How to Research Firefox Crashes

If you’ve been having trouble with Firefox crashing lately, this might help …

Firefox Nightly has been crashing on me for the past three days. The browser starts up fine, but it crashes after about a minute has passed even if I don’t do anything. One thing that is strange and noticeable is that Firefox nightly spawns two windows, one blank without title or any other information, and the the main browser window. Clues are scarce usually when the browser crashes. While you may link it to your previous action, it is often not as easy as that. The following guide provides you with the means to analyze crashes in Firefox.

Note: Analyzing does not necessarily mean that you will be able to correct the issue on your end. It can very well be that it is a issue that can only be fixed through code changes and updates.

While you may be interested to know why the browser crashed to avoid this in the future, you often have to correct issues caused by the crash.

It is fairly common for instance that crashes take the session away from you so that it cannot be restored automatically on the next browser start. Not a problem for users who start with the homepage but users who restore sessions with dozens of even more open tabs may panic for a moment thinking that all those tabs are lost for good (hint: they are not, it is possible to restore sessions).

How to research Firefox crashes

firefox-crash

Check out this Firefox crash guide for tips on how to resolve the crashes. The following paragraphs concentrate on finding out more about the crash issue.

The first thing you need to do is load about:crashes in Firefox. There are a few caveats that you need to be aware of. First, if Firefox crashes on start, then you won’t be able to access the page. You can try and run a different copy of Firefox, say Stable instead of Beta using the same profile to access the crash reports in that case.

Second, you need to have crash reporting enabled for this to work. Load about:preferences#advanced, and make sure that the Crash Reporter is enabled.

Note: It should be obvious that data is sent to Mozilla whenever crashes occur when the feature is enabled. If you don’t want that, don’t enable the feature.

firefox crash reporter

The about:crashes page lists all crashes, even those that were not submitted to Mozilla. Crash reports are sorted chronologically from newest to oldest in the interface-

Each crash has a unique ID associated with it on top of that.

about crashes

Starting the analysis

Click on one of the crashes, the latest for instance, to start your analysis. If the Crash Reporter has been enabled, information about the crash is displayed on Mozilla’s Crash Stats site.

crash reason firefox

The page lists plenty of technical information that are of no use to users trying to figure out why their browser has crashed.

There is a crash signature at the top however that may reveal the crash reason. In my particular case, the crash seems to have been caused by HTMLMediaElement::NotifyAudioPlaybackChanged.

This signature alone may reveal to you why Firefox may have crashed and may provide you with an idea on how to fix the issue.

When you browse the page, you find additional information of interest. There is a list of related bugs on the page, if they exist. This can be useful as it may point you to a bug report that has been filed already so that you know that Mozilla is working on fixing the crash.

Sometimes, there is little that you can do if you cannot link the crash signature or information displayed on the page to your particular issue.

You may file a bug in that case to inform Mozilla about the issue. While you can do so from the crash stats page, you need a Bugzilla@Mozilla account to actually file it.

More research

Still, there is more that you can do on Mozilla Crash Reports.

You find a “more reports” listing next to the signature field, and a search option. While search is often not that helpful, as it runs a search on Mozilla Support, more reports reveals additional information that you may find useful.

more reports

A click on the more reports links opens a tabbed interface that offers lots of information. It begins with a summary page that reveals if other Firefox users have reported the same crash to Mozilla.

The same page lists information about the architecture, graphics adapter and other hardware information of systems that reported the same crash signature.

firefox crashes

Other tabs of interest on that page are:

  1. Reports — this tab lists all reports, yours and that of other Firefox users who reported the issue.
  2. Bugzilla — reveals if a bug has been filed already on Bugzilla. You cannot file a bug from that tab unfortunately, but need to go back to the crash page where you can do that.
  3. Comments — lists comments that Firefox users added to crash reports.

Closing Words

Browser crashes that cannot be linked to a particular action are difficult to analyze. Mozilla’s Crash Reporter and crash reports it generates may point you in the right direction.

Even if they don’t, you may still check if other Firefox users are experiencing the same issue, and report the bug to Mozilla to inform the organization about it.

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