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How to Troubleshoot Mozilla Firefox Crashes

firefox-crash-embarrassing

Firefox can crash for a variety of reasons, but you can quickly fix most crashes with Firefox’s Safe Mode and Reset features. However, even these tricks won’t fix every crash.

Web browsers are complicated pieces of software that interact with lots of other software on your system – extensions and themes, plug-ins, security programs, graphics drivers, and more. Incompatibilities or out-of-date software can often cause crashes.

Use Safe Mode

Firefox has a Safe Mode that loads Firefox without loading your add-ons. To activate Safe Mode, click the Firefox menu, point to Help, and select Restart with Add-ons Disabled. You can also enter Safe Mode by holding the Shift key while starting Firefox.

Try using Safe Mode for a while if Firefox is crashing. If Safe Mode works properly, the problem is with one of your add-ons. You may want to leave Safe Mode and disable add-ons one-by-one until you identify the add-on causing the problem.

firefox-start-safe-mode[4]

Reset Firefox

Firefox stores your personal data in a profile folder. Problems can occur with your profile folder, but you do not have to waste time identifying and fixing the exact cause. Firefox’s Reset feature will create a new profile folder, migrating over your bookmarks, browser history, saved passwords, cookies, and auto-fill information.

You will lose your extensions, themes, search engines, and site-specific preferences when you reset Firefox. Extensions and themes in particular can cause crashes, so getting rid of them and starting from a clean profile can be helpful.

To reset Firefox to its default state, open the Firefox menu, point to Help, and select Troubleshooting Information.

firefox-troubleshooting-information-menu

Click the Reset Firefox button. Firefox will create a new profile for you and migrate most of your old information over. The new, clean profile should hopefully fix your crashes.

reset-firefox-button

If Firefox starts crashing again after you reinstall your favorite extensions, one of your extensions is likely causing the crashes. Try reinstalling extensions one-by-one to identify if a particular extension is causing problems.

Disable Hardware Acceleration

Firefox’s hardware acceleration feature uses your computer’s graphics card to render text and objects on web pages. This speeds up web page rendering and takes some load off your CPU. However, hardware acceleration can cause problems with some graphics drivers and graphics cards.

You can determine whether hardware acceleration is the problem by disabling it. To do so, click the Firefox button and select Options. Click the Advanced icon and uncheck the Use hardware acceleration when available checkbox.

firefox-disable-hardware-acceleration

Try using Firefox for a while after disabling this feature. If Firefox stops crashing, hardware acceleration was likely the problem. You can try installing updated graphics drivers and see if they fix the problem. If they don’t, you should leave hardware acceleration disabled on your system.

Note that you should not disable hardware acceleration if everything is working properly, as this is a useful feature.

Check for Malware

Malware can cause Firefox to crash, just as it can cause other programs to crash on your system. If Firefox is regularly crashing, scan your computer with an antivirus program like Microsoft Security Essentials. If you already have an antivirus program installed, you may want to get a second opinion from another antivirus program.

Update Software

Mozilla recommends updating the software on your system if Firefox is crashing. Here is a list of everything you should update:

  • Firefox: Click the Firefox menu, point to Help, and select About Firefox. Download and install any available updates.
  • Plug-ins: Visit the Firefox plug-in update check page. The page will scan your browser for outdated plugins. Follow the links to download and install updates for any outdated plugins.
  • Extensions and Themes: Click the Firefox button, click Add-ons, and select Extensions. Click the gear menu and select Check for Updates. Install any updated add-ons.
  • Windows: Use Windows Update to ensure Windows is up-to-date.
  • Graphics Drivers: Install updated graphics drivers to fix problems with hardware acceleration.
  • Internet Security Software: Install the latest versions of any firewalls, antivirus programs, Internet security suites, and other security applications installed on your system.

update-firefox


Hardware problems can also cause Firefox – and other software – to crash. Try checking your computer’s RAM for errors if crashes continue to occur.

Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Google+.

  • Published 01/28/13

Comments (15)

  1. toucan

    The error messages really start with “Well, this is embarrasing”, what a totally unproffessional attitude to writing software. Almost as bad as Chrome with it’s “Under the bonnet” setings page. Why not just “Settings”, or “Configuration”.

    And why no error code? Or reason for the error? You know, something that might actually help the user.

