64-bit Browsers – A Need For Speed


Disillusionment – 64-Bit Operating Systems

windows_32 bit vs 64 bit

I was one of the first to jump onto the 64-bit bandwagon. I got myself a 64-bit motherboard, a 64-bit processor and a 64-bit operating system. I was on a roll. I was also giddy with the anticipation of installing all that 64-bit software that would actually use the 16 gigabytes of RAM I was about to install.

What I didn’t realize is that the rest of the world was still using 32-bit computers, therefore, software developers were not under any pressure to publish 64-bit software. This made 64-bit software hard to find. What a bummer.

That was a while back. Now, to the present…

64-bit software is now becoming more common. In fact, most major pieces of software come in both 32-bit and 64-bit “flavors”. There is one area that is still lagging, though. Browsers.

Internet Explorer comes in both flavors. I think Google’s Chrome does, too. Mozilla, the publisher of Firefox, was working on a 64-bit version but I’ve heard they quit development in that direction. I’ve also heard they have resumed work on a Firefox 64-bit browser.  It’s anybody’s guess at this point.


I use Firefox as my main browser. For that reason and obviously, with far too much time on my hands, I decided to try out a few 64-bit Firefox alternatives. The reason I stick with Firefox is the add-ons, or extensions, if you will. I’ve gotten so used to them that it’s nearly impossible for me to use another browser.

Color me spoiled…

Firefox 64-bit Alternatives

There are several 64-bit alternatives floating around out there on the Internet. Here are the ones I tried this weekend:

  • Cyberfox
  • Waterfox
  • Palemoon

My Milk-Toast Tests (as opposed to Acid Tests)

To be clear, my “tests” are purely subjective. There were no benchmarks performed so there are no numbers or fancy graphs to show you. No side-by-side comparisons. No nothing. Only my personal sense, my gut feeling of how it went at the time.

I used each one for a day and surfed the Internet as is normal for me. After using all three, here’s what I came up with…


PaleMoon

palemoon-imagePaleMoon used to be a great choice. The 32-bit version may still be, but the 64-bit version is so out-dated that I’m wondering if the author has gotten bored. In any case, I uninstalled that one after a single day.

Besides, I didn’t “feel” any improvement and there was always that nagging sense that since it wasn’t an up-to-date version, there might be some security risks in play.

Also, in order to migrate all your FireFox bookmarks and add-ons into PaleMoon, another small utility must be downloaded to accomplish that.

I scratched this one.

CyberFox

cyberfox-imageI can’t say much about CyberFox. The claims are that it is a light-weight version of Firefox and that’s what makes it so much faster. Well, I don’t see it.

Yes, it did load a lot faster, but after that, it didn’t seem to live up to its speed-demon reputation.

As with PaleMoon, there is also the additional task of downloading a profile migration tool if you want all your current FireFox bookmarks and add-ons. That is, if you don’t want to start from scratch.

So much for that one, too.

WaterFox

waterfox-imageNow, this is what I’m talkin’ about.

I immediately noticed a big bump in page load speeds. Very fast indeed. I think WaterFox is a keeper.

There are some important caveats to consider if you decide to uninstall WaterFox.

WaterFox, by design, uses your FireFox profiles. This should be pretty obvious since you didn’t have to install any add-ons, or update all your bookmarks. This is a double-edged sword.

It’s not only convenient but is also a treacherous situation if you decide to uninstall WaterFox.

If you uninstall WaterFox, and miss the tiny check box that says something about “deleting the data files”, so too will your Firefox profiles  be deleted!

A nightmare for those of us that have many hundreds of bookmarks and happen to love all our add-ons. Sure, you can re-install the add-ons, but the bookmarks? Forget it. You’d better have them backed up.

Update: For the purposes of this article I uninstalled WaterFox so I could show you the nasty little check box. It never presented itself and my FireFox installation remains intact. Perhaps they’ve fixed this terrible issue since I last tried it?

Now, I Have a Question For You

Here’s the  scenario:

In my 32-bit Firefox settings, I have the disk cache  disabled

I have the memory cache set to 32,768 KB (32 meg)

In 64-bit Waterfox, I have the memory cache set to 65,536 KB (64 meg). However…

When I check the WaterFox Memory Cache, it looks like this:

cache-statistics-image

Why would the Maximum storage size still be 32MB? Why would there be a 32MB cap?

Incidentally, there is 16GB of RAM installed in this machine, so that’s not an issue.

I hope one of you kind readers can enlighten me. It’s an itch I can’t scratch. Thanks in advance…

Conclusions

I think I’ll be sticking with WaterFox for the time being. It’s definitely faster based on the strict standards imposed by the Milk-Toast Tests, and that’s good enough for me.

Some may claim that it’s merely a placebo effect– that I want it to be faster and it therefore seems faster. Well, to those nay-Sayers out there, if the placebo works, use it.

