Speed Up Safari With These Tuneup Tips

Keep your browsing experience speedy

Safari with the Develop menu
Screen shot courtesy of Coyote Moon, Inc.

If Safari is your browser of choice, you know that it's typically speedy and dependable. When your Safari browser seems to be slowing down or is misbehaving in some way, and you've already established that your internet service is up and running, you can take a few actions that may return Safari to its previously snappy performance.

Keep Safari Updated

Before you try the various tune-up techniques, update Safari if it isn't the current version.

Apple spends a lot of time developing the core technology that Safari uses. Having the most current version of Safari is one of the best ways to ensure a fast and responsive Safari experience.

Safari updates are tied to the version of Mac OS X or macOS that you're using. To keep Safari up to date, you need to keep the Mac operating system up to date. If you’re a heavy user of Safari, it pays to keep OS X or macOS current.

Tuneup Safari

These tuneup tips can affect performance to varying degrees, but most of them offer only minor improvements in recent versions of Safari. Over time, Apple modified some of the routines in Safari to optimize performance. As a result, some tuneup techniques that created substantial performance increases in early versions of Safari result in only mild improvements in later versions. However, it doesn't hurt to give them a try.

Time to Cache It In

Safari stores the web pages you view, including any images that are part of the pages, in a local cache, because it can then render cached pages faster than new pages the next time you visit the site. The problem with the Safari cache is that it eventually grows large, causing Safari to slow down while it looks up a cached page to determine whether to load that page or download a new version.

Deleting the Safari cache can temporarily improve page loading times until the cache expands again and becomes too large for Safari to sort through efficiently, at which time you'll need to delete it again.

To delete the Safari cache:

  1. Open Safari on your Mac.

  2. Select the Develop tab in the menu bar.

  3. Choose Empty caches from the drop-down menu.

Delete Browsing History

Safari maintains a history of every web page you view, which has the practical benefit of letting you use the forward and back buttons to load recently viewed pages. It also lets you go back in time to find and view a web page that you forgot to bookmark.

The history is helpful, but like other forms of caching, it can become a hindrance. If you only visit a few pages a day, that's not a lot of page history to store. If you visit hundreds of pages each day, the History file can quickly get out of hand.

To delete your History:

  1. Select History in the Safari menu bar.

  2. Choose Clear History at the bottom of the History list.

  3. Select all history from the drop-down menu next to Clear. Other options include the last hour, today, and today and yesterday.

  4. Select the Clear History button.

Unplug Your Plug-Ins

Often overlooked is the effect of third-party plug-ins. You may have tried out a plug-in that provided what appeared to be a useful service, but after a while, you stopped using it because it didn’t meet your needs. At some point, you forget about these plug-ins, but they're still in Safari’s plug-in list, consuming space and resources.

To remove unused plug-ins:

  1. Choose Safari > Preferences from the Safari menu bar.

  2. Select the Websites tab. The plug-ins are listed in the left panel.

  3. Deselect an unused plug-in by removing the check in the box next to it.

Don't automatically deselect every plug-in without reading its name and deciding you don't need it. You may be using a plug-in without being aware of it. For example, Adobe Flash Player may (or may not) be a plug-in you want to remain active. Click on any active plug-in for information about it.

Toss Unused Extensions

Extensions are similar in concept to plug-ins. Both provide capabilities that Safari doesn't have on its own. Just like plug-ins, extensions can cause issues with performance when there are a large number of extensions installed, the extensions are competing, or the extensions have origins or purposes you've long since forgotten.

To get rid of unused extensions:

  1. Choose Safari > Preferences from the Safari menu bar.

  2. Select the Extensions tab. The extensions are listed in the left panel.

  3. Deselect an unused extension by removing the check in the box next to it.

  4. Highlight an extension and choose the Uninstall button to remove it completely.