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After years of happily using Firefox, sudden, recurrent calamity

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I've been primarily a Firefox user (with Chrome as back-up) for years, with only occasional, and minor, problems. I'm automatically updated to the latest version of Firefox.

So my browser life has been good--uneventful, even serene.

Until yesterday. Then Firefox suddenly stopped responding. Once, then twice, all together about five times yesterday, it would stop responding and I'd have to close the program and restart. And the pattern has repeated itself today. Sometimes when it's not responding I can still do things like open a new tab, but not download files or play a YouTube video--in fact there's a blank space where the video should be. Sometimes I can't even close Firefox in order to restart without turning off my computer.

Let me emphasize that nothing has changed in the manner of my Firefox use to possibly trigger all this.  I'm doing exactly what I always did, nothing more. 

My first awareness came when Windows notified me that Firefox had stopped responding and wanted me to click on "close program" in the dialog box and close Firefox, which I did. Windows said they would search for a solution, and let me know. At one point Mozilla came on the screen to announce a crash, and I filled out a crash report. Each time my first awareness of a problem comes when Windows appears in a little box and announces that Firefox has stopped responding. Soon after, the lack of responsiveness will become obvious to me in a variety of ways.

One notable point: if I restart Firefox everything will be fine for a while, and then, out of the blue, the unresponsiveness will recur.

I want to know why this is happening. Since my internet browsing pattern has not changed its nature, does the fault lie with this new version of Firefox? Or is there some malware that is responsible? I should emphasize that I've been using Chrome in the meantime and it has exhibited none of the problems of Firefox.

Actually, rather than my engaging in ignorant speculation, I'll just wait for analysis by the experts in this forum.

Chosen solution

TL:DR ( 'edit comment by John99)

The problem was apparently McAfee SiteAdvisor.
Disabling Site Advisor solves the issue in this instance.

To John99 and cor-el:

Well, guys, I think a solution may very well have been obtained.

Since my last post I was busy putting my new tool to work,i.e. the fact that an abnormal rise in the Firefox CPU % was a clear, quick, early indicator of trouble brewing, trouble that would only culminate in fatal unresponsiveness many hours later, when it climbed above 25%.

One bit of history: I think this all began around Jan. 19, and following the suggestion of you experts, early on in the trouble-shooting process I opened Firefox in Safe Mode--but a) because I felt crippled without so many necessary components, and b) because it took so many hours for the unresponsiveness to develop, and c) because I found out that Safe Mode didn't disable plug-ins, and I believed (mistakenly as it turned out) the most likely culprit was one of the plug-ins--because of all that I stopped the Firefox Safe Mode trouble-shooting method prematurely, unwilling to spend so much time in the hobbling Safe Mode given how unlikely it seemed that an extension was responsible, feeling instead that I should focus elsewhere.

However, once I had this invaluable tool of the Firefox CPU %, I knew I could very quickly definitively determine whether or not one of the extensions was responsible. So I opened Firefox in Safe Mode, and spent half a day in that mode, and watched the Firefox CPU % remain very low, with not the slightest tendency to rise during that period. So I felt a strong sense that we had clearly determined that in fact one of the extensions was responsible. So I restarted Firefox in normal mode and disabled three of the six extensions I was currently using, and allowed the three least likely culprits to operate. Again I observed for half a day, and again saw the Firefox CPU % remain very low-- basically under 2 %.

Then, yesterday, I enabled two of the remaining three disabled extensions, and observed for the entire day. Again, the Firefox CPU % remained very low, under 2%, exculpating those two.

While the process of elimination would seemingly irrefutably implicate the one remaining disabled extension, I felt that, as a baby cor-el or John99, I needed to provide the conclusive proof only a re-enabling of the remaining extension (and a subsequent reappearance of a rapidly rising Firefox CPU %) could furnish.

And so, today I re-enabled the last extension, and voila! After just a few hours the Firefox CPU % had risen past 2 %, past 5 %, past 10 %, past 15 %!! Should I have waited for it to surpass 25% and result in unresponsiveness? Perhaps, but at that point I felt even Louis Pasteur would have felt I had satisfied all the requirements of a rigorous scientific experiment, and I disabled that extension. Of course, the Firefox CPU % immediately dropped to its customary level, around 1 %.

