Firefox vs. Safari – processor use and overheating computer

Fan noise irritates me.  When I am only running essential programs, there is no reason for me to hear my fan.

What constitutes an essential program: a web browser.  

On my Mac, I have two major options: 1. Firefox, 2. Safari.  Due to all of the extensions and add-ons, I prefer Firefox.  

However, after months of attempting to ignore the fact, I came to the conclusion that Firefox is main reason for my “overheating” computer.  Since a web browser is an essential program, I did a simple test.

I turned on Firefox and Safari.  I opened the exact same web pages on both (3 pages/tabs per browser).  I only had one add-on running (1Password). Using iStat pro, I was able to watch which processes were using what percentage of my processor (lots of p’s in that sentence, phew).  

Firefox consistently used 5-20% more processor power than Safari.  My fans were running ~1000rpm faster with Firefox.    

I still do not like Safari but I prefer a quiet computer over Firefox.  The choice is simple — Safari is my web browser of choice from now on.

As a side note, here are some details about my web use: normal pages that are open: New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Google Reader, Pandora.  Some of these might not play nice with one or the other web browser although it is more likely they would not work well with Safari rather than Firefox since FF has a larger user base.  

I also have 4GB of Ram, so that is not the problem.

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5 thoughts on “Firefox vs. Safari – processor use and overheating computer

  1. It sounds weird but I came to the same conclusion with my Macbook Air. If I left firefox open, the mouse and touchpad would freeze up. I tried using Safari instead and left the browser open for 2 hours and had no problem waking up the screen with the mouse or the touchpad.
    It is a shame because I really miss my extensions but this thing ( the MAC Air) runs hots anyway so I have to do whatever i can to keep it cool….

    • Doras — thanks for the comments. I never experienced the freezing that you have. However, the heat really bothered me. With that said, I am going to write a new post about how I went back to Firefox. I found an extension that I just could not live without. Ill have to deal with the extra heat and fan noise.

  2. My Acer Aspire 5720 started switching off while unattended. First I thought it was a fluke, but after 3-4 times I started investigating and came to the conclusion that Firefox was overheating my Dual Core 2 processor. This was especially the case if I have a page with some Java running.

    I’ll need to check Safari, but for the time being I’ve switched to IE.

  3. I generally find Safari faster than firefox. Just to say that if you are running Parallels or VMware, your free ram rapidly decreases (Parallels uses about 3gig of my 4gig of ram) so I try not to have too many programs running when I am using parallels. This could be a reason why browsers run slow, a lot of your ram may be used by these virtual desktops.

  4. I have been a long time Firefox user, but I had the exact same problems with my new MacBook Air as Doras above. The whole system to run slow when Firefox was open. I could see that Firefox just uses all the CPU. I have switched to Safari and the problems are gone. The fan is quieter too. After trying Safari and reading the reviews, I can see that it is much faster than Firefox. Like Spector, I liked all the ad-ons Firefox has to offer. But I think that admiration was misplaced; with Safari, I have much quicker page load, and I don’t really notice the difference.

    As a side note, I think Firefox killed my Sony Viao laptop. The fan was always running unless I closed Firefox. I think it caused my Viao to overheat and fry the motherboard. I didn’t realize that my fan consistently running at full speed was a cry for help until it was too late. I have just switched my PC desktop at work to Chrome. It is way faster than Firefox; pretty much in line with what the online reviews said. However, I never seemed to have CPU problems at work even though Firefox is always open. Maybe its due to using Windows XP? I don’t know, but I am done with Firefox. Sorry to see you go foxy, we had a nice run. 😉

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