How to reset Safari on the Apple Mac and restore default settings

Problems with Safari on the Apple Mac can often be fixed by deep cleaning Safari - delete caches, plug-ins, extensions so on.

When you have problems with Safari on your Apple Mac, what can you do? If the browser is not working properly then resetting it might solve your problems. A fresh start can make a big difference.

So what sort of problems might you see with Safari? It could be slow and web pages might take a long time to display, or switching tabs could be slow, and so on.

Safari might freeze and become unresponsive to the mouse or keyboard. You might need to force-quit Safari and restart it to get ot working again. That can be a pain when there are lots of tabs open and you were in the middle of doing something important.

Safari can quit unexpectedly if it comes across a serious problem. One minute you are browsing and the next you are staring at an empty desktop.

How do you fix Safari on the Mac?

Reset the browser. This can be carried out on several levels and it is worth trying the simplest techniques first, but if they do not work, there are more powerful and more advanced techniques for resetting it.

Not everything here will be needed, so work your way through the methods and stop when Safari is fixed.

Disable Safari extensions

When Safari is misbehaving, it could be due to a flaw in an extension. These add extra features to the browser and can modify the content of web pages. Although they can be useful, they can also cause problems.

Disable or uninstall extensions in Safari on the Apple Mac

  1. Go to Safari > Preferences > Extensions
  2. Clear the checkbox next to each extension to disable it and try Safari without them
  3. If it does not help, Return to Extensions, select each one and click the Uninstall button to remove them completely
  4. Close Safari and open it again

Clear Safari history

Safari stores information in various places and it can cause problems if it becomes corrupted. It is possible that clearing the browser’s history will fix the issue you are having.

Clear Safari browsing history on the Apple Mac

  1. Go to the Safari menu and select Clear History
  2. Select All History in the Clear list and click the Clear History button

This removes all website data, which could include login details for websites and services stored in cookies. Bear this in mind and make sure you know them or have stored them somewhere.

Clear Safari caches

Safari stores recently accessed information in caches where it can quickly be accessed again. However, on rare occasions caches develop faults and clearing them can fix them.

  1. Go to Safari > Preferences > Advanced
  2. Tick the box, Show Develop menu in menu bar. It should just appear, but if it doesn’t, quit Safari and open it again
  3. Click Develop > Clear Caches

That’s all you can do from within Safari and the easy fixes are over. The following fixes are more advanced and it is recommended that you have a full backup of the Mac’s disk contents.

SuperDuper! is a free utility that can clone a Mac’s internal disk to an external USB drive and is great for backups. See Use this trick to speed up your old Mac and get it running like new

Clear Safari Library files

There are two Library folders and Safari stores information in both of them. Why two? One is for global settings that apply to everyone and the other is for personal settings that affect only you.

Internet plug-ins in the Library folder on the Apple Mac

  1. Open the Go menu in Finder, hold down the Option key and click Library. That’s your personal library.
  2. Open the Internet Plug-Ins folder and delete everything in it.
  3. Open the Input Methods folder and delete everything in it.
  4. Click the Go menu and select Go to Folder.
  5. Enter /Library to open the system library.
  6. Open the Internet Plug-Ins folder and delete everything in it, except Default Browser.plugin, nslQTScriptablePlugin.xpt, Quartz Composer.webplugin, QuickTime Plugin.plugin.
  7. Open the Input Methods, InputManagers, and ScriptingAdditions folders and delete everything in them.

If the problem with Safari is now fixed, it must have been one of those files that was deleted. Deleting files moves them to the Trash and you could open the Trash, select a file and click File > Put Back. Test Safari and if it is OK, put another deleted file back.

By putting the deleted files back one by one and testing Safari, you can find the one that is causing the problem.

Clear the configuration

  1. Open the Go menu in Finder, hold down the Option key and click Library
  2. Delete the Safari folder

It seems a drastic step to delete the whole Safari folder, but if everything else has failed, you are running short of options. Alternatively, move it to the desktop. Moving it anywhere will clear lots of Safari settings and this might fix the problem.

Clear more Safari caches

Go to your Library folder again and open the Caches folder. Caches are temporary files and problems arise if they become corrupted.

Look for items that start com.apple.safari... and delete them. New ones will be created the next time you run Safari and these should be OK.

 

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