And what was the culprit?: McAfee SiteAdvisor, a free piece of software that provides me with some additional security beyond Windows Defender and MalwareBytes scans. I've used it on this computer for about a year, and never had an unresponsiveness problem because of it--I have no idea why the difficulty should have suddenly arisen.

Anyway, we've had a happy ending, and I want to thank both of you guys, cor-el and John99, for your involvement and your help in solving the mystery! To me, the most interesting and, honestly, heart-warming thing about the internet is the way people will spontaneously, without coercion, decide to use their expertise to help those like me, someone beset by an intractable problem with almost no knowledge of the intimate details of the software experiencing the problem or the proper trouble-shooting process. So a hearty THANK YOU! John99 and THANK YOU! cor-el.

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All Replies (20)

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This is the poster of the question, I have an urgent request: When this started happening Windows would appear in a box and give me the option to close Firefox, and clicking on the "close program" would in fact close Firefox. But now Windows is not appearing, and when Firefox becomes unresponsive I can't close it and restart, and its presence obstructs other programs on my computer because I can't minimize it either. I have to restart my computer.

So my urgent question is : until my overall problem is solved, how do I close Firefox when it's unresponsive without restarting my computer? (Assuming that Windows doesn't come to the rescue with its little box offering to close the program.)

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I just checked how to access the Task Manager in Windows 8, so I was able to close Firefox--so ignore my "urgent request". We just need to solve the basic problem I described in my original post.

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If you have submitted crash reports then please post the IDs of one or more recent crash reports that have a "bp-" prefix:

  • bp-xxxxxxxx-xxxx-xxxx-xxxx-xxxxxxxxxxxx

You can find the IDs of the submitted crash reports on the about:crashes page.

  • You can open the about:crashes page via the location bar, like you open a website, or open the crash reports page via "Help > Troubleshooting Information".


If you can't open Firefox, see:

You can check for problems with current Flash plugin versions and try these:

  • disable a possible RealPlayer Browser Record Plugin extension for Firefox and update the RealPlayer if installed
  • disable protected mode in the Flash plugin (Flash 11.3+ on Windows Vista and later)
  • disable hardware acceleration in the Flash plugin
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Hi cor-el, it's good to see you again!

Here's the id of my crash report:

ID: 4a44e048-5148-4299-b088-7f2b22140121

Please let me know what insights you can extract from it regarding the cause of the problem.

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That looks like a (security) problem with JavaScript, possibly the JIT (Just-In-Time) compiler.

Did you try the suggestion I posted above about issues with the Flash plugin?

Start Firefox in Safe Mode to check if one of the extensions (Firefox/Tools > Add-ons > Extensions) or if hardware acceleration is causing the problem (switch to the DEFAULT theme: Firefox/Tools > Add-ons > Appearance).

  • Do NOT click the Reset button on the Safe Mode start window.

In Firefox Safe mode these changes are effective:

  • all extensions are disabled
  • default theme is used (no persona)
  • userChrome.css and userContent.css are ignored
  • default toolbar layout is used (file: localstore-safe.rdf)
  • Javascript JIT compilers are disabled (prefs: javascript.options.*jit)
  • hardware acceleration is disabled (Options > Advanced > General)
  • plugins are not affected
  • preferences are not affected
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Now that you mention Java, just the other day I installed a Java update. So what should I do to test the possibility that something in that update is responsible? And will doing whatever you suggest to java compromise my security, because I know that hackers have been using java flaws to do mischief?

I haven't checked out the flash plug-in yet, I was waiting for your response to the crash report.

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I have having severe problems with either/or ShockwaveFlash and Java updates. I have spent literally days on this with no relief. I've been through as many fix-it threads as possible and followed all the instructions. I still get the message "A plug-in is need to display...". When I download, it says, "Download failed to install." I try a manual download, still does not work. I have a feeling Firefox searches the wrong folder.

I have created a folder in the spot that Firefox is apparently looking:


and need to past into that folder the contents of the Flash Player (Shockwave Flash) 

Where can I get the actual contents that should go into that folder?

