Saturday, April 26, 2014

W6161X (or how to recover from Thunderbird slowness)

I was almost ready to ditch Mozilla Thunderbird recently and go reconsider some options for an alternative email client.

The primary reasons I like T-bird at home are 1) it works well for my more basic home email needs and 2) I recommend it to family and friends -- well except Dad who insists on using Outlook -- as their email client so it is “muy f├ícil” to walk them through support when they have issues.

Only for the past several months I have noticed that my T-Bird was getting slower, and slower, and slower. 

After I would open it up, and started managing the emails that were dropping into my Inbox, it would

    1. hang up while opening messages in the preview pane,
    2. hang up while dragging messages out of the inbox and into message folders in my sidebar,
    3. hang up whenever the heck I needed to do something really important when trying to compose a new message.

It kept getting slower and slower.  I use very few add-ons for Thunderbird and even disabling them and running in “safe” mode didn’t help.

Before chucking it all I decided to try one last time on the Interwebs to see if community knowledge could help. 


Contextual note:  As I post this, I am running Mozilla Thunderbird release version 24.4.0 on a Win 7 x64 system with ample system RAM and i7 core processor.  Also had previously “compacted” all my folders as part of regular maintenance and ran SpeedyFox to optimize the databases.  I recommend both as part of a regular T-Bird user routine.

After some web-searching I found the following article with tips that seemed promising based on user feedback in the comments:

It listed a number of tips but the second of these made an almost immediate difference.

layers.acceleration.disabled = true


gfx.direct2d.disabled = false

and restart Thunderbird.

To get to these settings in T-Bird 24.x.x, you need to get into a different editor than described in that post.

Go to “Tools” --> “Options” --> “Advanced” (the gear icon) --> “General” tab

…then select the “Config Editor…” button.

Click “I’ll be careful, I promise!” button.

…then (one at a time) type the preference setting shown above into the search bar line and change the preference value to as shown above after the “=” symbol.

In my case, the layers.acceleration.disabled was already set to “true” but I did change the “gfx.direct2d.disabled” value to false.

Next I downloaded and installed the “NoGlass” add-on for Thunderbird. It installs under the “appearance” section rather than the “extensions” but it went on with no issues and the visual difference with no Aero glass for T-Bird was negligible for me compared to the possible performance gain.

Finally, installed and ran the freeware utility ThunderFix as was recommended.

Yes, the utility is pretty old but it does still work just fine with the latest versions of T-bird. Be sure your T-Bird program is not running when you run the tool.

Tip: It is an “installable” program, but if you know how, you can use other tools to “unpack” the installer files and just be left with a single portable exe file to use if you would like.

After all that housecleaning Thunderbird is fast and responsive again.

One more note: after running Thunderfix, you may find your email folders are just a slow to open initially (first time accessing only) due to T-bird having to rebuild the msf files it cleans up. Once you get past that, they are back to normal.

Good luck,

Claus V.

PS: That “W6161X” is a reference I learned about this week to the federal insurance billing code for “bitten by duck” as spotted in this great legal info post. --cheers!


FF Extension Guru said...

Nice post. Haven't really noticed slowness with Thunderbird but that likely because I have had it on this machine less than a year (as long as I have had the machine) and I don't use it on the laptop all that much. However, I did notice it seemed a bit faster once I made these tweeks and installed the add-on.

Little Tiny Fish said...

Thanks for this! Truly helped me bite the duck back.

Little Tiny Fish said...

Thanks for this! My Thunderbird was slow, but this fix (particularly the clue about compacting folders) really helped to bite the duck back.