Firefox 184.108.40.206 makes computer freeze or hang?Friday, July 06, 2007
The quickieIf your computer's not responding or locks up from time to time when your Firefox browser is open, but works fine after you've closed Firefox, a possible tip is to consider reverting to an older version of Firefox (older than 220.127.116.11), as Firefox 18.104.22.168 seems to be behind some weird computer freezing problems lately. However you need to weigh up whether that's worth the security risks of having an outdated version - personally I felt it was, for me; but in relation to your own system the decision is entirely yours.
UPDATE: this fix was only temporary, it started freezing again after a few weeks. However, I have since found a fix that works longer term - creating a new Firefox profile.
The long and slowThese last 2 or 3 weeks, my computer has been freezing every few seconds. I could move the mouse, I could even click, but nothing would happen when I clicked a link or the taskbar or quicklaunch toolbar etc, and as for trying to use the keyboard e.g. Alt-Tab, zilch, nada, no response whatsoever. Occasionally I got the telltale couple of complaining beeps from the computer that meant "Something's too much for me to handle, gimme a chance, I'm only a poor lil machine!" My computer's fan would also whirr and churn madly for seconds at a time or longer during the freezes; I suspect the hard drive was thrashing and flailing like mad too, but I couldn't hear it over the fan.
As it happened, I found that the computer locking up from time to time was down to two unrelated issues: WinPatrol, and Firefox. I saw from Scoble that Mac users were having trouble with Fox at about the same time I'd been having problems with it, too - I commented there myself to vent a little and to point out that XP users are having trouble with Firefox too. Seems to me it can't be a coincidence, I've heard other people are also having difficulties with Firefox.
Here's my story of the troubleshooting detective work I had to do to figure out what was causing the lockups, in the hope that it may help someone else with similar issues.
WinPatrolI'd recently decided to give the free anti-malware software WinPatrol another try. Bad mistake - my system clearly doesn't get on well with it. By dint of downloading the free FileMon, opening it and watching while my apps did their stuff, I pinpointed which processes were accesssing or writing to files a lot. They were mostly anti-spyware software like WinPatrol.
With good ol' fashioned Ctrl Alt Delete to get at the task manager, I then killed the processes I'd identified, one by one, and saw what happened after each one. I noticed that when I stopped WinPatrol the computer stopped freezing.
So, I uninstalled WinPatrol, and all was fine and dandy for all of a few days. Then, my computer started inexplicably hanging from time to time again. The freezes became more and more frequent and each lasted for seconds at a time, even half a minute or more. As you can imagine, it drove me nuts, and I couldn't even write a blog post properly (even though I've been too busy to do much on the blog lately) as I absolutely rely on the Greasemonkey extension and various userscripts for Blogger like the keep current time on drafts, large post editor, template enlarger, font prettifier and Technorati tags tagger.
It was a mystery. According to the task manager Processes tab, the biggest user of CPU was the oh so helpful (not) "System Idle Process". Looking at memory usage didn't shed any further light on anything either. Nor did trying to use FileMon or the equally valuable and free Process Explorer. (I'm sure many others would have been able to get to the bottom of the problem from all those diagnostic tools, but I couldn't.)
But I did know that since I upgraded to Firefox 22.214.171.124 it had been hogging memory, using ridiculous amounts like 400 MB, and needing restarts to stop that, whereupon it would just start eating up memory all over again. Plus I'd started getting the "unresponsive script" warning as standard whenever I launched Firefox.
So, I had my suspicions about Fox, but I started experimenting with just having a few apps open at a time, or even just one or two, and seeing what happened.
Firefox = the bad guy!I noticed that the freezes only happened when Firefox was open - in fact the Firefox freezes were what I noticed first. More accurately, if Firefox was left open on a blank page, everything was fine. But if I tried to go to any Webpage (or just leave a Webpage open) in Firefox, everything would start hanging again. And not just Firefox hangs - my entire computer froze as well. I couldn't use any of the other apps I had open, etc, until it unfroze. If I shut down Firefox, everything would still keep freezing on and off for a little while after, but give it a few minutes and all would be working smoothly again.
I had no similar problem with Internet Explorer or Opera, even with the same Webpages. So now I knew the bad guy was Firefox. Or something on my system which didn't like Firefox.
Because of the unresponsive script issue, I also tried increasing dom.max_script_run_time but that didn't stop the unresponsive script warnings, on my system anyway, and didn't affect the freezes either, so I changed it back to the default 5.
Then I tried disabling my beloved Firefox extensions (aka add-ons), in groups at a time, then restarting Firefox, seeing if it was still freezing, disabling more extensions, seeing how it behaved after that, etc, until I was left with none at all. And guess what? Everything was still freezing every few seconds - if Firefox was open on a webpage. Shut Firefox down, or give it just a blank page to look at or nothing at all, and everything else would start behaving again after a couple of minutes.
At that point I wailed a lot and went and had some comfort ice cream. I was very controlled, I didn't throw anything, and I still have some hair left too.
Finally, I tried some more Google searches for Firefox problems, and I noticed that people were saying that the version I had, 126.96.36.199, was known for its problems including the memory issues.
So I went and downloaded an older version of Firefox - 188.8.131.52, and simply installed it (it installed neatly over 184.108.40.206 and didn't affect my add-ons, history, or bookmarks etc even though I was effectively downgrading).
And how was it for me?Voila, my computer no longer keeps hanging or freezing. I can have loads of tabs open on Fox at once, and it still doesn't take up as much memory as 220.127.116.11 did. Everything is humming along quietly, as good as gold. I should point out I've not tried 18.104.22.168, I just decided to rewind beyond more than one step - 22.214.171.124 ain't broke as far as freezes are concerned and that's good enough for me, I've wasted enough time on all this, I don't intend to spend any more trying to test out 126.96.36.199!
I still don't know if it's something to do with Firefox itself, or if an update to one of my anti-spyware/anti-adware programs has taken a dislike to Firefox. (I had previously tried disabling Microsoft Windows Defender as I recall it had downloaded some updates recently and, call me a cynic, it seemed the most likely of my anti-malware programmes to have been set up to be anti-Firefox, but that didn't seem to do the trick.) It seems to me that something has to have changed with some commonly-used software recently, whether Firefox or something else, for so many people to all suddenly have this issue at around the same time.
So, I'm still stumped. It's a shame as I love Firefox and think it's the best all-round browser, even though Opera is faster (). I plan to keep using Firefox as my main browser. But I'm sticking with version 188.8.131.52 for now - it's such a relief to be able to use my favourite browser properly again and not kill the rest of my system while I'm at it. I know there are all sorts of reasons why your computer can stop responding but if you think your Firefox is misbehaving too, and causing system hangs or system freezes, whether you're on XP or a Mac or Linux, please post a comment, I'd be interested to know how widespread the problem is. And if reverting to an older version of Fox sorted it for you too (bearing in mind the warning about security issues so do that at your own risk), do let me know.
And if anyone figures out why Firefox 184.108.40.206 is generally causing problems for so many people on different systems, and even better how to fix it, please please tell me!