Fixing the Firefox Memory Leak

September 29, 2011, By Christian Cawley

Do you know what a memory leak is?

It’s not when you’ve forgotten to put the cat out or empty the fridge; it’s not a case of having a bad cold either!

Rather it is the problem that is encountered by many thousands of Mozilla Firefox users around the planet when they take advantage of tabbed browsing and find that the browser’s memory use keeps increasing, even when the tabs are closed.

Typically, this happens when the tabs in question are displaying web pages that feature Flash adverts, but there are other causes. Ultimately it is frustrating and inefficient, resulting in poor browser performance on even the fastest systems.

Fixing the Firefox Memory Leak

So what is the solution? Well, there are several workarounds, but only one real solution to this problem…

Working Around the Memory Leak

In order to overcome these Firefox performance problems, you will need to try the following suggestions.

The first is to close the tabs that you suspect are causing the slowdown in performance. This might prove difficult as the browser may not respond to mouse clicks on the browser tabs; also, closing the tabs might not make as much of a difference as you had hoped. In this case, however, always begin with the tabs that have the most adverts running, particularly those annoying “overlay” ads. If you have difficulty switching tabs in this case, use the CTRL+Page Up/CTRL+Page Down shortcut.

A second workaround is to restart the browser. This can of course prove difficult if the browser window will not respond, but in Windows it can easily be done by right-clicking the Task Bar and selecting Start Task Manager, then selecting Firefox from the Processes tab and hitting the End Process button.

While this might seem an extreme option, you can take advantage of Firefox’s restore tabs tool to resume browsing the same pages if necessary. Note that you might notice that following the closing of several tabs that performance has not improved. In this situation you should restart the browser, either the usual way or by force-closing.

Upgrade to Firefox 7

The ultimate solution to this problem is to upgrade to Firefox 7; this latest version of the browser features new technology that prevents the memory leak problem from occurring – and not before time for the legions of Firefox users who have been threatening to follow others to Google Chrome!

You should find that Firefox automatically updates to Firefox 7. The automatic updates in Firefox have been some cause for concern over the past few years, with the browser forcing updates on users whether they want them or not, but this one is most welcome.

If you don’t have an update (check Help > About Firefox to confirm the version) then simply head over to Mozilla.org to download the Firefox 7.

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