Basic Essential Chrome Tweaking Tips
Keep Chrome updated
Web browser updating has over the years became a piece of cake to handle. Back in the day, we had to visit an FTP server or download site and find the latest version. Now, of course, updating is handled by the browser; at least most support it. It's important to keep Chrome updated since each new release includes performance and security updates that you will want to be using.
With Chrome open, type and open "chrome://settings" in the URL bar (aka address bar or Omnibox) and on the left side, click "About" at the bottom. Depending on the version of Chrome you are using, it should be checking or already have checked for the latest version of Chrome. It will automatically download the latest version and then give you the option to relaunch Chrome. Go ahead and relaunch, and then once Chrome opens again, you'll be up and running on the latest version.
The first area we need to pay attention to is Extensions. These are the lovely add-ons you add to your Chrome browser to enhance what it does for you. I've added this section to basic tips, but it's only basic in that it is easy to complete; it's one of the most important steps in this guide.
With Chrome open, type and open "chrome://extensions" in the URL bar. The Extensions page shows a list of extensions you have installed and which are enabled or disabled. You can see I personally only have four extensions installed and active now. Before tuning Chrome, I had several more including Alexa. This step is like deciding what to keep and what to throw away when cleaning your room. Try not to be a hoarder. Remove what you no longer use or what you can do without having installed; it's a big part of improving Chrome performance. Remember, not all extensions are harsh on Chrome, for example, my RSS one has little impact. Ones that get deeply embedded into Chrome and the websites you visit, such as spelling/grammar checkers, are known to slow things down considerably.
BONUS TIP #1: Click "Developer mode" at the top for an easy way to update all your extensions to the latest version. This tip is a quick and easy way to make sure you are using the latest versions of your extensions.
BONUS TIP #2: The extension BackStop is great to avoid you going back a page when you are typing something in a website form or text field. This can be incredibly annoying if you've written a lot, only to push backspace and lose it all.
BONUS TIP #3: A good idea is to also remove unused apps from Chrome. If you're anything like me, you probably never use them. And if we aren't using things, they need to go. Type and open "chrome://apps" in the URL bar and remove all apps you don't use. In my case, I removed all the apps and only have "Web Store" left and that's because it cannot be removed. Just right click on the app and click "Remove from Chrome...".
Similarly to above, type in "chrome://plugins" in the URL bar and press enter.
Plugins can slow down your Chrome experience, and I would recommend disabling every plugin you can. In my case, above you can see I only have one plugin active, and that is Adobe Flash Player. Because of my circumstances, I need to have flash support.
You could even go ahead and disable it if you wanted because flash is slowly but surely getting phased out in favor of HTML5. For example, you no longer need Flash support for watching videos on YouTube, they've moved to an HTML5 video player. It comes down to your use cases, but disable all that you can. You can always go back later and enable what you need again, but be selective about it.
Clear Browsing Data Occasionally
This tip is probably more optional as in my experience it doesn't have a direct impact on Chrome performance, but it may help your computer as a whole.
Occasionally it's a good idea to remove all of your browsing data. If you've never done it, or it has been a long time since you last did it, the chances are you have a gigabyte or more of data taking up space on your drive. Worse, some of that data may include malicious data. You can use settings inside Chrome to remove data, but since we're all about tweaking here, it's a good chance to recommend Piriform's CCleaner. As far as I'm concerned, it's the best Windows cleaning tool ever made. It not only allows you to remove excess Chrome data but all sorts of other data from your system. And, it's free.
A word of warning. I highly advise against deleting cookies. Cookies are considered "bad" by some users, but the fact of the matter is these days cookies are used a lot to make your life easier online. Websites such as Twitter and Facebook store cookies with your login information. If you have two-factor login enabled (the thing that sends a text to your phone with a code you need to enter to log into a new computer or device), you would need to cover that whole process all over again if you wipe all your cookies. It may be an idea to clear ALL your data including cookies every six months, for example, but not every week. Also, with internet cache, if you are on a slow connection or have a low monthly download quota, you may want to avoid removing your cache too often.
BONUS TIP #1: Run CCleaner once a day or as often as you can to keep your system free of unrequired data. It can also clean your system registry and control what programs and services open when you first start your computer (keep those as minimal as possible, too).
Chrome Cleanup Tool
Google has its own standalone tool for Chrome simply named Chrome Cleanup Tool. It scans your systems for "software that may cause problems with Chrome, such as crashes, unusual startup pages or toolbars, unexpected ads you can't get rid of, or otherwise changing your browsing experience."
Head on over to the link above and download the tool. It's small and doesn't take long to run. If it finds any suspicious programs, remove them right away. It's totally up to you if you want to send the information to Google or not. Run this tool once a month or when you suspect something may be amiss with your Chrome experience.
