2001 – Since the release of version 5, Internet Explorer became the Mac world’s number one browser, with many Netscape users dumping the Navigator or Communicator 4.x in order to get Microsoft’s latest offering. In any case, Explorer is very popular in the Mac crowd, and a few of you may want to maximize its performance. Here are tips to achieve this.
Make It Breathe
First off, you need to know that the amount of memory that you allocate to an application is likely to play a role in its overall performance. The more memory you give it, the more breathing space you give it when it has to face demanding tasks. In this spirit, you should allocate Explorer more memory than its default amount. How much? The more the better, as long as you can afford it. I would recommend giving it 20 MB to 25 MB. Those are reasonable amounts to make things work better. More than 25 MB may not give tangible results.
To do it, find the application’s icon in the Internet Explorer folder, and click on it once. Make sure to quite IE before doing it! Go to the Finder’s menu bar, highlight Get Info, and select the Memory submenu. You can do the same via contextual menus (control-click and selecting Get Info –> Memory). It should give you this window.
Once you do that, you need to increase the number in the Preferred Size field. The number is in kilobytes, and it takes 1024 of them to make a megabyte (MB). Grab a calculator and decide how many megs you want to allocate. Say that you want to allocate 20 MB. Twenty times 1024 equals 20480, and all you have to do is to type that as the Preferred Size.
In Explorer, the cache is the file where the browser stores the data for the Web pages you visit. It saves it there, retrieves that data from the cache when you go back to pages in the same session, and retrieves information from there if IE finds out that a page or an image hasn’t been updated since the last visit.
As a result, this use and “consultation” of the cache can slow you down if the cache is not stored in the right place. To make it short, your cache will perform as fast as the place where it is stored. You have two choices. You can store it in RAM or on the hard disk. IE chooses a folder in your System Folder by default.
Your RAM is the fastest memory on your computer, so put it to good use! You should definitely put your Explorer cache in RAM. It speeds things up when visiting Web pages and does wonders when hitting the Back button.
My favorite way to achieve this is to create a RAM Disk on my desktop and store the “cache.waf” file in there.
The first step to this is to create the RAM Disk. Go to the Apple Menu, highlight the Control Panels item and in the sub-menu, select Memory.
Once there, you can easily set up a RAM Disk. All you need to do is to click on the On radio button and set its size. Again, 1024K equals 1 MB, therefore you need to calculate the amount you wish to allocate. I would recommend a bit more than 10 megabytes for the RAM Disk and a browser cache of 9 megabytes. In fact, this is what I use.
Note that you need to make your RAM Disk slightly bigger than your browser’s cache. Make sure to click the Save contents to disk… checkbox, since your cache will easily be stored in your RAM Disk each time you shut down and start up. Use the sliding button to adjust the amount. Once done, close the window and restart your Mac. (Yes, you do have to restart for your Mac to create the RAM Disk at startup.)
After restarting, you should see the RAM Disk icon on your desktop.
We are not done yet. You need IE to use the RAM Disk in order to really enjoy the speed. Launch Internet Explorer. Open the Preferences from the Edit menu, and then click on the advanced category, under Web Browser. You will see the Cache rectangle, where you have to click on Change Location. You will get a navigation window, where you have to go to the desktop and highlight the RAM Disk icon. Click on Choose. Quit Internet Explorer. Launch it again and start browsing. Enjoy the speed boost!
The first two measures already increased the performance of IE, but we are not done yet. We can make sure that this speed gain is sustained through time, which requires us to do a bit of history. Pun intended.
In the same Advanced Preferences as before, we need to take down the number of places visited, because the more IE remembers, the slower it gets. The default setting is way too high. I would recommend about 30 places, just enough to go back to the last few pages where you went.
I know that it is annoying not being able to go back to the pages you visited a week ago, but the trade-off will prevent IE from slowing down all the time. Your best bet is to store URLs in your Favorites or in a separate URL handler if you have any reason to think that you may one day be tempted to go back to a certain site. You want some speed, don’t you?
A Word about Virtual Memory
We are basically done here. If you applied the three measures I recommended and took two aspirins with a good night of sleep, your browser speed headaches should be gone.
Can it get better? Yes, if you have been using virtual memory so far. As I already explained, your RAM performs faster than your hard disk. If you wish to do one more thing to make Internet Explorer (and your whole Mac!) faster, then turn off virtual memory (VM) from the Memory control panel and restart your Mac.
I know, there is more to virtual memory than the speed difference between RAM and a hard disk drive. With VM on, your Mac will handle a some things in a smarter way without loading everything into RAM, which will slow you down if your RAM is almost full and your Mac out of elbow room. One fact remains: If you can afford the RAM, this is not a problem! Just turn off VM, pile in the RAM chips, and increase the amounts of memory given to your applications.
This advice on virtual memory is optional, but IE and your Mac as a whole could really benefit from it. See you in the fast lane of browsing!
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