What can be done to make TenFourFox lighter, in terms of its resource-usage?

commentliker56's Avatar


20 Jan, 2015 11:15 PM

Hi everyone,

I have MANY PowerPC Macs, and it's definitely nice to be able to use current applications on the machines I use, considering almost everyone else has ditched PowerPC.

That being said, I have found TenFourFox to be EXTREMELY slow and heavy on my Macs. Most would argue that my Mac isn't fast enough, but I have had trouble with TFF on anything from an original iBook G4 to a 2.0Ghz DP PowerMac G5 with 8GB of RAM.

I am wondering if there is some way I myself (or the development team) would spiffy-up TenFourFox and find SOME way to make it use less resources. Are there things that can be stripped from it that aren't necessities? I currently use Leopard Webkit on my Leopard PowerPC Macs, and it's incredibly smooth and fast. As for TFF, it takes up AT LEAST 192MB of RAM and a large CPU percentage. In no way has it ever been faster than Webkit for me. Everything is slow---from loading pages, to adjusting the size of the window, to scrolling, etc. (general navigation). Webkit is not an option for me on my Tiger Macs, so I really need TFF for those... however, I cannot use it if it's so slow, that it's even not as satisfactory as Webkit is on my PowerMac G5.

I followed a detailed guide on tweaking TFF, and someone else on that guide noted that he used some of those tweaks and some of his own, and got his RAM usage down to 94MB. I tried these tweaks, but TFF still hogs my RAM and CPU. If anyone wants ideas from this, here is a link to that thread on MacRumors: http://forums.macrumors.com/showthread.php?t=1838393

Please help; I am reaching out to the team to help make TFF lighter... as it is, I could only imagine it running comfortably on a Quad-core G5.

  1. Support Staff 1 Posted by Cameron Kaiser on 20 Jan, 2015 11:56 PM

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    Based on your statements, I don't have any recommendations for you. I personally use TenFourFox regularly on not only a quad G5 (which it performs well on), but also a 1GHz iMac G4 and a 1.33GHz iBook G4. I also occasionally use it on a 450MHz Sawtooth G4. Your report suggests there is no system on which its performance would be acceptable to you, but I do want to respond to a few of your assertions.

    On the whole, WebKit will always be more responsive than a Gecko derivative like Firefox because WebKit uses native chrome and windows, whereas Gecko now only supports XUL. (There was a Gecko browser with native chrome and windows, which was Camino.) Gecko browsers maintain not only the web page, but also their own windows and interface, and they do most of it in JavaScript, not native code. That's a conscious design decision to make the browser multiplatform and extensible, but it comes at a cost in both memory and CPU. Mozilla no longer supports doing it any other way.

    The memory question is also not really an apples-apples comparison. Much of TenFourFox's memory usage is related to JavaScript and the just-in-time compiler (JIT). Leopard WebKit has a minimal JIT used for regular expressions and certain other components. TenFourFox has a full baseline JIT used to compile everything, including the browser chrome and add-ons, much of which is cached in memory to avoid recompilation. There's a good reason I set the minimum requirement at 512MB physical RAM, and none of my regular machines have less than 1GB. Again, this is a tradeoff.

    Erik made some not unreasonable suggestions in that thread (some are out of date -- javascript.options.jit.* hasn't existed since 10.x -- but many are still generally applicable). However, almost all of them may have performance or behaviour implications in edge cases, and since the browser needs to work out of the box, I've declined to implement many of those. But again, you have the choice. That's something you have control over in Firefox derivatives.

    These choices are a design decision. They make Firefox derivatives less performant on lower-spec hardware, but they offer greater flexibility, and since I maintain the browser first and foremost for my personal use that's what I've chosen. This doesn't appear to be your preference, but that's why there are currently choices.

    In general, "everything is slow everywhere" reports are usually not something I can assist with because the root cause could be anything from user expectation to hardware. I'm sorry TenFourFox doesn't meet your needs, but I have nothing I can offer you based on this report. I'm glad you still enjoy using Power Macs. Good luck.

  2. 2 Posted by davidh on 22 Jan, 2015 05:22 AM

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    I don't know, commentliker56, about your experience with a G5. On my 2.3 GHZ dual-processor G5 running 10.5.8, I'm very satisfied with the performance.

    Occasionally, on more recent versions of TFF, CPU usage will jump to about 50% and things will slow down (possibly related to Spotlight indexing the hard drives), but then I just quit and restart TFF. That seems to do the trick. I'm hoping it's a bug that'll be sorted out sooner or later.

    I just want to say thanks to Cameron for all his work on this browser (plus everyone else who is responsible for it). It is the difference between a perfectly good Mac being retired prematurely and one that is still hard at work, able to do what I need it to. For many reasons, you deserve a lot of credit.

  3. 3 Posted by dan on 23 Mar, 2015 09:27 AM

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    I have an old imac g5 1.8ghz and I had the same problem with tff 31.5. I partially solved the issue adding no script extension and tweaking about:config as described here: http://lowendmac.com/2013/speed-up-tenfourfox-on-your-g3g4/
    i noticed a good performance improvement specially for heavy websites.

  4. 4 Posted by davidh on 03 Apr, 2015 02:00 AM

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    Thanks, dan, for the link. What also can help, if this isn't stating the obvious, is maxing out your processor speed in Energy Saver in System Preferences. Set to "Highest." "Automatic" sometimes doesn't do the trick for me.

