With each new release of Firefox by Mozilla, we see better performance, stability and security. But, despite all these improvements, Firefox is still resolutely a 32-bit browser. Yes, Mozilla is still working on Firefox 64-bit, but for some reason, they haven’t officially released any 64-bit builds for Firefox. If you can’t wait, you can grab a nightly build of the 64-bit available for Windows and Linux from Mozilla servers.
Many people will hesitate to use a nightly build for regular use. For those who wants stability and don’t want to try a risky nightly build, Waterfox might be an answer. Waterfox is an actual Firefox version, optimized for 64-bit systems and aims to fill the void. The release cycle of Waterfox is in sync with Firefox’s official release cycle. With last week’s Firefox 9 release, the Waterfox project developers released version 9.0 of its own software. Convincing enough to try? We guess, it is. Let’s quickly go through the main features of Waterfox.
The developers of Waterfox have tweaked Firefox source code to work better with 64-bit processors. For the technical persons, the developers have compiled the code base with SSE, SSE2, x64 favoring and the following optimization flags: /Og /Oi /Ot /Oy /Ob2 /Gs /GF /Gy. It’s built especially keeping Windows x64 system in mind, that means, you are effectively running the browser in its full potential complete with all the performance improvements.
All Firefox add-ons are supported by the browser. You can also use all the major plugins such as Adobe Flash, Sun Java, Microsoft Silverlight, since they all have supported 64-bit binaries available. One more feature to rejoice off is, you don’t have to do anything to migrate your existing Firefox profile. Since, Waterfox uses the same profile that your existing Firefox installation does. This convenient feature has one risk factor too. If you uninstall Waterfox and by mistake select the remove personal data check box, your Firefox profile will also get deleted. So, keep in mind not to select that check box.
According to the developers, “for some people with older systems, the 64-bit version loads quicker and is much more responsive than the 32-bit build. For people with newer systems, it allows them to use the full potential of their systems.” So, if you are having a 64-bit system running Windows 7/Vista x64, you should definitely try Waterfox. In fact, we have seen in benchmarks, the 64-bit variant of Firefox out-performing the 32-bit variant.
There’s one major requirement before you install Waterfox on your computer. The browser requires Visual C++ 2010 Redistributable Package (x64) installed, otherwise you’ll get an error message involving msvcr100.dll. To fully enjoy Waterfox, you also need to install dedicated 64-bit builds of Flash, Silverlight and Java. You can find the download links to all of them at the Waterfox download page. The download page also links to dictionaries and languages packs. The main software is available only in US English only, so if you are looking for localizations, you will need them.