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Firefox 1.5 Stability Problems? Readers And Mozilla Respond

Firefox users wrote to us detailing their problems with the browser, and we asked Mozilla for some answers.

Can Bfcache Be The Problem?
The high memory usage problem, many of our reader e-mails point out, was also evident in previous versions of Firefox. But some people report that it's worse in this version, with Firefox displacing as much as 250MB to 500MB of physical and virtual memory on a Windows PC with 1GB of RAM. Of all the problems on our list, this is the most commonly reported. It's unclear whether it is linked to high CPU usage and program freezing, but it's at least conceivable that it might be.

In This Article

Reports Of Problems

Some Examples From Readers

Memory, CPU, And Stability Woes

Mozilla's Response

Can Bfcache Be The Problem?

Pushing The Memory Envelope

Whose Fault?

This is purely speculation, but it's also possible that Firefox 1.5's new Back and Forward button caching functionality — which speeds up the display of recently viewed Web pages when you click those buttons — is actually an abetting factor to the memory woes. Schroepfer mentioned that there's a new small module in Firefox known as bfcache which supports that performance improvement.

Looking at the details about how much data bfcache stores, however, it doesn't seem like that would be enough to cause the problems. The browser.sessionhistory.max_total_viewers setting in Firefox's about:config settings area, which is similar to the Windows Registry, stores only five pages on machines with 512MB of RAM, for example.

If your Firefox installation is generating high memory numbers (you can check it by pressing Ctrl-Alt-Del, going to your Windows Task Manager, clicking on your Processes tab, and checking the "Mem. Usage" and "VM Size" numbers on the firefox.exe line), there's another settings change that might help. Access about:config by typing that exact phrase in the browser Address bar and pressing Enter. In about:config, look for this setting:


Check to make sure its "Value" setting reads "true." Then follow these steps:

1. Right-click anywhere on the about:config window area and choose New and Integer from the pop-up menu.

2. The New Integer Value box will open. Copy this setting name and paste it into the open dialog box:


3. The Enter Integer Value box will open. The default setting is -1, and it should preserve Firefox's existing mode of operation.

4. Consult this page for more information about what specific setting to add. For RAM sizes between 512BM and 1GB, start with 15000. For RAM sizes between 128MB and 512M, try 5000. Note: If you have less than 128MB of RAM, that's probably the cause of your Firefox issues.

If this tip works for you, or doesn't, or you have a better one, drop us an e-mail about it.

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