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DavidCSchneider, I feel your pain (and my own pain, which continues unrelentingly!) but I'm not sure this thread is the place to alleviate either of our suffering because it appears that the resident scholars of Firefox have abandoned it.

cor-el wrote a couple of comments, but didn't tell me exactly how to proceed in checking whether Java was the problem, and even if he had, he didn't assure me that disabling certain elements of Java wouldn't render my computer vulnerable to the malware attacks for which Java has become notorious. 

I've been forced to pin the Task Manager to the taskbar so that when Firefox stops responding (which it continues to do many times a day) I can quickly close it, restart it in the "restore" mode and resume whatever I was doing. I'm not pleased with this interim solution but at least I can function, albeit as a hobbled and irritated Firefox user.

May I make an appeal to contributor jscher2000 who, a few weeks ago, proved indispensable in solving the YahooMail attachments problem, not just for me but for many people using YahooMail (who tried to thank ME for the solution, but I quickly pointed out that you were responsible), even though it turned out not to be a Firefox issue. jscher2000, given the prowess you demonstrated so vividly in December, may I humbly request your assistance here?

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To avoid confusion:

As far as your crash report, reports without the BP- prefix weren't submitted to the Mozilla Crash Reporting system for one reason or another. If this problem is as severe as you say there should be other reports that have been submitted. Maybe one of those reports will give us an answer about the cause for you crashes.

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To the-edmeister,

Thank you for your input pointing out that Java and Javascript are two entirely different and apparently unrelated entities, something I didn't know.

Am I correct in believing that the highly publicized malware problems in the past couple of years involved Java and not JavaScript, and so fiddling around with JavaScript to solve my problem would not be dangerous?

According to cor-el, the crash report suggested that JavaScript was involved but he didn't say what to do to investigate this possibility. Can you help here, edmeister?

As far as your comment about the crash report is concerned, I have no idea what the import of the prefix "BP" is, and why, because my report has that prefix, it might limit the significance or usefulness of that report.

Regarding your remark, "If this problem is as severe as you say there should be other reports that have been submitted. Maybe one of those reports will give us an answer about the cause for you crashes", let me say this: I fully grasp that as a moderator and top contributor you have many posts to respond to, and it's hard to be attentive to all the details of each problem. So I understand how you may be overlooking one important aspect of my problem: the issue is not so much Firefox "crashing" as "hanging"--Firefox simply stops responding to some or all commands, without crashing, perhaps because I have been so quickly employing the Task Manager to close Firefox and restart it that it doesn't have time to crash. This "hanging" has been happening at least five, perhaps as many as ten times a day for the past several days, entirely out of the blue--i.e. without my doing anything to provoke it. It HAS also crashed a few times, and on two occasions I sent crash reports. Whether the second crash report had the BP prefix or not, I have no idea, unless BP signifies that a crash report is the first one submitted for an incident, in which case the second report obviously wouldn't have it.

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Does starting Firefox in Safe Mode has any effect?

You can use one of these to start Firefox in Safe Mode:

  • On Windows, hold down the Shift key while starting Firefox with a double-click on the Firefox desktop shortcut
  • On Mac, hold down the Options key while starting Firefox
  • Help > Restart with Add-ons Disabled
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Cor-el, I think you'll be interested in these results, although the full chain of causation, going back to the onset of the problems, is not absolutely clear--at least to me.

As you suggested in your last post, I started Firefox in safe mode, although I did this only after it stopped responding twice within the first few minutes of my turning my computer on and opening Firefox in NORMAL mode today.

Then, I used Firefox for about three hours in safe mode while doing various things that I thought might provoke unresponsiveness but none did--Firefox worked perfectly, albeit hobbled by the absence of Add-ons. 

Feeling that the idea that an add-on had been responsible for the previous unresponsiveness was now thoroughly established, I surveyed all my Add-ons, selected the likeliest culprit, based on past experience, the RealDownloader 1.3.3, and disabled it while allowing all the other Add-ons to be re-enabled.

Since then, all has gone swimmingly: Firefox has been as unfailingly responsive as a well-trained Golden Retriever! And I don't have an issue with RealDownloader continuing to be disabled because some time ago I acquired another, better video downloader which I've been using instead of RealDownloader.

