Talk:Standard diagnostic - Firefox

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Editors, please ensure any changes you make are made to Standard diagnostic - Mozilla Suite and Standard diagnostic - Thunderbird if applicable.

Should we include a step (or sub-step) for windows users to run scan disk?--Lethargy 00:12, 14 May 2006 (UTC)


July 22 2006 changes

I reverted the article to the June 6 2006 version because I thought it was a better version, for a number of reasons. I then made a couple of edits to the article to incorporate some of the changes. I didn't think that a profile backup was needed as a separate step so I added as an introductory suggestion at the top of the "Standard Diagnostic steps" section instead (I think it's a good idea to keep the step numbering the same, if possible). I didn't think that you should recommend removing the history at the top of the article, as many people depend on it and use it as a substitute for bookmarks in some cases. Better to make clearing the history a suggestion, for those who don't care about it, since, later on in the article, deleting the "history.dat" is given. I also didn't think that clearing the cookies should have been removed as a suggested step. Also, I think that the effects of the individual file deletions should not have been removed and I would leave it as part of the profile steps. I think that the profile steps should continue to suggest removal of only a few files or folders at a time, as the goal is to preserve profile settings and data as much as possible. Alice Wyman 13:10, 23 July 2006 (UTC)

....Also, something else I noticed, the July 22 2006 version removed deletion of the downloads.rdf file from step 6 (profile steps) ...why? Manually deleting the downloads.rdf file from the Firefox profile is one of the recommended fixes for Firefox crashes and Firefox hangs because, in many cases, clearing the download history from the Firefox options window doesn't work and sometimes causes a hang. Alice Wyman 13:25, 23 July 2006 (UTC)

"all contributions to MozillaZine Knowledge Base may be edited, altered, or removed by other contributors. If you don't want your writing to be edited mercilessly, then don't submit it here"
I should have read the small print. --FatJohn 22:06, 27 July 2006 (UTC)
Aw, shucks, FatJohn, If you can dish it out, you can take it! Alice Wyman 19:59, 29 July 2006 (UTC)

Making the article less complicated

I don't want to sound unhelpful, but this article is quite complicated. I suspect that few users complete the steps successfully. There needs to be a simple, three-step procedure that completely resets all defaults, including plugins. Various substeps could be filled in with links. As an example, it could go something like this (write your own, naturally, if you don't like mine):
1. Uninstall Fx and reinstall it in a new directory. Do not run it yet. (Note to kibbitzers about this note: that's so extensions don't have any chance to make any changes to program directory)
2. Backup and delete the profile directory.
3. (How do you get rid of plugins?)

There needs to be a simple, three-step procedure that completely resets all defaults, including plugins
There is. It's covered in the article intro which begins by telling people who don't want to go through the diagnostic steps (which is what this article is about!) to simply (1) do a clean uninstall/reinstall of Firefox (gets rid of browser-installed plugins by deletion of the Firefox installation directory) with (2) removal of user profile data (done by deleting the Firefox folder in the profile path) if users don't care about the profile data or have a profile backup from which to restore the data. Your point about the complexity of the diagnostic steps portion of the article is a good one, though. I was thinking about trimming down step 6 (profile data). It might be better to simply suggest creation of a new profile at the start of step 6 then offer the detailed process to fix the old profile as alternate "sub-steps". (By the way, I don't get your point about changing the Firefox install directory!) Alice Wyman 00:17, 26 July 2006 (UTC)
I thought that alternative was a little hidden. On second examination, I don't know. Misfire. I also thought the article on uninstallation and profile removal was a little vague, redundant, and complicated, but maybe that's because the subject is complicated. Oh, well, maybe I can add comments there some time if I can figure it out. The poor user should just be able to renew the browser with a few steps (the simpler the better). Maybe they'll eventually get safe mode so it works right. To answer your question, the uninstallation directions call for deletion of the program directory, and this is functionally equivalent to creating a new directory. The point is to eliminate any old code that might be hanging around.--AnotherGuest.
I changed around the "profile" steps (step 6) so that creating a new profile is done first. If the problem is fixed in a new profile, users are then given the options to either migrate settings to the new profile, or to continue on with the additional sub-steps to try and fix the original profile. Hopefully this makes it easier for more users to complete the diagnostic steps :-) Alice Wyman 23:21, 26 July 2006 (UTC)

Clearing cache, etc.

