Slow IE8 tab load times? Check your add-ins…

Internet Explorer 8 has a nifty feature that allows you to track the load times for installed browser add-ins. It’s a useful troubleshooting tool when trying to figure out why new tabs take too long to load.

Today, I fired up an IE8 window in a virtual machine running Windows 7 Enterprise and was puzzled by how long it took for a new IE8 tab to load. We’re talking five seconds or more (sometimes much more) with the word "Connecting" appearing in the tab title and the browser essentially locked up.

What the hell was going on? First thing I noticed was a Google toolbar. I don’t remember installing it, although this machine is specifically for dogfooding software that I don’t trust to run on my regular PC, so I suppose I might have done it deliberately, or it might have piggybacked on when I installed something else (*cough*, Adobe Flash, *cough*). Anyway, when I disabled the Google Toolbar, page loads returned to times measured in fractions of a second, which is fine with me. I don’t care whether a tab loads in .32 sec or .73 sec, to be honest.

That inspired me to take a look at what other add-ons were loading. Click Tools, Manage Add-ons to open the dialog box shown here. Yikes! That total is about 10 seconds just for the first four items on the list.


The good news is that those numbers don’t represent everyday performance. Presumably they represent worst-case performance. Just to be on the safe side, though, I disabled everything using the IE8 Reset button, uninstalled Google Toolbar, and then started restoring add-ons one at a time. Minus the Google Toolbar, everything is just fine. New tabs load in roughly 0.6 sec (I say roughly because I can’t click the stopwatch buttons fast enough to be more precise than that).

And given that I never use the Google Toolbar, I won’t be reinstalling it—unless it’s by accident, when it comes along for the ride with something else.

8 thoughts on “Slow IE8 tab load times? Check your add-ins…

  1. Ed have you ever considered doing a piece on the rise of these “toolbars”? I’ve noticed a ton of software, previously free of toolbars, now all seem to include them. This kind of junk seems to drag down the experience for everyone involved. Does Microsoft ever think about removing support for toolbars from IE? I know they are big on giving devs the option to make cool stuff, but they seem to be doing more harm than good these days.

  2. What an amazing turnaround! I too am careful with what I accept/load, but my IE8 was overloaded it turns out, most now disabled and zippo speed! Thanks.

  3. One thing I’ve always wondered about these add-ons. I am given the option to “disable” them, but not to “remove” them. How do I actually remove them, so the code is no longer present on my machine?

  4. More control seems to be coming for I.E., but I’d like to see even more. How about a “NO TOOLBARS” option? Or even a “NO ADDIN” option to disallow any and all add-ins from ever appearing?

    I.E. is so heavily burdened by every software maker and his dog that it’s scary. Why do I need 5 add-ins to I.E. just to install a printer!!! (Yes HP! I’m talking to YOU!)

  5. Scott, you already have a no-addons option. It’s been there for years.

    Iexplore -extoff

    It’s even in the Programs menu for Vista and Windows 7 with a shortcut called Internet Explorer (No Add-ons)!

  6. Ian, the only way to remove an add-on is by using the uninstaller it came with. Virtually all legit add-ons are in Control Panel/Programs.

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