Space Ramblings

The Firefox 3 CPU Usage Problem Overview

Firefox 3 seemingly has beaten the memory usage problem which really caused issues on Firefox 2, but CPU usage, an old problem for Firefox, has risen to take its place. Again we’re seeing a lot of complaints about CPU usage, with some people saying that CPU usage is hitting a high of 90 to 11 percent. But even moderate Firefox 3 CPU usage hogging is hovering in the 14-22 percent range, which is excessive and significantly impacts usability. The problem seems to spike with loading pages.

As with the memory leak, CPU usage is likely due to a constellation of issues and there are various DYI fixes available for it, that might or might not work for you. Obviously you can disable a lot of things, including animated GIF’s, install extensions that disable flash on pages, and so on. None of this is fun and itself decreases the browsing experience.

A number of people have cited Live Bookmarks as the issue. So if you do have a lot of those, you might want to jettison them.

A number of people are selling the Urlclassifier.updatecachemax fix. This involves changing the default value of the parameter Urlclassifier.updatecachemax from -1 to 104857600, which will prevent your cache size from being unlimited. To do this you need to go to about:config ,type in the above and edit the value.

Additionally you can try setting browser.cache.memory.enable to false, again under about:config.

You can also try disabling the Tell Me’s under Tools-Options-Security that are meant to prevent scam and attack sites from loading. This is the only solution that did anything for me. However CPU usage is still excessive, only now somewhat more workable. But it has made a major difference.

Some people blame a corrupted profile and recommend deleting your profile and reinstalling Firefox 3. You can find instructions for that here by scrolling to the bottom. This seems like an excessively painful solution to me and one that fails to guarantee against any recurrence of the problem.

Additionally since there’s a constellation of CPU usage causes, look for any plugins that may be causing this and if you have a bunch of spare time and patience, disable them and bring them up one by one, to test if one of them is the cause. Keep in mind though that disabling a plugin may not be enough, you may need to delete them entirely. So again we’re talking time consuming.

If this problem is tied to watching YouTube or flash videos, try updating your copy of Flash. Ditto for adobe PDF files. A lot of people are complaining about CPU usage and Gmail as well. You might want to try using Google Talk as a non-browser solution.

I’m continuing to look into this problem and the possibility that outdated but not deleted Firefox 2 plugins may be causing some of the problem.

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