How often do you figure clearing the cache, cookies, or history help? If the problem's with a website, maybe, but with Firefox itself?--Np 18:16, 31 July 2006 (UTC)

I don't see the difference between problems with a website or with Firefox itself, from the user's point of view.. I figure, if it's an easy fix that has any chance of helping, why not try it as a first shot? Alice Wyman 22:22, 1 August 2006 (UTC)

This article has gotten crufty again

This article is probably the article most people will come to for diagnosis, and it needs to be simple and clear, or they will indeed get the impression that keeping Fx running is too hard to bother with. I still think the list of steps is too long and complicated, but for the moment I want to concentrate on the introduction.

While I agree that "most 'Firefox' problems are actually caused by buggy extensions, not Firefox itself," that statement and all that comes with it has made the introduction unwieldy. This article should be getting shorter, not longer.

The intro adds second and third layers of instructions that the user is supposed to try instead of (?), before (?), or after (?) trying all the other incomprehensible steps. While I think I agree with what is said, it doesn't fit at all with the rest of the article. Maybe it even contradicts the rest of the article. Furthermore, the discussion of which half of the extensions to keep, etc., is much too long. Most of those two paragraphs should be boiled down to one (or at most two) steps. One or two short sentences should suffice to describe a procedure that works for any combination of extensions.

Somehow this article needs to be put back together so the introduction gives only a brief overview and /or a brief introduction of concepts. And it needs to work with the rest of the article. Does someone want to have a try before I hack away? --AnotherGuest.

Yes, i agree with most of what you say, but i didn't want to dismantle the "full" diagnostic below. I also didn't have time to express myself pithily. I suggest presenting the "new" diagnostic i presented in short steps with better (bulleted) layout and perhaps linking to the exclusion procedure on a new page. In other words a new section with a heading called "Short diagnostic" or something like that.
And considering the incredible amount of time wasted by both users and helpers, this presentation of halving until one finds the culprit(s) is very important. Most helpers are also not aware of this very efficient method and instead recommend uninstalling extensions and or FF which both frustrate most normal users so much that they just don't do it. --American Finn 18:02, 19 September 2006 (UTC)
I have to agree with AnotherGuest that the last revisions to this article are a step backward. I reverted it to the 1 August 2006 version. Alice Wyman 18:10, 19 September 2006 (UTC)
That's an excellent point about eliminating half at a time. I just think there has to be a way to say it that's so simple, clear, and brief that everyone will instantly comprehend (well, almost everyone ;-) ) -- like as a bullet point or in a list of instructions. Here's a possibility:
"Here's a way to save valuable time.
>Disable the extensions to see if one of them could be the problem.
>If it works correctly, try it with half the extensions disabled. If it works correctly now, the problem must be in one or more of the disabled extensions, and you can disable half of the remaining extensions. ..."
Well, I don't know if that's shorter or clearer. You all decide.
I hope it doesn't get permanently reverted. I am also sympathetic to mentioning up front that most problems are due to extensions, themes, plugins, and user alterations. Sometimes that just makes them mad, though, so I don't know. Sorry, I am up to my ears right now and don't have any great constructive suggestions. As usual, it's easier to point out deficiencies than fix them. I have to let it cook for a while. --AnotherGuest. 19 Sept 06
I see Finn has been at work while I wrote the above message. At first glance it looks like a good step in the right direction. Nice. Take a look at my only specific suggestions above (for making bullets) and see what you think. --AnotherGuest. 19 Sept 06
I guess I'll also sit back and let the dust settle. I don't have time today. Alice Wyman 19:34, 19 September 2006 (UTC)
I think I like the way it's going. Personally I think this is one of the most important articles on the KB. --FatJohn 12:12, 20 September 2006 (UTC)
I'm happy about it as well, since it breaks down the different elements into headings. I think the article will be easier to link to this way, since we can now link to a specific section. I tried integrating the "standard diagnostic steps" with the new portions of the article and also added information about plugins to the new "Clean reinstall" section. I also placed a brief outline of the "standard diagnostic steps" at the top, since after all this is an article about a "standard diagnostic". Alice Wyman 17:49, 21 September 2006 (UTC)

