How to Use Firefox's Privacy and Security Features

Mozilla's high-speed browser introduced some smart features

Firefox is a free, open-source Mozilla web browser that changed its name a few times over the years, including Firefox Quantum, a temporary name highlighting significant improvements.

Starting with Firefox release 70, the browser is called Firefox Browser. Here's how to use the latest privacy and security features, some of which come from Quantum.

Firefox Uses Multiple Processes

Before the Quantum update, Firefox ran everything in a single process. If a website or web page were loading poorly, the entire browser would perform sluggishly. If a tab crashed, the whole browser would crash.

To solve this problem, Firefox Quantum allowed users to control the number of processes the browser could run. By default, Quantum used four processes to view and render web content. Most modern computers come equipped with a multi-core CPU, so the default setting works well for the average user.

How to Disable Firefox Browser's Default Performance Settings

With the latest Firefox Browser, users can't specify a maximum number of processes. However, they can disable Firefox's recommended performance settings and turn on hardware acceleration, so the browser uses your computer's graphics processor instead of its CPU to display graphic-heavy content.

Here's how it works:

  1. Launch Firefox and select Firefox > Preferences. (On a Windows PC, select the menu icon (three lines), then select Settings.)

    Firefox Browser with Preferences highlighted
  2. Scroll down to Performance. You'll see Use recommended performance settings checked, which is the default setting.

    Firefox Performance settings with Use Recommended Performance Settings highlighted
  3. Uncheck Use recommended performance settings. You'll see Use hardware acceleration when available automatically appear with a checkmark indicating this feature is activated. Firefox Browser will now use your graphics card to display media-based web content.

    Firefox performance settings with Use hardware acceleration highlighted

Firefox Now Uses Less Memory Than Chrome

The Quantum overhaul made Firefox quicker and lighter on system resources and added a more modern, minimalist-style interface. Using the Photon design language, Mozilla's developers produced an intuitive browsing experience that displayed more web content. In addition to being twice as fast as Firefox 52, Quantum used 33% less memory than Google Chrome.

Quantum's speed boost still endures. Mozilla says the Chrome web browser uses 1.77 times as much memory as the Firefox Browser.

How to Customize Tracking Protection in Firefox Browser

The release of Quantum introduced the option to enable Tracking Protection while browsing. Previously, this option was only available in Private Browsing mode.

Firefox Browser has even more robust Tracking Protection functionality. Here's how it works:

  1. Launch Firefox and select Firefox > Preferences. (On a Windows PC, select menu icon (three lines) > Settings.)

    Firefox Browser with Preferences highlighted
  2. Select Privacy & Security from the left pane.

    Privacy & Security highlighted in Firefox preferences
  3. Under Enhanced Tracking Protection, select Standard, Strict, or Custom.

    Firefox Privacy and Security settings with Enhanced Tracking options highlighted

    Standard offers balanced protection and normal page-load times. Strict has stronger protections, but some sites or content won't work well. Custom allows you to choose which trackers and scripts to block.

  4. You also have the option of sending websites a Do Not Track signal. Choose Always or Only when Firefox is set to block known trackers (default).

    Firefox Privacy & Security Settings with Do Not Track options highlighted

How to Take Screenshots in Firefox Browser

Firefox Quantum introduced a built-in screen-capture option accessible from the Page actions drop-down. In version 88 and later, Firefox removed the ability to take screenshots from the address bar. However, it's still easy to take screenshots in Firefox in three ways.

  • Use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl+Shift+S (Windows PC) or Command+Shift+S (Mac).
  • Right-click anywhere on the screen, then select Take Screenshot.
Firefox right-click menu with Take Screenshot highlighted
  • Or, add a screenshot function to the toolbar:
  1. Right-click on the toolbar and select Customize Toolbar.

    Customize Toolbar highlighted in Firefox
  2. Drag the Screenshot icon into the toolbar.

    Firefox toolbar options with Screenshot highlighted
  3. Access the screenshot function from your toolbar.

    Firefox toolbar with Screenshot icon highlighted

Automatically Restore Firefox Browsing Sessions

Firefox Quantum introduced the ability to restore your previous session when you launch the browser. The feature still works: Go to the History tab and select Restore Previous Version, and it will restore your last session tabs.

Firefox History menu with Restore Previous Session highlighted
  • What is Firefox Quantum?

    Firefox Quantum was the browser's release 57. It ushered in significant improvements, including a performance boost, an updated plug-in engine, an integrated pocket to save content on the fly, privacy enhancements like tracking protection, and two-click screenshots. Starting with Firefox release 70, however, the Quantum designation went away.

  • How do I speed up Firefox?

    To speed up Firefox Browser, you can free up memory, disable multi-process windows, and adjust the content process limit. Another suggestion is to make sure you're running the latest version of Firefox Browser.

  • How do I enable cookies on Firefox?

    Firefox Quantum is now Firefox Browser. To manage cookies in Firefox Browser, select menu (three horizontal lines) > Settings > Privacy and security. Ensure you don't have custom tracking settings that block all cookies; scroll down to Cookies and Site Data to manage cookies for individual sites.

  • What is the point of the Master Password on Firefox?

    The Primary Password (formerly known as Master Password) in Firefox Browser protects your personal information by always requiring an additional password to access stored logins for things like your email or bank account. To set it up, select Menu (three lines) > Settings > Privacy and security > Use a Primary Password.

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