An Aside

This is a secret so don’t tell Jim. Shhhh…

I’m hoping this will be either the last post of 2014, or the first post in 2015. Just for grins and giggles.

If it is the former, then, “Happy New Year!”

If it is the latter, then, “Belated Happy New Year!”

If it is neither, then I still wish you the greatest year ever in 2015,  🙂

Richard

Posted in:
About the Author

Richard Pedersen

Richard received his first computer, a C-64, in 1982 as a gift and began dabbling in BASIC. He was hooked! His love for computing has led him from the old “XT” boxes to the more modern fare and from clunky 10MB hard drives to smooth and fast modern day SSD drives. He has run BBS services, Fido mail, and even operated his own computer repair business.

33 Comments

  1. I have never tried WaterFox but I do still use Firefox on a couple of my machines. I always copy and paste my Firefox bookmarks from the profile folder to a usb drive just in case I do have to reinstall Firefox. Happy New Year. Daniel.

    • Hi dandl,

      Yep, that’s exactly what I did, too. My stomach was all knotted up :-/ I was very careful about that.
      Losing all those bookmarks would be a painful experience.
      I have backups, but it’s much easier to do the copy/paste thing.

      I hope your new year’s festivities didn’t leave you feeling too poorly.

      Good to hear from you and I look forward to more of you in 2015,
      Richard

  2. I use a little utility called MozBackup (http://mozbackup.jasnapaka.com/) before any major changes to Firefox or Thunderbird. It has saved me in the past. I wonder if it would work with WaterFox? That way I could preserve my bookmarks before trying to do an uninstall, then uninstall any leftovers from FireFox, re-install Firefox with a new download, and restore my bookmarks and settings.
    I run Chrome 64 and notice it is usually faster than FireFox at rendering the pages. Most times my crappy ISP chokes the bandwith so both browsers drag.

    • Hi Tom,

      You’re right about the ISP throughput. No browser can beat that problem. As Dave points out in the following comment, WaterFox does seem to render the pages faster and there is an overall sense of snappiness about it.

      Regarding the backup choice, any backup is better than none. All I did before I installed WaterFox was to copy/paste the Firefox profile to a safe place. That way, if anything got jumbled, I had a copy to paste right back in place.
      Also, that profile gets backed up with everything else on the drive on a daily schedule.

      Since WaterFox uses the same profile as FireFox, I don’t see why Mozbackup would not work. Mozbackup does not have to be WaterFox-aware; as far as it knows, nothing has changed.

      Thanks for the comment,
      Richard

  3. I haven’t experienced any issues with Waterfox and all extensions appear to be working as expected. Speed (judged by the ISO certified seat-of-the-pants method) appears a tad bit faster, maybe “more responsive” is a better description.

  4. Richard, I tried out WaterFox, uninstalled PaleMoon first, and where am I so notice the speed changes? Still takes a long time to load, no faster than FireFox or PaleMoon. I’m on day 2, so maybe I’ve not found (noticed) the faster feature (and using 64bit with 4 G RAM), Mindblower!

    • Hi Mindblower,

      Did I mention the Milk Toast Test? It is purely subjective and may in no way be representative of your personal experience.

      I must point out that the whole point of moving to a 64-bit browser is to take advantage of more than 4GB of memory, which all 32-bit software is limited to.

      My suggestion? With only 4GB of RAM at your disposal, stick to 32-bit software for now. You’ll gain zero advantages by using 64-bit software. Nothing comes to mind, at least.

      Thanks for your comment and I hope this helps clear things up a bit,
      Richard

  5. One of the reasons I use Firefox is because they have great plugins. I see WaterFox only supports 64-bit plugins. From their website, “as of now those are: Adobe Flash, Oracle Java and Microsoft Silverlight.” Think I will give it a pass.

    • Hi Tom,

      Are you sure you aren’t confusing plug-ins with add-ons (extensions)?

      All my Firefox add-ons work with WaterFox.

      The plug-ins you mention are all 32/64-bit and work with both “flavors”.

      Incidentally, if you don’t need Java, ditch it! It’s a huge security hole. I haven’t had Java installed for well over a year and there were only a couple sites I’ve tried to use that required it.

      Hope this clears things up for you,
      Richard

  6. Hi Richard,

    Another useful article.  I too, used Firefox and Pale Moon until I read your piece and installed Waterfox.
    Two days in and I find it noticeably faster (I would say “snappier”) than Pale Moon, which was just slightly faster than Firefox.
    I will give it a week or three before uninstalling one of the three.
    There are too many browser variants for a mere mortal to try, so thanks.  This is a great find!

    P.S. I too highly recommend “MozBackup”. More info. at: http://mozbackup.jasnapaka.com/

    • Hi jayesstee,

      Glad you liked the post!