Extension issues: eliminating half the extensions at a time

On second thought, I'm not so sure about eliminating half the extensions at a time. The current explanation is still rather complicated, and does not include a clear set of instructions. Unfortunately, my instructions were also written in a hurry, and they aren't right. --AnotherGuest. 20 Sept 06
Sorry, but the section "Extension Issues" still doesn't work. It says nothing about what happens if two extensions each work alone but not with each other. Most of the time this procedure will not catch that problem, and the user will conclude (erroneously) that extensions are not the problem. --AnotherGuest. 26 Sept 06
Here is the "original" standard diagnostic step from August 1 2006, for comparison:
5. If you have extensions or themes,
  • Review the list of problematic extensions to see if your problem is listed. Also make sure you are using the latest version of your extensions ("Tools -> Extensions -> Find Updates") as some may have problems not listed in the aforementioned article. If the problem is not resolved, continue on.
  • Start Firefox in Safe Mode (not Windows Safe Mode). Firefox 1.5 and later: When the "Firefox Safe Mode" window appears, press the button, "Continue in Safe Mode". This will start the program with all extensions disabled and with the default theme. If the problem exists in Safe Mode, or Firefox doesn't start in Safe Mode, continue on to the next numbered step. If the problem goes away in safe mode:
    • Uninstall your most recently installed or updated extension or theme, perform step 3 again, and start Firefox normally. If the problem persists,
    • Select the default theme in "Tools -> Themes" and uninstall your extensions in "Tools -> Extensions" (although the extensions appear grayed out, you will still be able to uninstall them). Perform step 3 again and start Firefox normally. If the problem persists, continue on.
Note that I "condensed" the above version and then linked to Finn's new steps in the Extension issues section. The current "condensed" step 5 tells the user to do the following:
5. Extension and theme issues: Check the list of problematic extensions to see if your problem is listed, then start Firefox in Safe Mode (in Firefox 1.5, when the "Firefox Safe Mode" window appears, press the button, "Continue in Safe Mode"). If the problem goes away, either select the default theme or update or uninstall your added theme ("Tools -> Themes") and either update or selectively disable or uninstall your added extensions (see below). If the problem continues, continue on.
If the user follows the current "Standard diagnostic steps" outline and first resets toolbars and controls in step 4 (which results in a regenerated localstore.rdf to reset defaults), then continues to step 5 (Extension and theme issues) and the problem goes away in Safe Mode, he should then conclude that the problem is caused by an extension or theme, since Safe Mode uses a localstore-safe.rdf file, the default theme, and disables all extensions. The detailed instructions under "Extension issues" should probably tell the user to start off by uninstalling the last-installed (or last-updated) extension, which is what the old standard diagnostic (copied above) recommended. If that doesn't help, the next step would probably be to uninstall all extensions, after which the user could selectively add them back one by one or a few at a time, depending on how many extensions exist, until the problem resurfaces. At that point, he knows which extension or group of extensions is at fault. Finn seems to think that starting off by uninstalling all extensions is a waste of time and has suggested another approach, disabling half to start. If that doesn't seem to work then change the section to what you believe does work best. I'm going to stay out of the "Extension issues" article edits for now. Alice Wyman 01:01, 27 September 2006 (UTC)

Did you install a new extension or theme recently? and Plugin issues

I trimmed down the last edit to this section of the article and removed the reference to plugins to keep the section very short, as it is really just a helpful note intended to alert people to a quick fix. I also wanted to avoid confusion as many people don't have a clear understanding of the difference between "plugins" and "extensions". On plugin issues, I was already thinking to create a new section on "Plugin issues" to include some plugin files known to cause problems, if incompatible outdated or leftover plugin files exist in the Mozilla Firefox\plugins folder (Download Managers are also known to leave behind plugins when uninstalled, such as npdap.dll or npfd.dll .) I could also link to related sections of the Firefox crashes Java ActiveX Windows Media Player and Flash articles. I hesitated adding a new section, though, as this article is getting pretty long. Any opinions? Alice Wyman 20:15, 1 October 2006 (UTC)