I'm a little puzzled as to why this unresponsiveness began when it did, but I guess it has to do with various updates that have occurred recently.

Anyway, I heartily thank you cor-el for your efforts on my behalf, and for your crucial recommendation about Safe Mode that led to this successful outcome.

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There are many embarrassing things that can occur "prematurely", but among the worst is emphatically proclaiming a problem solved only to have it recur as bad as ever. Yup, that's my predicament.

It turns out that I only got the briefest of respites from my Firefox-hanging-or-crashing-for-no-apparent-reason problem. It returned once yesterday, and then was back today--and with a VENGEANCE! Twice Firefox crashed, and many other times it stopped responding and I had to close it. I went back to the Add-ons, disabling another program, but that didn't help. I actually don't have too many Add-ons still enabled, just four: feedly, McAfee Site Advisor, freemake video downloader, and file title.

So, what now? Do we tackle the JavaScript possible issue that cor-el alluded to? What have all the crash reports showed--I sent four of them?

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I only see the ID of one crash report:

Try to disable the ionmonkey JIT compiler by setting these jit prefs to false on the about:config page (Search: jit) to see if that helps.

  • javascript.options.baselinejit.content


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Talk about calamity and I've got another one, it's a Blue Screen Of Death

netio.sys BSOD - win7 Drivers_IRQL_not_less_or_equal error

I was having my system get the BSOD with this error several times a day randomly, I've check the hardware/memory, etc. I've reinstalled the drivers and nothing fixed it.

The only common denominator of what I was doing at the time of this error was I was surfing the web. I would click on a hyperlink and poof...BSOD.

For years I've used Firefox and kept up to date with the latest releases and for the most part worked fine, but because this was the product I used to surf the web, I first removed all plugins/extentions to see if that would work...nope still kept crashing. I finally decided to switch to Chrome to see if the BSOD would continue with another product and it turns out I haven't had a issue with this problem in 3 days when before I would get my system crashing at least 4 times a day under firefox.

I am a fan of Firefox and have used it for years...but no longer will I use it under these circumstances.

Modified by music4al

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cor-el you're either a genius or a madman!! I'm hoping the former and fearing the latter, since I just followed your instructions and altered the configuration despite the frightening warning Firefox gave me not to tamper with it!!!!

Now we'll see what happens. It's been getting unresponsive or crashing so often that we should know pretty soon.

cor-el, I've filed now five crash reports, but I haven't gotten any feedback from Firefox about them, and I have no idea of the ID numbers. If there's something I can do (that you can't) to learn what those ID numbers are so I can give them to you, let me know.

Here's a little bit more info. Sometimes (perhaps every time) Firefox stops responding and Windows appears in a box and tells me to close the program, there's a very small box that appears just prior to the appearance of the larger box that says this at the top: "title (Not Res....)" and then below it says: "TypeError: oE is null".

Of course I have no idea what that means.  When, above, I wrote (Not Res...) that's all that appeared--I don't know the unfinished word beginning with Res.

One other thing cor-el: since you seem to be the only Firefox expert working on my problem, could you give me an idea of when you're here--I have to go to sleep very soon, it's extremely late, so I may have to continue this tomorrow (assuming the changes I made to Javascript don't solve this).

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cor-el, see my last post, but I have something to add. I just went to about:crashes and I saw the five most recent ones added all began with bp. I'm thinking that that might signify it's mine.

So here they are:

bp-e4ba1f86-f352-487b-bd76-864832140127 1/26/2014 11:13 PM bp-fdfc386d-e558-4e64-820d-afa4e2140126 1/26/2014 6:11 PM bp-d5259c9a-849e-454b-b52f-ae8cb2140126 1/26/2014 4:13 PM bp-b0c184cf-44f3-4dcc-ad4d-782422140123 1/22/2014 11:44 PM bp-bf2bfdb8-9ea4-448a-a4eb-1c1a42140122 1/22/2014 6:55 PM

But how can that be, there are only a few non-bp reports submitted in the past week? Only a few Firefox users are experiencing crashes out of the hundreds of millions of users? I just counted, there are only two non-bp crash reports submitted since Jan. 21st. That makes no sense!! Please explain, cor-el, or anyone else. Basically the only people on the planet experiencing Firefox crashes is me (five) and two other folks, since Jan 21? Am I in The Twilight Zone? And even if bp doesn't signify ME, how can there be only 7 crash reports since Jan 21--I know Firefox is good, but that good?