      It’s fun to experiment with alternatives and WaterFox is a great example. I’m still using it after about a week now and, so far, no complaints.

      Appreciate the link to MozBackup. It scanned 100% clean at VirusTotal!

      Thank you for the kind comment,
      Richard

  7. Thanks for recommending Waterfox – it seems much faster than any other browser I use and yet feels exactly the same as Firefox to use – so no learning curve. It handled all my plugins bar one obscure kitchen design tool from Ikea – even Roborform works ok (cant live without that) Will see how it goes but delighted enough so far to make it my default Browser

      • Update – because of cutting down expense I switched from Roboform to sticky password only to find that it is not supported by sticky. So for now I am back with 32 bit firefox (I tried 64bit chrome but that kept crashing) They seem very reluctant to properly invest in 64 bit

  8. I am a Palemoon Beta Tester, and we are testing the latest, uploaded today. It is not outdated, it just tries to keep the older layout, which is what keeps me around.
    Yes, Moonchild was informed about the outdated messages on websites and tries to work around those issues, but Palemoon is not abandoned.
    I’ll give Waterfox a spin, just to see how it has improved over time.

    • There others that are extreme potential. Lawlietfox, HTGuard’s Firefox, Ayakawa’s Firefox, Tete009’s Firefox, PCXFirefox, I recommend Lawlietfox since it pulls stuff from the others.

      • Hi Megaman,

        Thanks for the input and the pointers to other alternatives.

        I always liked the 32-bit version of Palemoon. My only concern was the age of the 64-bit version (25 point something?).

        I am happy to hear that Palemoon has not gone by the wayside as I deem it a solid and worthwhile effort.

        Thanks for your interest,
        Richard

        • You can simply copy-paste all of your profile from Firefox into the other profile in Palemoon, in the AppData>Roaming folder, and everything passes through, but the app does it without the hassle.

  9. Hi Megaman,

    Fair enough– but don’t you think it’s a bit misleading? How would the average Joe know that version 25 is on par with the current Firefox version?

    For clarification for our readers, I’ve included an excerpt from that Post:

    —clip—
    “Pale Moon 25 and later

    The current versioning scheme is completely independent from Firefox, and has “slowed down” considerably compared to the rapid release versioning scheme that Mozilla and Google currently use. Pale Moon has gone back to a properly feature-driven versioning scheme, meaning that the version number depends on actual changes in the browser, and not on some arbitrary calendar date.
    The high base version has been kept to not cause unnecessary confusion among users, although for the people who still think Pale Moon’s version is linked to Firefox versions, this may be slightly confusing. Alternatives to this (renaming the browser, rebooting the version number, etc.) were considered but found to be less desirable than the current way of doing things.

    So, to clarify the current scheme: the general format is {milestone}.{significant update}.{trivial/security update}

    A {milestone} is a version with a large change in code or operation of the browser. Milestones will be few and far between and only happen when major parts of the browser have changed. As an example, the graphics back-end changes for 24.6 would have been reason for a new milestone. The GUID change in version 25 is most definitely a milestone. Milestone releases will normally require things like language packs and (complete) themes to be updated.
    A {significant update} is a version with significant changes in code, added/updated features, etc. These updates can be very extensive or only updating a single feature, but in general do change the way the browser behaves or interacts with the Web. Most “normal” updates fall in this category.
    A {trivial/security} update is a version that either addresses small changes/bugfixes in the browser or is released to provide security updates only. The changes in these versions are relatively small, but if they are security updates they are important. It is recommended to always install these so-called “point releases” as soon as they are released.

    So, to be clear once again here: Pale Moon 25 is not based on Firefox 25. It’s not based on any specific version of Firefox anymore, is an individually developed fork with a hybrid of code from many different versions of Firefox 24 and beyond as well as plenty of own code, and should be seen in its own right, with its own versions, based on its own release schedule and features.” ~ Moonchild forum post
    —clip—

    In any case, Megaman, I’m glad you took the time to clear that up and I’ll feel a lot better about using it in the future.

    Thanks for providing the link, too,
    Richard

    • I completely agree with you on that one, we are causing confusion.
      As long as I cleared-up any misconceptions about Palemoon, I am glad about this article.
      Showing that the little guys exist might get them more followers.

  10. Hello everyone…

    I installed Waterfox and all my bookmarks & add-ons & plugins were added to Waterfox. The installer took care of that so that was good news. Before installing I copy/paste my bookmarks and profile just in case anything weird happens, you just never know. It’s better to be on the safe side. The truth of the matter is that if Waterfox is any faster, I didn’t notice any difference between Firefox 35.0 vs Waterfox. I did lose a few plugins which aren’t 64 bit so that is a problem. Especially my Spanish spell check dictionary which I use frequently so that might be my only issue for not using Waterfox. That’s because my primary language is Spanish (Español) and English is my second. Other than that, I would keep it even if it’s not as advertised… “The Fastest Browser”. Thanks for the review and info on Waterfox…

    George
    Puerto Rico

  11. Where are those firefox settings found? I’m using release 34 and under advanced network, it doesnt look at all like that. I have a 64 bit machine with win8.1 64 and 16 GB of Ram. The browser bogs down often and sometimes I have to end the task and restart it. Many times there is no addin running (Video player etc).

