safari/*
rm ~/Library/Safari/Downloads.plist
rm ~/Library/Safari/Form\ Values
rm ~/Library/Safari/History.plist
rm ~/Library/Safari/HistoryIndex.sk
rm ~/Library/Safari/LastSession.plist
rm -rf ~/Library/Safari/LocalStorage
rm ~/Library/Safari/TopSites.plist
rm ~/Library/Safari/WebpageIcons.db

That should do it. Understand, this resets Safari to factory defaults, so you'll lose all saved data and any configurations. But sometimes a reset is the only way to get Safari to behave. Use this only as a last-ditch effort.

It may be in vain

I still believe that Safari suffers from slower download (and upload, for that matter) speeds by design (to save precious battery). Because of this, you might find that all is in vain, that nothing you can do will speed Safari's download speeds sufficiently. So when I'm not connected to power, Safari is my browser of choice. When I need to download or upload a larger file, I tend to head over to Chrome.

Also see

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Image: Jack Wallen

About Jack Wallen

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen.com.

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