How to check if extensions are slowing your browser down

It's time to come clean: My name is Ian Paul and I'm a browser extensions addict. Right now, as I look at my browser I've got close to 40 Chrome extensions and applications enabled and about another 15 installed but disabled. I think some of those come as the defaults in Chrome, but I'm not sure how many. 

There's a downside to my enthusiasm, however. Extensions and apps are great fun, but they can also be huge resource hogs that slow down your browser. (Ad blockers, I'm looking at you.)

If you find your browser is slowing down, one of the first things you should do is see if the culprit or culprits are browser add-ons and extensions.

Here's how to do that in Chrome and Firefox. Internet Explorer doesn't support extensions.

Chrome

chrometaskmanager

The Chrome task manager.

Checking how much memory your extensions are using in Chrome is easy. Click on the "hamburger" menu icon in the upper right corner and select More tools > Task manager.

A new window will open, showing all the current processes that your browser is running. If you're familiar with the Windows Task Manager, this is basically the same thing, but specifically for Chrome.

In Chrome's task manager window, click the Memory heading at the top to sort all of the browser's running processes by memory used. Now just look for some of your extensions towards the top—they're preceded by a puzzle piece icon. Note the names of the biggest resource hogs and then try disabling them to see if your browser runs more smoothly. Don't worry! You can re-enable them later if you want.

To disable an extension in Chrome, just go back to the "hamburger" and select Settings, then click on Extensions in the left-hand column. Alternatively, you can just type in "chrome://extensions" (without the quotation marks) in the address bar.

To disable an extension, just unclick the check box that says Enabled.

If you don't want to bother with all of this, you can also try the extension (oh, the irony) Extension Manager (aka Switcher) that lets you disable extensions in a few clicks.

Firefox

firefoxextensions

Firefox's extensions dashboard.

Life is not as easy for Firefox fans as it is in Chrome since the browser doesn't have a task manager or any way to monitor individual add-on usage. Instead, you'll have to experiment by activating and deactivating various add-ons.

To get started, type "about:addons" (again, sans quotation marks) into the address bar, press Enter, and then click Extensions in the left-hand navigation panel. Shutting down an extension is as simple as clicking the Disable button for each add-on. After you disable an add-on you may have to restart Firefox for the change to take effect.

If your browser runs faster after disabling an add-on then you should reconsider just how mission critical that extra software is. Sometimes extra functionality is worth a performance hit—but that's a judgement call each user has to make on their own.

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