During the month of November in 2009, my web statistics software shows that 47% of this website visitor uses Mozilla Firefox and 37.1% uses Microsoft Internet Explorer. When I compared it with last year November 2008 web statistics, Internet Explorer was still at number 1 with 46.8% and Firefox at 43.5%. Firefox has now taken the lead, obviously it’s because of the browsing speed and also the huge amount of addons for you to install.
As good as it is, there’s still one problem that was never really solved which is after using it for a few weeks or months, you will notice that Firefox starts to crawl. A very good example is when you boot up your computer and run Firefox, then typing a letter in the URL bar will cause Firefox to hang for a few seconds. Obviously you have a huge list of history and Firefox is trying to search for any matches on the first letter that you typed. The huge list of history is stored on a sqlite database file which is located in your profile’s folder. Now if you have a slow hard drive, Firefox will definitely crawl especially when you have a lot of tabs opened. Most laptops even have 5400RPM hard drive and that’s going to make it even worse.
I’ve tried many ways to make Firefox faster such as optimizing Firefox SQLite database, reducing Firefox process memory usage and making Firefox remember less history. They all worked but only for a while. Fortunately I’ve figured out another method which is able to make Firefox perform much faster.
Like I said before, Firefox uses SQLite database and it’s saved on your hard drive. Overtime the database becomes large and your slow hard drive will have a hard time trying to extract information from the SQLite database. If you remembered yesterday’s article on benchmarking 12 RAMDisk software, we can actually put the Firefox SQLite database into RamDisk so that it reads and writes 10 or 20 times faster than your hard drive. Yes, Firefox still takes up a huge amount of memory (currently 300MB and sometimes can go up to 400MB) but it is still fast.
Here’s an example on how I move my Firefox profile to RAMDisk created by Dataram because it has the best performance if compared to other free RAMDisk software and also support all versions of Windows both 32 and 64 bit.
Creating and Configuring the RAM Disk
1. Download the latest version of Dataram RAMDisk and install.
2. Simultaneously press WIN + R to bring up the Run command.
3. Type %appdata%\Mozilla\Firefox\Profiles and hit Enter. You should see a folder with random characters followed by .default (For example, 89ns5tbp.default) and that is your Firefox’s profile folder.
4. Right click on the folder and select Properties. Take note of the Size of the folder.
5. Run RAMDisk Configuration Utility from the Start Menu.
6. Set the Disk Size which is the amount of space that you want to create. Do not set it too high because the number will be deducted from your memory. I personally set it to 300MB as I have 2GB of RAM and my Firefox’s profile folder is only 133MB in size.
7. Select FAT32 Partition. FAT32 is faster than NTFS in small volumes because the structure is simpler and the system does not have to check permissions since there is no controls regulation.
8. Click Start RAMDisk button.
9. Go to Load and Save tab. Check the 3 option, “Load Disk Image at Startup”, “Save Disk Image on Shutdown” and “AutoSave”.
10. Click the Save Disk Image Now button and select OK. Step 9 and 10 is very important because if you don’t save the image, your Firefox profile will be lost when you reboot your computer.
11. Finally, click File from the menubar, select Save Settings and click OK.
Putting the Firefox Profile onto the RAM Disk
You’ve successfully set up RAMDisk and there should be a new drive letter on My Computer with only 300MB of disk space or the amount that you’ve set. Now you will have to copy your Firefox’s profile folder to the RAMDisk and configure Firefox to load your profile from there.
1. Simultaneously press WIN + R to bring up the Run command.
2. Type %appdata%\Mozilla\Firefox\profiles.ini and hit Enter.
3. A notepad window should appear with profiles.ini being loaded. Edit the path like the example below and save. Replace the “Profiles/” at Path with the drive letter that has been created by Dataram RAMDisk.
Change Path=Profiles/xxxxxxxx.default to Path=E:\xxxxxxxx.default
4. Make sure that the value for IsRelative is 0 and NOT 1. An example is IsRelative=0
5. Again simultaneously press WIN + R to bring up the Run command.
6. Type %appdata%\Mozilla\Firefox\Profiles and hit Enter.
7. Copy the xxxxxxxx.default folder to the new drive letter created by RAMDisk.
You can now run Firefox with everything being the same! Everything is now automated and there is nothing that you need to do. Just enjoy the super fast Firefox!