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Safari Tune Up

Speed Up Safari With These Performance Tips

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Safari is my web browser of choice; I use it every day for research, work, and games (mostly for work, of course). Safari gets quite a workout from me every day, and while it generally does its job well, over time, I've noticed that its performance can show signs of degrading.

Tune Up Safari

These tuneup tips can affect performance to varying degrees, from mild to major, depending on the version of Safari you're using. Over time, Apple modified some of the routines in Safari to optimize performance. As a result, some tuneup techniques can, for example, create huge performance increases in Safari 4, but only modest increases in Safari 5.

Time to Cache It In

Safari stores the pages you view, including any images that are part of the pages, in a local cache because it can render cached pages faster than new pages, at least in theory. The problem with the Safari cache is that it can eventually grow very large, causing Safari to slow down while it tries to look 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. Select Safari, Empty Cache from the Safari menu.

How often should you delete the Safari cache? That depends on often you use Safari. Because I use Safari daily, I delete the cache about once a week, or whenever I remember to do it, which is sometimes less than once a week.

Favicons Aren't My Favorite

Favicons (short for favorite icons) are the little icons that Safari displays next to the URLs of web pages you visit. (Some site developers don't bother to create favicons for their web sites; in those cases, you'll see the generic Safari icon.) Favicons serve no purpose other than to provide a quick visual reference to the identity of a web site. For example, if you see a three-dimensional, red, ball-shaped favicon, you know you're on About.com. Favicons are permanently stored at their web site of origin, along with all of the other data that makes up the web pages for that site. Safari also creates a local copy of every favicon it comes across, and therein lies the problem.

Like the cached web pages we mentioned above, the favicon cache can become huge and slow Safari down by forcing it to sort through hordes of favicons to find the right one to display. Favicons are such a weight on performance that in Safari 4, Apple finally corrected how Safari stores favicons. If you use an earlier version of Safari, you can delete the favicon cache on a regular basis, and vastly improve Safari's page loading performance. If you use Safari 4 or later, you don't need to delete the favicons.

To delete the favicons cache:

  1. Quit Safari.

  2. Using the Finder, go to homefolder/Library/Safari, where homefolder is the home directory for your user account.

  3. Delete the Icons folder.

  4. Launch Safari.

Safari will start rebuilding the favicon cache each time you visit a web site. Eventually, you'll need to delete the favicon cache again. I recommend updating to at least Safari 4 so you can avoid this process completely.

History, the Places I've Seen

Safari maintains a history of every web page you view. This has the practical benefit of letting you use the forward and back buttons to transverse 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 can be quite helpful, but like other forms of caching, it can also become a hindrance. Safari stores up to a month's worth of your site visit history. 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, Clear History from the Safari menu.

These Safari performance tips will keep your web browsing moving along at the speed of, well, the speed of your Internet connection and the speed of the web server that is hosting the web site you're visiting. And that's how fast it should be.

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