Computers are complete systems that need everything working together for things to happen quickly and efficiently. If any part of the system is slow, the rest of the system will have to wait for it to finish. This point of constriction in the processing power of a computer is often referred to as a bottleneck. If your CPU is slow, it can be the bottleneck that slows down your Internet browsing.
Steps in the Process
Internet browsing speed starts with the speed of the server hosting the site. From there the speed of the connection between that site and your Internet service provider affects things, then the speed of your Internet connection, and then the speed of your computer's network card. And all that is before the information even gets to your Web browser. When the browser takes over, it then has to render the page by looking at the Hypertext Markup Language code and computing what needs to happen. Some sites have very simple HTML and only display text; those require very little processing power. Other sites use a great deal of processing even after the site is loaded on your computer. Some types of code used on sites -- like Java, for example -- can continue to use processor and memory resources on your computer even after the page is fully loaded.
The more information that a website needs to process, the more your CPU will be used to render the site. For example, a video streaming site not only requests that your CPU render text, but also decode the video and display it. A slow CPU will struggle to display media-rich sites or to render several different pages at the same time -- if you're using a several tabs in your browser, for example.
Websites or browser elements may cause memory leaks that can eat up processor resources on your computer. Memory leaks occur when there's a bug in the code that doesn't release system memory after it's used, but instead allocates more memory to the same process. You can find memory leaks by looking at your computer's task manager -- press Ctrl+Shift+Esc in Windows -- and watching the memory number for your browser in the Processes tab. If the memory number keeps climbing there's likely a memory leak. You can close and reopen your browser to reclaim the memory, but if it keeps happening you should look at disabling add-ons or extensions that might be contributing to the leak.
Optimizing and Troubleshooting
Limit the number of tabs you have open at one time to speed up your browsing experience. Keep your browser, extensions and plugins up to date. Close and re-open your browser occasionally. Look for extensions or plugins that you may not use and disable or uninstall them. Check to see if one site is causing slowdowns on your system; if possible, find an alternative to that website. A slow CPU doesn't mean you can't surf the Internet, but it does have a significant effect on your browsing experience.
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