    • Hi bob farabaugh,

      If you are talking about the Firefox profile folder, than here is the default path on Windows 8.x:

      C:UsersUserNameAppDataRoamingMozillaFirefoxProfiles

      Hope this helps,
      Richard

    • Bob,
      Your Firefox browser keeps bogging down because you are using a 32 bit browser on a 64 bit system, I used to have the very same problem also until I switched to a full blown 64 bit browser. You see with a 32 bit browser it is unable to utilize the full resources of a 64 bit system. I found with Firefox the more tabs I had open the slower it would get until it bogged down or crashed, I have never had this problem with the 64 bit versions of other browsers. This is the main reason why I dumped Firefox.

      I posed the question of them releasing a 64 bit version of their browser in their forum and they replied “absolutely not”. Unless you want to use their nightly releases but I believe those builds if you use them, use them with caution as there are no guarantees with the nightly builds.

      • Hi Ed,

        Since I rarely have more than a few tabs open at any given time, I can’t speak to the slow-downs. I know of people who think nothing of having 50 or more open at a time– that blows my mind! Surely, a degradation in performance would be expected in such extreme situations.

        You’re right on the mark regarding the nightly builds. They should be treated with the same respect given to any Alpha-stage software version. “Bugs” must be expected. I certainly don’t recommend them for anything but experimentation and testing purposes.

        Thanks for the comment,
        Richard

  12. The problem with Waterfox has always been the lengthy delay in getting updated versions of the browser with security patch and updates in the 32-bit version. It was started by a one man operation who had (and probably still has) a pretty steep learning curve to go through regarding compiling the 32-bit browser into a 84-bit version. Sometimes, two or three new 32-bit updates would go by before Waterfox would catch up. That’s an unacceptable risk, in my view. For that reason, I abandoned Waterfox a couple of years ago. The only time I really saw any noticable difference in speed was when view video within the browser.

    • Hi Beachbouy,

      I have noticed a delay in Waterfox versions in the past but they seem to have picked up the pace of late. I hope the trend continues.

      Thanks for the comment,
      Richard

  13. I dloaded the Chrome 64 bit. It hasnt bogged down yet, but it is hard to find things. I’m used to Firefox menus and I have to hunt for every little thing in Chrome. I’ll stick it out for a while though.

    • Hi bob farabaugh,

      There are a few reasons I haven’t stuck with any version of Chrome. Here are a couple:

        One is that I like to keep my list of bookmarks open in a side panel. Chrome won’t let you do that. I also read a while back they have no intention of implementing this feature, either.
        The other is that I like to have my browser caches stored on a different partition than the default C (system) drive. It can be moved but requires a lot of finagling and won’t necessarily “stick” after one of their numerous updates.

      Like I said in the article, the add-ons are the reason you won’t see me stray very far from some form of Firefox.

      Maybe Chrome will end up being your ultimate choice. Good luck with that. If it is still your main browser in a month or so, I’d like to hear how it’s going for you.

      Just some thoughts,
      Richard

  14. Richard, Outstanding Article. I don’t like to say, “Goodbye” to my old girlfriends, so I keep Pale Moon and Cyberfox on my laptop with Waterfox, Light, Mozilla Ultimate and pcxFirefox. I use my Pale Moon for news and daily web surfing. The new Start.me seems to speed it up or maybe, it’s my “Gut.” It could be the dark theme that makes the Cyberfox seem futuristic to me. I use the one with the blue arrow on it. Granted, Waterfox does seem to be able to step in and pick up the slack if Pale Moon or Cyberfox crashes on my Lenovo 64-bit laptop. I think there is hope for Pale Moon and Cyberfox. The 64-bit must be more complicated than the 32-bit guys realized. For instance, I still haven’t found a reliable FREE movie or video player. It seem everyone tries to tweak their idea of Adobe Flash Player and the different 64-bit browsers just don’t “Star Trek” it the way the players are advertised. Nonetheless, my “Geek” days began with a C-64 and a TRS-80. I served as a “Zoomie” for Uncle Sam, so I played with the software and hardware and never got around to learning code. It worked for me and Uncle, in a crisis, I was “The Mechanic”, who was able to keep the pizza boxes working until a real “Uncle Sam” blessed, certified and trained “Computer Geek” arrived “On Scene.” Now, I keep my kids laptops running and remind them to “Defrag” Windows. Keep up the Good Work, Richard. Sam