  2. NimrodPing

    @toucan There’s an article on the BBC today on that very topic – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-21196793

  3. Paul

    What happens if Firefox crashes before you even get to the browser itself? I can’t even get it to open. I keep getting a message that it has crashed and do I want to send details! I’ve uninstalled and reinstalled.

  4. cam2644

    I’ve had very few problems with Firefox over the years but there is good info here for users new and old. The Reset Firefox Button is something I’ve never had to use but seems particularly useful.

  5. jerri

    iv reinstalled every day now.

  6. Mark

    i have been a beta user for years now with very little trouble….but i keep my machine very clean and well protected with just the basic MS Security essentials and some Piriform products

  7. Seabat

    I have used FF for a couple of years and never had it to crash. Of course, I do ensure my computer, software and components are up to date on a routine basis, Avira quick scans daily and performs monthly full scans. On-demand weekly or as needed MBAM scans are performed. FF extensions AdBlock Plus, Better Privacy, FlashBlock and Ghostery are used. Defrags are performed quarterly. Clocking, re-clocking and such twiddling and tweaking are shunned. Warnings are heeded. All these and others are used. I fear little because I am protected and I am sensible. Safety is merely a series of redundancies. That’s all.

  8. Richard Steven Hack

    Or you can just realize that Firefox is a bug-ridden POS.

    I have had for literally months a bug which has caused Firefox to crash when using Google Image Search and saving pictures over a period of an hour or so. I THINK this bug MAY have been fixed in Firefox 18 – or perhaps because Google has changed Image Search – because I haven’t seen it for the last couple weeks. But I may not have been using Google Image Search that heavily recently. Plus as I say now Google has changed the interface. But it went on for like the past year. I submitted tons of crash reports but for release after release of Firefox the problem recurred.

    Yet Mozilla could spend time working to embed Facebook in the browser.

    Also, “corrupt profiles” is merely shorthand for incompetent coding. It’s the kind of nonsense Microsoft spews out when it doesn’t know what the problem is.

    Programmers who don’t identify what is happening sufficiently to produce an intelligent error message are simply lazy. Any program usually (if not always, depending on the bug) knows where it is when it blows up and should at least produce some sort of traceback to identify that spot. For the end user, this might not help, but it would help the developers fix things more quickly.

    Firefox – as well as every other browser – has become bloated and unreliable.

  9. spike

    @Paul: Hold shift while clicking the Firefox icon, and try safe mode, and resetting it.

  10. spike

    @Richard Steven Hack: If it’s so lazy of them, better to get involved yourself than rant about it; it’s open-source.

  11. Justin H

    I’ve been using Firefox for many years now, and I find it very reliable, as long as there aren’t any badly coded add ons installed, it’s fine. For me I can’t live without Firefox, with Adblock Plus, Flashgot and DownThemAll plugins

    I do have a problem with Chrome and the way it’s promoted, it’s there when you try and install Flash, if you miss one tick then it’s installed and automatically becomes your default browser, which is a very underhand tactic from Google. It’s plastered all over Google search, you get Chrome adverts during half time in Champions League soccer games which are watched by like a billion people. It’s no surprise that Chrome is the number one browser in the world because of “promotion” like that

  12. krokkenoster

    I MEAN THAT THIS TO BE IN CAPITAL LETTERS
    THERE IS A NEW SCAM THAT HAPPEN IF YOU BUY A NEW COMPUTER SOMEWAY OR OTHER THEY GET HOLD OF YOUR TELEPHONE NUMBER AND OTHER DETAILS AND THEN YOU GET THE RUBBISH THAT SAY THAT YOUR COMPUTER WILL CRASH AND GET PERMANENT DAMAGE IF YOU DO NOT BUY THE SOFTWARE THAT FOR ME IS VERY EXPENBSIVE

  13. tecn0tarded

    @ krokkenoster try wiping the film off your pop bottle rims before you type.

    the only time i had firefox crash on me was testing tune-up utilities. other than that and it’s slow and sometimes has trouble connecting i’ve never had many problems. yeah…

  14. Bruzza

    @Toucan – its also unprofessional not to use spell checker before you post. I have never had a problem originating from Firefox.

  15. Mal

    Have been using FF right from the outset of development by the Mozilla Team, when it was actually called Phoenix…

    Have experienced the rare issue along the way but nothing that wasn’t easily rectified and this includes running it initially on Win98 SE all the way through several upgrades over the years to my current Win8 Pro box.

    Happy to keep using it as long as still manages to serve my requirements….

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