Installing extensions is like spreading butter on the metaphorical bread that is the browser. The browser provides a decent, hearty foundation that has everything you need to survive for a while but extensions completely change the way you approach the Internet, marking the transition between simply visiting a webpage and visiting a page so that you can save it on Pocket and read it with Readability. Despite their near-infinite uses, being careless with extensions is an unfortunately easy way to clog up a browser and we simply cannot have that happening.
Using your browser in safe mode
Chrome, Firefox and Internet Explorer can all be launched in safe mode, meaning they will be started completely barebones and without any extensions. This is the quickest way to check whether extensions have a noticeable effect on your browser’s performance or not without looking at all of them individually. If you find that your browser is much faster in safe mode then you can continue reading so you can see how to check each extension on its own.
- Chrome: Right-click on Chrome’s shortcut and select Properties. Add –disable-extensions(that’s two dashes at the beginning) to the end of the “Target” field without deleting any text like shown in the picture. Then, click on OK to save your settings and launch Chrome as usual. That line will simply command Chrome to disable extensions so you will have to delete it again once you are done.
- Firefox: Mozilla’s browser has a built-in option for this. Just open the menu (three lines at the top right corner), click on the question mark (?) icon to bring up the help menu and select the “Restart with Add-ons Disabled” option. This only works for a single instance of Firefox so just close the browser when you are done with Safe Mode and things will be back to normal in an instant.
- Internet Explorer: The easiest way to launch IE in Safe Mode is to type the exe –extoff command into the Windows Run box (WinKey + R) or even in your Start Menu. Note that after typing the command you will need to press the Enter key in order to run it.
In case you identify that there is an issue with extensions on your browser, the next sections will help you deal with it for all three browsers.
Google’s browser is built in such a way that every tab and most extensions run in their very own process. I do not doubt that most of you have seen countless images making fun of Chrome’s extensive memory issues yet this way of running things comes in handy when dealing with individual extensions. More specifically, Chrome has its very own Task Manager as we have talked about in-depth here. To access it, press Shift + Esc with Google Chrome selected or go to Tools > Task Manager through the browser’s menu. The Task Manager will list all background activity, including web apps and extensions, so you can quickly check which items hog memory resources. Double-clicking on an empty field will also allow you to add more processed items to the list such as FPS and GPU Memory consumption.
The best way to check extensions on Firefox is to install another extension, strange as that may be. The “about: addons-memory” add-on presents a neat list of extensions running in your browser, sorted by memory consumption. The list is available by visiting the about:addons-memory page on Firefox after installing the extension. The best way to take advantage of this add-on is to install it, use Firefox for a few hours and frequently check which extensions use a lot of memory. After identifying the offending items, remove them and uninstall the add-on until you need it again.
Microsoft is not exactly known for its good work on extensions and Internet Explorer is one of the worst browsers when it comes to customization from third-party developers. With that said, the browser does feature a small section that allows you to see how much time each extensions takes before it loads and how much time it adds to the navigation of each page. After launching Internet Explorer, click on the gear or menu icon and select the “Manage add-ons” option. The Load and Navigation Time will be shown in the “Toolbars and Extensions” screen though not all items on the list will have this information.