  5. 5 Posted by Chris on 25 Aug, 2015 11:51 AM

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    I understand the choice about functionality vs performance, but I was wondering: would there be a performance gain if I was reverting to TFF17 or 24, or 31 instead of the latest version? (at the cost of security, and else)
    Is there a benchmark somewhere about the increasing CPU load across TFF or Firefox versions?

  6. Support Staff 6 Posted by Chris (chtrusch... on 25 Aug, 2015 01:12 PM

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    Tenfourfox 38 is actually the fastest version we've had to date when it comes to JavaScript execution, and I think performance-wise you would gain nothing by reverting to an earlier version. Looking at RAM usage you'd probably gain a little by going back to 17 or earlier. 38 uses about as much RAM as 24 and 31, however RAM management is much improved. At least 1GB of RAM is recommended for any version of TFF.

    I don't know of any benchmarks, but you can look at CPU loads in Activity Monitor if you want to compare different versions.

    I would recommend instead to stay at 38 and have a look at the installed Add-ons because the actual trade-off in performance/RAM vs. functionality is in this area. You will gain much more by deactivating unneeded Extensions than by going back to an unsupported version of the browser.

  7. 7 Posted by Chris on 25 Aug, 2015 02:16 PM

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    Thank you!
    In the meantime, I've made my own tests with a brand new profile each time, comparing start time and loading time for a few reference pages with 17, 24, 31 and 38.
    This test is on a Mini G4 1.25GHz with only 512Mb memory — no plan to add RAM ;-).
    Well, indeed, not a lot of difference between 17 and 38 (4s more to start but 1 or 2s for any other page — Youtube took exactly the same time in all versions!).
    That machine is so damn slow... I was trying to gain some air... I bet I should put an SSD in it. ;-)

  8. Support Staff 8 Posted by Chris (chtrusch... on 25 Aug, 2015 03:01 PM

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    Your Mini is slow because it's constantly swapping out memory contents to the HD. Do the math: It's ~100 MB for the operating system (10.4; 10.5 is about twice as much) plus 300-350 MB for the browser at normal use. As soon as you launch another application or load a few more tabs in the browser, that's it. Your Mini can take 1 GB of RAM, just do it a favor if you have it open for swapping in the SSD and max it out to 1 GB :-) This is the same amount I have in my Pismo PowerBook, and TFF runs acceptably on that even doing Facebook and Amazon, even though the Pismo only has a 400 MHz G3.

  9. 9 Posted by Chris on 25 Aug, 2015 05:18 PM

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    That makes a lot of sense. :-)
    I knew that, but thanks for the data, I will consider adding RAM. ;-)

  10. 10 Posted by commentliker56 on 27 Aug, 2015 05:32 AM

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    Hi, you may remember me from my message about TFF being rather slow on
    my machines. I have to say that the recent updates of TFF seem to have
    given it a lighter footprint. However, it does still run extremely
    slowly on some of my lesser PowerPC Macs. There is this Mozilla-based
    (at least, I believe it is) browser called 'Camino.'

    It became discontinued a few years ago now, but is now open-source for
    anyone to configure. I have found that this browser is one of the
    fastest PowerPC browsers I have used. It performs well with Flash (I'm
    not saying that Flash is good; I hate Flash, but that shows you how
    stable the browser is, considering that it does well with such a
    shoddy piece of software.), and has an incredibly light footprint.

    Would you ever consider adopting Camino and updating it for 2015? It
    would be a fantastic alternative to TFF for machines like old G3s and
    G4s. Classilla makes a great OS9 browser, TFF makes a great PPC OSX
    browser for able Macs, and Camino would make a great low-range to
    mid-range browser for those older PPC Macs that run Mac OSX. Many were
    pretty disappointed when Camino became discontinued, especially after
    its 10-year run. Here is the site:

    I know you may not have enough time on your hands, but would it be
    something to consider? This could open up so many new doors. It's
    currently fine, but obviously needs to be up-to-date.


    (I'm personally an owner of over 30 PowerPC Macs. I, and many others,
    would be ecstatic about a zippy browser for the older ones!)

  11. 11 Posted by Chris on 27 Aug, 2015 08:50 AM

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    Camino has been my favourite browser for years, there were also optimized builds: http://www.rpm-mozilla.org.uk/ ;-)

  12. 12 Posted by Chris on 28 Aug, 2015 04:40 PM

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    You can also find a huge number of tricks to tweak Firefox (pipelining, reducing cache size, etc.), I've tried many of them but I can't see a worthy improvement... :-/

  13. Support Staff 13 Posted by Cameron Kaiser on 29 Aug, 2015 12:41 AM

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    Speaking as a former Camino user, no, and it probably wouldn't be technically possible to do anyway; see http://tenfourfox.blogspot.com/2013/05/adios-camino.html .

  14. 14 Posted by GregK on 10 Dec, 2015 06:57 PM

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    I wonder if the OP has found TFFoxboxes yet? That's quite zippy...probably light, too.
    http://tenfourfox.blogspot.ca/ scroll down to the 21 Nov 2015 post

  15. 15 Posted by commentliker56 on 11 Dec, 2015 01:56 AM

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    I'm gonna try that soon. Still, though: regular TFF is incredibly heavy;
    it's best fit for the most powerful G5s. The thing crawls on anything else.
    Even the Mac version of Firefox is heavy and slow.

  16. Support Staff 16 Posted by Cameron Kaiser on 11 Dec, 2015 02:10 AM

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    Given your opinion, I am sorry to say I don't think you will find TenFourFoxBox any better. I'm going to close this ticket, since there isn't a whole much more I can add.

  17. Cameron Kaiser closed this discussion on 11 Dec, 2015 02:10 AM.

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