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The crash reports you see from about:crashes relate to the computer that you are using. The crash reports without bp- are unsubmitted reports, and they may submit if clicked on.

The crash reports with a Crash ID starting bp- are those that have been submitted.

Crash report information is collected and some of it displayed here

Note the counts, often thousands.

Your Crash IDs turn in to links AFTER they have been pasted into the forum for instance see

  • bp-e4ba1f86-f352-487b-bd76-864832140127

I have not read through this long thread but for troubleshooting purposes it may be good to try Firefox in Firefox's safemode and with all of your plugins disabled. See if Firefox then behaves, does not hang and does not crash. That may be a much faster approach than just disabling one addon at a time. I also wonder if this may be a case where creating and using an additional test profile could have advantages.

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john99, thank you for your response, but I must say it genuinely weirded me out and I'm someone who never uses expressions like "weirded me out". Why did I feel compelled to do so after reading your response?

Because if, as you say, about:crashes only lists Firefox crashes on MY computer, then I must have multiple personality disorder and my other personalities must have been in control during the astronomical number of crashes that are listed in about:crashes.  I just counted 46 crashes since Dec. 1, 2013, and, looking back further, I see that it supposedly has been crashing at a comparable rate through much of 2013.

In fact, john99, Firefox has almost never crashed before this past week!!

I leave it to you and the other Firefox experts to reconcile the about:crashes data and the reality that I've experienced. And make sure you take into account these critical facts: I'm the only one who uses this computer, it's actually physically inaccessible to other people, it's not a zombie worker in a botnet, and apart from having continuous real-time security, I scan it for malware every few days with multiple pieces of software, and nothing has ever been detected. My mind is genuinely boggled as I contemplate what about:crashes says is happening. The only thing I can think of is that it is defining "crash" in an idiosyncratic way: where a crash is not the abrupt shutting down of Firefox but is perhaps momentary unresponsiveness that resolves itself without even the user noticing. Is that possible?

As for your suggestion, john99, that I operate in safe mode with all add-ons disabled: I tried that first at cor-el's suggestion, and although things went fine, it was only for about three hours. In retrospect I don't think that was a long enough period for me to conclude one of the add-ons was responsible, which was my initial conclusion (and as a result I disabled the two likeliest suspects). The pattern of hanging/crashing appears random. I can go for 10 hours without a problem, or can have three severe episodes of unresponsiveness (where I'm forced to close Firefox) in an hour. That makes it difficult to correlate the hanging/crashing with anything in particular--if I go 8 hours without an episode while I have a set of things disabled does that mean one of the disabled things was responsible for the hanging/crashing, or is it just one of the randomly occurring problem-free 8 hour periods that spontaneously crop up even without any resolution of the problem and the disablings had nothing to do with it?

One question: would it make sense to return to an earlier version of Firefox?

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I am not sure what is happening on your machine or even exactly what is actioned from Flash Hangs and Crashes. Possibly you have multiple tabs and multiple FlashPlayer instances in any one session.

What I can say is that the information on your machine relates to that machine and not to other crashes on unrelated machines. You are not seeing other people's crashes listed in your about:crashes . Multiple hangs / crashes are likely to be noticeable but you may not notice each individual incident.

Returning to an earlier version of Firefox rarely helps but does put your System and data at greater risk. If the problem is for some reason with the change in JS compiler then you would need to downgrade to a version prior to that change, but IIRC there are already instructions given on disabling that anyhow.

If you have not already done so then trying to browse in safe mode with all plugins disabled for extended periods would be worth a try. That may solve the problem and so by a process of elimination / addition identify the source of the problem. Or if crashes still occur produce a more useful Crash Signature.

See also information posted in /questions/985122

Modified by John99

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