Optimize Firefox For Low Traffic Volumes

Martin Brinkmann
Jul 13, 2008
Updated • Dec 2, 2012

I sometimes connect my Nokia N73 mobile phone to my Toshiba notebook to connect to the Internet and do some urgent stuff like checking and replying to mails, writing articles on my websites or doing research. I do not have a flatrate for the mobile phone which means that I had to chose between a time or volume based account. I decided to go for the volume based account which basically means that I'm charged for every Megabyte of data that I transfer in either direction.

Bandwidth is normally not a huge deal on my local computer and I do not pay that much attention to the amount of data that gets transferred which was a huge problem at first when I started using the mobile phone and notebook combination. It's an unusual situation but I managed to adapt quickly.

I went on a quest to optimize firefox for low traffic volumes meaning that everything that was not necessary to grab the information of a website had to go. Here is what I changed:

Turn off Advertisement:

That's a no brainer and I'm also doing that in my regular profile. I use Adblock Plus to disable advertisement on all websites in my mobile profile. That gets rid of banner ads which usually cost about 10 Kilobyte per ad displayed on a website.

Turn off Flash Content:

Blocking Flash content is another must. Sometimes interactive content is added to websites, a video that gets posted, some animation on the entrance page or something like that. Flash Block blocks all of those flash content.

No Script:

We also have Java, Javascript and other scripting languages that can add to the traffic volume of our connection. I disable them with No Script.

The great thing about all those add-ons described above is that you can add exceptions that do load the content. It is for instance important to add exceptions to websites that require scripts to run properly. It takes a while to fine tune everything but it is definitely worth it.

Disable Images:

That's a setting in Firefox and once again exceptions can be added. You find the check box in the Tools > Options menu under the Content tab. If you uncheck Load Images Automatically images will only be loaded on request. A huge bandwidth saver.

Disable Link Prefetching:

Link prefetching is a browser mechanism, which utilizes browser idle time to download or prefetch documents that the user might visit in the near future. Set the parameter network.prefetch-next to false in about:config to disable link prefetching.

Disable Auto Update:

Make sure that Firefox is not trying to automatically update the browser. This has the effect that Firefox is not connecting to Mozilla to find out if a new Firefox version is available and that it won't download that version automatically. Change the parameter App.update.enabled in about:config to false.

Disable Search Updates:

Firefox checks regularly for Search Plugin updates which can be disabled by setting the parameter browser. search. update in about:config to false.

Do you have any additional tips on how to reduce the traffic caused by Firefox ? Let me know about them, looking forward to reduce the traffic even further. I would also be interested in finding out if there are significant differences between the traffic volumes of Firefox, Opera and Internet Explorer.


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  1. Red Baron said on September 25, 2014 at 8:34 pm

    Even though I switched to Firefox 1-2 years ago after finding out that Opera is vaguely supported on Linux (didn’t see an update for more than a year, which for a web browser is something terrible!) I still miss the Turbo mode of Opera. The mobile version of that browser has it too and it works much better. I can only recommend it for mobile devices. Sadly the desktop version turned into crap.

  2. iampriteshdesai said on August 31, 2008 at 7:26 am

    Hi Sagar!
    Thanx! I have written about the Firefox problem and about “How to reduce internet useage at my blog.” Click on my name to see it. Plz tell me if you find it useful. Hope Martin doesn’t mind that.

  3. Sagar Patel said on August 31, 2008 at 6:46 am

    Yes, Pritesh Desai is partly correct. But he has made a mistake.
    If we disable images to load, then they don’t load at all.
    But when we download the html file, then images are downloaded! That’s why you are seeing images in downloaded file.
    I have confirmed this using my bandwidth usage checker and by opening a huge Affiliate site. My bandwidth was just a little used! :)

  4. Sal said on July 30, 2008 at 10:39 pm

    thanks mrk. I recently saw someone setup opera mini on another device and wondered if the same was available for my little Linux box. Awesome! Cant wait to try it.

    I also read someone made it available for the PSP. So cool.

  5. mrk said on July 30, 2008 at 10:47 am


    Did you tried MicroEmulator + OperaMini? I’m using it whenever I need to connect my laptop through mobile phone to the Inteternet in some rural places :) With MicroEmulator profile set to “resizable”, OperaMini is quite usable on PC (tried on Windows and Linux), runs fast, eats little of bandwidth/volume.

  6. Sal said on July 20, 2008 at 12:28 am

    How about a post like this for Opera 9?

    I use opera on an old linux laptop because it runs faster then firefox no matter what i do.

    Still loving Firefox on the desktop though :)

  7. Rob Raymond said on July 14, 2008 at 3:02 am

    I actually do this on a regular basis with a Mobile profile I created:

    – In the Run command box, type:
    firefox -profilemanager

    – Create a new account called Mobile
    – Customize the profile with the instructions posted above
    – Create a new shortcut on your Desktop:

    “C:\Program Files\Mozilla Firefox\firefox.exe” -P Mobile -no-remote

    By doing the steps above, you don’t have to constantly go back and fourth with customizing your settings.

  8. Martin said on July 13, 2008 at 10:05 pm

    I’m not sure that I can follow you. When I disable images, clear both caches and open a website no images are downloaded to the caches.

  9. iampriteshdesai said on July 13, 2008 at 9:10 pm

    There is one mistake in your article. Disabling images causes FX to only not display images. Fx downloads the images but doesnt display them. You want proof? Do this. Keep load images option on Off. Now navigate to any web page. you wont see any image. Now press ctrl+save to save the web page. Now navigate to the folder where you have saved the page. In the related folder you will find the images. A better option is to download imglikeopera which makes Fx not to download images, I use it and it works. Tell me if it works for you. Imglike opera works only on Fx 3 i have the .xpi file. Mail me if you want it. Do tell me at iampriteshdesi@gmail.com

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