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16Jan/134

A quick way to speed up your browser

An easy trick you can use to make your web browser more quick and responsive.

The man with the stopwatch: process priorities

Your computer can only do one thing at a time. To run multiple programs at once, the operating system essentially switches back and forth between them hundreds of times each second: the CPU does a little bit for Program A, and then a little bit for Program B, and then a little bit for Program A again. This gives the illusion that the programs are running simultaneously. (Multi-core processors make this a little trickier, but the general idea is still the same.)

Every program (or technically, process) in Windows has a "priority", which Windows uses to decide how much CPU time to give to it. There are a lot of nuances to this, but basically, Windows will try to share CPU time equally between processes of the same priority level. If your web browser is running at "Normal" priority, and another program at "Normal" priority is busy doing something, your web browser will have to share - making it run slower.

So how do we use this to our advantage? Easy: increase the priority of your web browser. Your computer will run as usual when the web browser is idle, but when you click a button, it will process your request immediately - instead of waiting around for everything else.

This won't increase your download speeds, and you won't notice much on faster computers, but if you're using a slower computer it can make navigating around feel significantly snappier.

Adjusting process priority

First, open the Task Manager. The fastest way is to press Ctrl+Shift+Esc - although you can also press Ctrl+Alt+Del and open it from the lock screen, or it may be on the Start menu.

Second, click on the Processes tab and locate the process for your web browser. If you're using Firefox, it should be firefox.exe; if you're using Opera, it should be opera.exe; and if you're using Safari, it should be Safari.exe. You may want to click "Image Name" to sort the processes by name so it's easier to find.

  • If you're using Chrome or Internet Explorer, this is trickier and less useful. Both create a separate process for every tab you have open, so setting the priority of a specific process won't help much. However, if you're using Chrome you probably don't need this trick, and you really shouldn't be using Internet Explorer anyway.

Third, right-click on the process, click the Set Priority submenu, and click Above Normal.

Setting process priority from the task manager

That was easy! You'll probably get a warning popup, which you can just click through - this shouldn't actually cause any stability issues, so don't worry.

The only problem...

...is that Windows doesn't save this setting, so you have to go through the process above every time you start your web browser.

There's a fairly popular free tool called Prio that is supposed to let you set priorities permanently, but I've never actually used it, so try it at your own risk. 🙂

Comments (4) Trackbacks (0)
  1. How is this same process completed for a Mac? Don’t judge. You could have the wrong Schema :-p jk.

    • I have no idea how you’d do it from the graphical interface, but Mac OS X is based on a Unix architecture, so you should be able to use the nice command-line utility to launch processes with different priorities. Google is your friend. 😛

  2. This is actually really amazing. I consider myself good with computers, but had never thought of this. You explained it really nicely. 😀


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