Google Chrome: improve its settings

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Google Chrome is an excellent web browser. A fine alternative to Firefox, if you have no problems with the different user interface.

Installing Chrome is a good idea, if only to have a second web browser in reserve, when you encounter problems on a web page in your primary browser.

Below you'll find some tips to improve your experience with Chrome.

Contents of this page:

Chrome and Chromium: what's the difference?

1. You may ask: what's the difference between Chrome and Chromium? The answer is: they differ very little.

Both Chrome and Chromium can be installed in Linux Mint and Ubuntu. But in Ubuntu there's a catch: in Ubuntu, Chromium can only be installed as a so-called snap package, which is undesirable. This is why I discourage the use of Chromium in Ubuntu (not in Mint).

Chrome is based on Chromium: Google develops Chromium as open source, and makes it freely available to open source developers, like those of Linux. But afterwards Google does some extra things to Chromium, and then releases it as Chrome. So one might say that Chromium is the father of Chrome.

Technically the main difference between Chrome and Chromium is, that Chromium has no support by default for several copyright-protected kinds of multimedia, and Chrome does.

In real life that's no big disadvantage for Chromium, because in Linux Mint it integrates automatically with Mints default multimedia support, which is almost complete.

The tips below (with the obvious exception of number 2 and 3) are exactly the same for Chrome and Chromium.

Installing Chrome

2. Installing the Chrome web browser is easy, like we're used from Google. Simply download the installer file from the download page of Chrome.

Usually the download page of the Google website automatically recognizes the operating system that you're using, so it should offer you the right file straightaway.

Google Chrome is only available for a 64-bit operating system! Are you unsure whether your system is 64 bit or 32 bit? You can check it with the terminal command arch
When the result is : i686, then your system is 32 bit. When the result is x86_64, then your system is 64 bit.

Don't try to install it by means of the dialog window in your web browser (this often doesn't work), but just download the Chrome installer file. Then launch your file manager, navigate to the downloaded installer file (it should be in your Downloads folder) and simply double-click the installer file, as if it were a Windows installer.

This external repository poses no risk

3. When you install Chrome from the installer file that you get from Google, you automatically add the software repository of Google Chrome to your sources list. Nifty, because now you'll automatically get updates for this web browser.

Normally speaking I'm against adding external repositories, but I make an exception for Google: Google is a very large and reliable party, so that you're running no risks with this repository.

After the installation

4. When you start Chrome for the first time, it asks you a couple of questions. First the choice of search engine, and then whether Chrome should become your default web browser: that choice has already been ticked.

I advise to remove that tick: usually, you'll want to get used to Chrome before making it the default browser.

Improve Chrome's settings

5. And now the real job: improving and securing the default settings of Chrome.

Click on the settings button (three vertical dots) in the top right corner of the Chrome window. See the screenshot below (click on it to enlarge it):

a. Import bookmarks from Firefox: settings button - Bookmarks - Import Bookmarks and Settings...

b. Settings button - Settings

c. Section On startup (rather far down below):

Select Open a specific page or set of pages - click on Add a new page and type

d. Section Appearance:

Select the following:

Show Home button

Show bookmarks bar

Use system title bar and borders

e. Section Privacy and security - Cookies and site data

Clear cookies and site data when you quit Chrome: switch it ON (protect your privacy)

Send a "Do Not Track" request with your browsing traffic: switch it ON (protect your privacy)

Preload pages for faster browsing and searching: switch it OFF (prevent useless network traffic)

Some graphics cards: disable the hardware acceleration

6. A few video cards have trouble because of the hardware acceleration that's on by default in Chrome and Chromium. On most hardware, this browser feature is very useful and boosts performance.

However, when you experience graphics problems in Chrome (delay when typing text, problems with displaying video's), try if it helps when you disable it as follows:

Click on the button with three vertical dots in the top right corner - Settings - Show advanced settings...
section System: remove the tick for: Use hardware acceleration when available
Close Chrome and launch it again.

Extensions and add-ons: don't turn Chrome into a Christmas tree

7. Extensions and add-ons for Chrome, can be very useful. You can download them here. You can configure their settings like this:
Click on the settings button - Tools - Extensions

But extensions have a couple of important disadvantages, because they are basically "applications within an application":

- they make Chrome run slower, in particular when there are many;
- they can cause malfunctions, both in each other and in Chrome in general;
- they might contain malicious content. Do not trust them blindly.

So don't turn Chrome into a Christmas tree: don't stuff it with all kinds of extensions. Limit yourself to only a few extensions, that are really important to you.

Strictly speaking, extensions and add-ons pollute the clean code of your browser. It's wise to keep the level of pollution down to an absolute minimum.

Note: be especially averse to extensions that claim that they make Chrome run faster! Often they do more harm than good: for the sake of a minimal speed gain they can endanger the stability of your browser. Do not use them.

For the sake of privacy enhancement, this particular extension is advisable: Empty New Tab Page.

Run Chrome from within a secure sandbox

8. You can increase the security of Chrome greatly, when you run it from within a secure sandbox. This neat solution causes almost no loss of user-friendliness and only causes a little extra system load, while making Chrome much more secure.

You can achieve that by applying this how-to.

Want to get rid of polluted settings in Chrome or Chromium?

9. Do you have polluted settings in Chrome or Chromium (possibly because of shady add-ons), and do you wish to start anew with a clean browser? Then proceed like this (item 13).

Solve an occasional update problem caused by Chrome

10. You can solve an occasional update problem caused by Chrome, like this (item 23).

Running Chrome in incognito mode

11. You can run Chrome in full incognito mode, when you launch it with this terminal command:

google-chrome-stable --incognito

Use the "Guest mode" button, not the Profile, at its start page. Then Chrome will truly remember nothing.

If you wish to make incognito mode the default, then you can modify the Exec value of the Chrome launcher accordingly (simply by adding the handle --incognito).

Want more tips?

Do you want more tips and tweaks? There's a lot more of them on this website!

For example:

Speed up your Linux Mint!

Clean your Linux Mint safely

Avoid 10 fatal mistakes

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