The Best Web Browser for a Slow Computer

By Ashley Poland

Netbooks and older laptops are often functional, but underpowered for modern software.
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While modern browsers offer a wealth of features -- from syncing tabs across devices to thousands of user-created extensions to choose from -- all those bells and whistles bog your browser down and quickly use up your limited RAM. If you're working with a low-resource computer, focus on finding a browser that has the base necessities for your work. The more features a browser contains, the heavier the load on your computer. The great thing about browsers is that you can try them all on for size, feeling out which is the best for your computer and usage habits.

Testing a Browser

When you're using a browser, open your task manager to watch how much of your CPU and RAM your session is eating up on your computer. Keep in mind that these numbers will fluctuate; they'll be higher when pages load, and go back down when the loading is done. You can also feel out when a browser is taxing your resources. If your whole computer stutters or freezes when pages load, selecting a more lightweight browser may be in order.

One GB of RAM (Or Less)

Netbook users or people with older computers may find choosing a browser difficult -- a gigabyte of RAM doesn't offer a lot of memory, and browsers with extensions eat up memory. Your best bet for a computer with a very small amount of RAM is a browser without bells or whistles, such as the webkit-based Midori browser or the Firefox-based Pale Moon. Both browsers lack extensions, but deliver the Web in a quick, lightweight package.

Two GB of RAM

If you have two GB of RAM in your computer, you have a bit more freedom to experiment with browsers, even if other components in your computer aren't as up-to-date. In benchmark tests, both Google Chrome and Internet Explorer 10 received high ranks in speed. If the multiple-process setup of Chrome doesn't work for your computer, you may try Opera. While Firefox is well-loved on the Web for being easy to customize, some users find it bulky and slow.

Stripped Browsers

If you want to take it down to the bare necessities, you might look into a browser that's completely stripped of modern features. Links only loads text and images, while stripping CSS and JavaScript. You can even opt to disable graphics, creating a text-only browser. If you're at all familiar with the terminal-based Lynx browser, you may recognize Links as a slightly more user-friendly port.

Optimizing the Browser

The bells and whistles that make your browser fun to use also tend to be the big resource hogs -- and that means disabling many of these features. Remove browser themes and extensions to reduce your browser's resource use. Each extension adds to the overall browser load on your system. Close any tabs and windows that you're not using, as they also use system resources, even when not in use.