The article is getting pretty good, even if it is long. I understand the reason for removing what I added, because it wasn't well integrated. Nevertheless, many problems are due to themes, extensions, and plugins, so that word should be left in. I have hesitated to tinker much with this article because I'm a little uncertain myself on exactly what does what. (Since I haven't had to troubleshoot, I'm not very good at it.) I'm not sure how plugins are registered, but my impression is that a new program directory (clean start) will cure plugin problems by disabling them -- correct? The KB is pretty vague on this. I do think that the article needs to alert users very clearly to the fact that plugins can cause trouble, and tell them how to deal with it. Whether this is a separate section or a separate article depends, I suppose, on how much information there is. --AnotherGuest. 2 Oct 06

Plugin issues

I'll try to come up with something when I have some more time, maybe a "problematic plugins" article that covers specific plugin files that can cause grief, like npmozax.dll or npvlc.dll or Java plugins that shouldn't be in the Firefox plugins folder at all, with a link to the related article or forum reference. Alice Wyman 21:00, 2 October 2006 (UTC)

I came up with a proposed article but I'll probably work on it some more or wait for any comments, before creating it. >>EDIT: I came up with two articles, Issues related to plugins and Plugin scanning Alice<< I was thinking I could link to it from the Standard diagnostic steps section on plugin issues. AnotherGuest, I think this article will help answer your earlier question, I'm not sure how plugins are registered, but my impression is that a new program directory (clean start) will cure plugin problems by disabling them -- correct? The KB is pretty vague on this. (Firefox looks for plugins in other locations besides the Firefox program directory). Alice Wyman 17:44, 3 October 2006 (UTC)

This article doesn't catch plugins installed by pluginscanning at all. In fact, it barely mentions plugins, even though the browser gets the blame for almost every plugin malfunction. But more importantly, it doesn't give users a way to disable all plugins. AnotherGuest. 3 Apr 07

I added some additional information under Standard diagnostic steps, step 7 Plugin issues to clarify that removing the Firefox plugins folder contents doesn't disable plugins detected in other locations via plugin scanning, right before the link to the Issues related to plugins link that was already there. Alice 14:04, 3 April 2007 (UTC)
Better than nothing, but the real point is to tell users how to disable all plugins. I think we're seeing a fair number of plugin problems. AnotherGuest. 3 Apr 2007
That's given in the linked articles, plugin scanning and Issues_related_to_plugins#Other_methods_of_disabling_plugins. I guess you could add another section at the end of the article about common plugin issues and plugin diagnostics, sort of a summary of the Issues related to plugins article if you feel it's important. Alice 23:19, 3 April 2007 (UTC)
It needs to be cut and dried. Plugins can crash and cause other problems. Do this and this to disable plugins. --Fixed, I guess. AnotherGuest. 4 Apr 07

More tinkering

The article is getting pretty good, even if it is long. I don't want to tinker too much more with the article, in general, even though I was thinking to rewrite the "Clean reinstall" section so that users who have already created a new profile and it didn't help, aren't told to remove the user profile data.... but then, some people may want to start right off with a clean reinstall, and ... oh well. I guess I'll tinker with it in the "steps" portion, and maybe a little more in the larger section. Alice Wyman 21:00, 2 October 2006 (UTC)

Removal of unsubstantiated or factually incorrect information

Under the Intro: You'll be happy to hear that there is an easy solution to most Firefox problems (and that most of them are caused by extensions and themes, not Firefox itself). So, especially if you're intimidated by this page's long list of all known solutions to all known problems, please go to Short Firefox diagnostic. It is very unlikely that you'll have to come back here to this comprehensive page.
I removed this "Intro" as it is not supported by any evidence (and the "Short Firefox diagnostic" link goes nowhere right now). Finn, if you want to create a new article such as a "Short Firefox diagnostic" related to diagnosing extension issues or whatever, then do so but this article is the "Standard diagnostic" for Firefox which consists of a standard set of steps to follow. Alice Wyman 16:14, 26 September 2006 (UTC)

