Work Around Browser Crashes and Lock-Ups

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Reader Charles decided to be adventurous and try Firefox. He likes it, he says, save for one problem: "It crashes almost every time I use it and sometimes several times a session. I still prefer it over other programs but it sure is annoying. If I have any serious work to do, I go back to Internet Explorer."

Good call, Charles. I can't tell you how many times I've had to counsel users on this very problem. Usually it starts like this: "My browser keeps crashing, I think I have a virus."

Believe it or not, viruses aren't always to blame for browser problems. If your browser gets hijacked, meaning it goes to sites you don't want it to go to or seems impossible to control properly, that's indicative of some kind of malware infection.

But everyday crashes? That's more likely the result of bad code, either on the sites you're visiting or in one or more extensions you've installed (particularly in Firefox).

Stuff like this can be difficult to troubleshoot. So my first piece of advice to users in your boat is exactly what you've already done: try a different browser. If IE's giving you trouble, try Firefox. If Firefox doesn't work properly, try Google Chrome. (Heck, throw Opera and Safari into the mix. Any "different browser" will do.) The idea is to pin down the problem: is it browser-specific, or something affecting your entire system?

You're already halfway there, Charles. If IE works properly with sites that crash in Firefox, then some plug-in or extension in the latter is almost certainly to blame. Your only real option is to uninstall Firefox (preferably with a tool like Advanced Uninstaller, which should wipe all traces of it), reboot, and then reinstall it.

Then, before adding any plug-ins or extensions, see if the crashes continue. If not, install the add-ons you want--but only one at a time, and perhaps a few days apart.

I know all this is a hassle, but unless you're willing to abandon your buggy browser entirely, it's your best bet.

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