Check your default Search Engine
In most web browsers, you have the ability to select exactly which search engine you will use when inputting search terms into the address bar. Chrome is no different.
In the URL bar, type in "chrome://settings", which will bring you to the main Chrome settings page. From here, look for "Search" and then click "Manage search engines...". In this section, make sure you select your preferred search engine as the default choice. If your system got infected with malware or other crapware, it could be set as some obscure search engine that is pretending to be Google, Yahoo! or others. If you see something odd, kill it. While it may not have a direct impact on Chrome performance, I also went ahead and removed all other search engines from this section, so only Google.com.au was listed.
Stop Google Chrome and its app from running in the background
We discussed Google continuously releasing new updates to Chrome and adding new features. I like most of them, but one I dislike is having Chrome or its app run in the background after I've closed the browser. Once I close it, it should be closed - not half closed.
Thankfully, the fix for this is quite easy to apply. In the URL bar, type in "chrome://settings", which will bring you to the main Chrome settings page. From here, look right at the bottom where you see "Show advanced settings...", click it. Scroll down till you see "System" and untick "Continue running background apps when Chrome is closed".
Kill those annoying Chrome notifications and icon from system tray
Similarly to the above, another newish feature for Chrome I massively despise is Notifications. It's another feature that was, to the best of my knowledge, forced upon Chrome users, but thankfully can now be completely disabled with ease.
Again, in the URL bar, type in "chrome://settings", which will bring you to the main Chrome settings page. From here, look right at the bottom where you see "Show advanced settings...", click it. Look for "Privacy" and under it click "Content settings...". Then scroll down to you see "Notifications" and click "Do not allow any site to show notifications". Bam, gone! Remember to check the exceptions under that and remove any site(s) you do not want to allow to show notifications, such as Gmail for instance. Google was kind enough to make sure its services got added to the exceptions...
I never asked for it, but Chrome also adds an icon on the Windows system tray. You can fully disable that by opening your Windows start menu and typing in "notifications". Then click "Notification Area Icons", locate Google Chrome and change it to "Hide icon and notifications". Bam, also gone!
Disabling some of Chrome's more useful features
This tip might sound a little counterproductive, but some of Chrome's more useful features that we also like slow things down. Again, in the URL bar, type in "chrome://settings", which will bring you to the main Chrome settings page. From here, look for "Privacy". In this section, we get a whole host of interesting options to adjust.
You can see my preferred setup above. I've disabled "Use a web service to help resolve navigation errors" because, to be honest, I have no idea what that does. And I doubt it has helped me in the past, so it's gone. The second is "Use a prediction service to help complete searches and URLs typed in the address bar or the app launcher search box". This one is fairly self-explanatory, but if you don't have a need for it, go ahead and disable it for a minor performance boost.
The third option is an interesting one as it can go either way as to whether you want it enabled or disabled. "Prefetch resources to load pages more quickly" is a way that Chrome intelligently detects if it should pre-load websites and pages in advance before you even visit them. In fact, during your visits to TweakTown, if you have this enabled, parts of our site have been pre-loaded. And that's even if you didn't visit them because we instruct Chrome and other browsers the next page in the series. If you have a fast Internet connection with a generous monthly download quota, you may well want to leave this on. Otherwise, consider turning it off, especially if you don't like the idea of Chrome fetching data for you that you may never see or use.
"Automatically report details of possible security incidents to Google" can be turned off. While it may benefit the community as a whole to provide Google with security issue alerts, it doesn't benefit you all that much directly. It is yet something else your browser has to do, and that could have a minimal impact on overall performance. "Protect you and your device from dangerous sites" is one I highly recommend you keep turned on. "Use a web service to help resolve spelling errors", we all make badd typos now and agggain, right? It's a personal choice for you, but I've left it on to easily alert me to spelling mistakes. It has a minimal impact on overall performance, but it could pose a privacy concern to some since a lot of what you type is shipped off to a service to be checked.
The second last option "Automatically send usage statistics and crash reports to Google" helps Google make Chrome better and is again a personal choice here to have on or off. The final option is "Send a 'Do Not Track' request with your browsing traffic", which instructs Chrome to stop or limit the amount of data that is being sent to websites about you. Again, it's a personal choice here and has a minimal impact on performance.
There are dozens of other settings you can play around with in Chrome. It may be worth you spending 10 or 20 minutes looking at the Settings page and working out what you want enabled and disabled. We've covered the important items, but remember; a minimalistic approach is better for overall performance.
BONUS TIP #1: Having trouble finding a setting? At the top of the Chrome Settings page, there is a search box near the top right. Own it, use it, and love it. It's very handy indeed.
Advanced Essential Chrome Tweaking Tips is on the next page.
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