Under the Standard diagnostic steps section: Start Firefox in Safe Mode (not Windows Safe Mode). Firefox 1.5 and later: When the "Firefox Safe Mode" window appears, put a check mark in the box "Reset toolbars and controls" and press the button, "Continue in Safe Mode".
This is factually incorrect so I reverted it to the correct procedure, which is to press the button, "Make Changes and Restart". Read the Safe Mode article under Safe_Mode#Buttons! Alice Wyman 16:14, 26 September 2006 (UTC)

automated extension/theme diagnostic?

I hope my diagnostic steps are not only clear enough for most users but also show how this process could be easily made into a semi-automated diagnostic routine. This could be incorporated in FF itself as an entry in the Help menu called e.g. "Extension and Theme Diagnostic", which could be launched by the user when there's a problem. By answering simple questions, the user could actually be told by Firefox itself which extension or theme is the culprit. This kind of "self"-diagnostic would give Firefox a very good name, much better than now -- most people who have switched are of course fans, but the extension mess is a major obstacle to continued rapid growth.

Further improvement suggestions that come to mind are an automatic disabling of the found culprit/s (because many users would not be able to handle that) and an automated message to the extension author and addons.mozilla. --American Finn 18:02, 20 September 2006 (UTC)

Suggest downloading an official Firefox version

I've seen lots of discussion on MozillaZine recently about third-party download sites for Firefox. Many of these sites advertise themselves in Google ads. Who knows what some of these sites are offering? They could be customizing Firefox with buggy extensions or themes, or even including spyware. Re-installing buggy software isn't going to fix a user's problems. Perhaps it would be a good idea to specify downloading the latest official version of Firefox (complete with link to the build), just to make sure what the user is installing is really Firefox and nothing but Firefox. Should also we include a link to the other supported latest official versions of Firefox, such as Is the link I gave the most appropriate one (for example, will it pick the correct OS and language for download)? -- schapel 19:42, 10 May 2007 (UTC)

I've seen a couple of threads myself. I was helping someone here who mentioned having installed "Firefox 2 that came pre-installed with Google toolbar". Later on I came across another thread here mentioning the download site offering Firefox 2 bundled with the Google toolbar. Anyway, I added a couple of sentences to the Clean reinstall section of this article, about making sure to download Firefox from an official source. I linked to as well as to the generic Firefox release notes page which, by the way, links to the Fx release notes page which includes a DL link for that version. Alice 22:15, 10 May 2007 (UTC)
Agreed.--AnotherGuest. 21:09, 9 July 2007 (UTC)

Rename program files and profile folder -- don't delete

1. There's a good chance they will delete the wrong stuff. 2. The changes are not reversible.--AnotherGuest. 21:09, 9 July 2007 (UTC)

Windows Prefetch files

Someone has found that deleting the Windows prefetch files (on Windows XP and Vista) can solve at least one problem. Perhaps this step should be added to the Clean reinstall section? Or does Windows automatically create a new prefetch file if you do a clean reinstall?

I added a "See also" link to Firefox CPU usage since the Intro tells users to look at the articles listed there first, to see if their specific issue is covered. I'll also add the information about deleting any C:\WINDOWS\Prefetch\Firefox.exe*.pf files in Windows XP/Vista to the Uninstalling Firefox article since this article's Clean reinstall section links there also. Alice 03:08, 13 August 2007 (UTC)

Too many Firefox versions

I was thinking of tidying some things up, as several of the steps are much more complicated than they need to be. But then I realised that they have been made easier in more recent versions of Firefox (the safe mode switches and plugin controls, for example), but this article is still covering Firefox 3.0, 3.5 and even 2.0 as well, which makes the complication actually necessary. So, I've given up. I might change stuff about plugins though, as they seem to be a big cause of a problems these days, and should certainly be looked at before trying entirely new profiles. --Michaell 08:36, 5 September 2010 (UTC)

You don't need to give details for old Firefox versions. See Rules and guidelines#Removing obsolete information. Alice 11:31, 5 September 2010 (UTC)