IE 8 Slowed by Third-Party Software, Microsoft Says

Microsoft admitted on Monday that some users of Internet Explorer 8 may perceive its newest Web browser as sluggish.

The slowness can be a real problem, rather than a perceived one. Microsoft ascribes such problems to browser add-ons, pluggable transfer protocols and non-Microsoft security software, according to an Internet Explorer blog. The culprits are third-party software that bog down IE 8's performance, Microsoft contends, not the browser itself.

For those experiencing slowness, Microsoft suggests running its Process Monitor tool to isolate the problems.

"Process Monitor allows you to view all registry, filesystem, and process activity on your computer, and includes a powerful set of filtering features to enable you to narrow down your view to just one process," the blog explains.

Users can filter out the processes that slow the browser and then save the list of acceptable processes. Add-ons can be disabled using Internet Explorer's "Manage Add-Ons" command under the Tools menu. The most troublesome add-ons typically are toolbars and browser helper objects, which will run with each new tab opened in the browser, according to the blog.

Skype, the software used for Internet telephony, gets singled out by Microsoft as one of those add-ons that will slow the browser. The IE team doesn't provide a resolution for the Skype add-on problem, but describes how to manage add-ons here.

Pluggable transfer protocols, which are typically installed by download managers, can also affect the browser's performance. However, no advice was given on how to deal with them. An example of a pluggable transfer protocol is "offline frameworks like Google Gears," according to the blog.

Security software can slow IE 8, but Microsoft offered no practical tips for remedying this situation. For instance, some security software (but not Microsoft's) will scan content flowing through Internet Explorer, causing poor performance. In addition, security software can strip out an HTTP header that tells servers to send back compressed content. Security software can also clog the restricted zones list in Internet Explorer, bogging down the browser.

"The Zones system was not designed to accommodate thousands of manually specified sites and performance will suffer when Zones are configured in this way," the blog explains.

Performance can also be hampered when an automatic proxy detection mechanism in Internet Explorer implements the Web Proxy Autodiscovery Protocol (WPAD). Users can disable this protocol in Internet Explorer, but Microsoft doesn't recommend it for corporate users.

Despite all of that, Microsoft still claims that IE 8 is the fastest Web browser. The company described its methodology for making that claim in a white paper published back in March. The measurements made by Microsoft's research team often depended on spotting visual cues to determine browser loading times, rather than other measures.

Overall, Internet Explorer's market share appears to be declining. In the U.S. market in March, Internet Explorer had a 70 percent market share. However, that share declined to 57 percent in July, according to StatCounter.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is online news editor for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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Reader Comments:

Wed, Sep 9, 2009 Site Tool

I was just thinking about IE 8 Slowed by Third-Party Software, Microsoft Says and you've really helped out. Thanks!

Wed, Jul 22, 2009 Shannon VanWagner Seattle, WA

The problem with Internet Explorer is that it's closed source. So even though 3rd parties do create plugins for it, their work is not as likely to be available and usable in the future because no open source element is there to preserve it. Enter Firefox. Firefox is hot, fast, open source, constantly being made better, works on Win/Linux/Mac/Others, and has a universe of FREE and quality plugins for you to use for all time. Firefox is maintained and made better by a spirited community of volunteers and sponsors who aim to enable humans with the greatest technology possible (as opposed to trying to tie people to one operating system). While you're at it, why not apply and use the same sort of open source ideas with your operating system? You can.. it's called Linux (or GNU/Linux or Ubuntu or Fedora). You can have a universe of legally FREE software at your fingertips, no windows genuine "disadvantage", no restriction, and pure freedom - no license key required. Learn more at these links: FREE YOURSELF, Use GNU/LINUX! | | | | | | |

Wed, Jul 22, 2009 Pete

I use IE8, on Vista, on three year old hardware, with a small set of 3rd-party add-ons -- Java, Flash, Google toolbar and Skype. IE is very slow to open if Skype is enabled, and quite snappy without it.

Wed, Jul 22, 2009

WiThings are different with Windows 7. Firefox crashes at least once a day and doesn't recover gracefully. Talk about memory usage. It uses about 50% of my core2 processor most of the time. I have used both Firefox 3.11 and 3.51 with the same results. I have been a loyal Firefox user for years, but I have switched to IE8 until Firefox can get it's act together.

Wed, Jul 22, 2009 Tim

There are much more tools, for example

Wed, Jul 22, 2009 Brian Bartlett Fresno, CA

I have my system monitored to a fare-the-well and while IE8 is very slow, both the working set and private working sets memory load is one third or less than Firefox. Extensions/Add-Ons play some role here in both, but IE bloats less. More experimentation is definitely required. And no, I don't do Skype.

Wed, Jul 22, 2009 sasi

At last, Microsoft admits something. I found this problem long time back. The only solution i found was I need to format and install everything. When i add third party add-ons, it goes "connecting..." for new window and tabs as well and need to wait a few seconds before they open. You can see my review on this problem at DOT e-8-problems.html

Tue, Jul 21, 2009 Randy Canada

In my experience, IE8 is incredibly slow, as compared to IE7, AND a memory hog too. Microsoft cannot push the blame onto third-party developers. It's not as if IE8 was developed in a vacuum. Rather than take common third-party software into account, their design simply ignored real-world use of the product, and this is the ever-predictable result. I will say that at least it doesn't crash as much, and does recover well. But it would be nice if they could just make it work.

Tue, Jul 21, 2009 Ashok Chennai

Looks useful

Tue, Jul 21, 2009 Bob Wells Atlanta, GA

My experience: IE8 + Vista SP2 is not only slow, but a memory hog, resulting in a very dissatisfying and frustrating user experience. Whereas Firefox 3.5 + Vista SP2 is quite responsive, uses less than half the memory IE8 uses, resulting in a very satisfying and pleasant user experience.

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