Are your IE WebDriver tests running slow? Maybe it’s the screenshots

My current job involves running a suite of automated acceptance and accessibility tests automatically across four browsers (IE8, IE9, Firefox & Chrome) on every check in. These are run automatically using a ThoughtWorks Go pipeline which is run on a freshly deployed integrated QA environment immediately after all unit, integration and JavaScript automated tests pass.

Whilst I set up five agents to run these tests in parallel across the different browsers, the build was as slow as its slowest member (much like a buffalo heard) which happened to be IE8 (followed closely by IE9).

Test Agents

Initially the execution times looked something like this:

  • Chrome ~50 secs
  • Firefox ~1m 10 secs
  • IE9 ~4 m 30 secs
  • IE8 ~5 mins


I was wondering why on earth it was taking so long, when Simon Stewart pointed out how screenshots work in the IE Driver. I set up the tests to take a screenshot at the end of each scenario, which meant each browser was taking about 18 screenshots per test run.

I didn’t know but the IE Driver maximizes then restores the IE window every time it takes a screenshot, and it also parses the entire DOM to take a screenshot. This is why it was taking so long to execute the tests.

I removed the screenshots from the IE runs and was able to reduce both IE8 and IE9 to just over 2 minutes execution time. Not the best, after all it’s over twice as slow as Chrome, but better than 5 minutes previously!

In the future, I’ll avoid taking any screenshots using IE Driver wherever possible.

6 thoughts on “Are your IE WebDriver tests running slow? Maybe it’s the screenshots

  1. “Parses the entire DOM to take a screenshot”? Jeepers. Yet another good reason to just screenshot the whole desktop rather than relying on browser-specific stuff. I know it doesn’t get the whole page, but it does get all kinds of other goings-on. Once I had a test that was latching onto a modal dialog that had popped up from the antivirus software installed on the VM. If we’d just captured the page within the browser window we wouldn’t have caught it.


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