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12/20/2005
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Firefox 1.5 Stability Problems? Readers And Mozilla Respond

Firefox users wrote to us detailing their problems with the browser, and we asked Mozilla for some answers.

Whose Fault?
Did Firefox do this? Did one of the two extensions play a part? Could it be the Flash or Java plug-in (the former blocked, the latter disabled) making a monkey out of Mozilla?

It really doesn't matter, because they aren't the ones whose names appeared in the Task Manager next to some ungodly amount of RAM. Even if something else is feasting on all that system memory, it's Mozilla that gets stuck with the tab.

So, Firefox has problems with Windows -- that much is clear. How does it fare on Linux and Mac OS systems?


In This Article

Reports Of Problems

Some Examples From Readers

Memory, CPU, And Stability Woes

Mozilla's Response

Can Bfcache Be The Problem?

Pushing The Memory Envelope

Whose Fault?

We worked with version 1.5 on both Linux (using Xandros and the latest Ubuntu distro) and a current version of Mac OS X, in addition to Windows 2000 and Windows XP SP2 installs. In both cases, as far as we're concerned, the jury is still out: Although we can't send either the Linux or Mac OS versions of Firefox 1.5 to the doghouse without better evidence, we're also not willing to let either of them off the hook just yet.

Part of the conflict is a matter of numbers: Of the reader e-mails we received on this subject, ten were from desktop Linux users. Of those, only one person noted definite signs of a memory-management problem on a Linux-based Firefox 1.5 install.

Memory leaks: Yes, [they] have been there since 1.0.6, that I've noticed. Didn't see problems in Linux with older versions (1.0.6 on KDE 3.4). A way to suck memory quickly: Do some eBay searches. All those little thumbnails chow memory like Liz Taylor at a chocolate convention. --John Palmer

Sorry, Liz.

The same quandary, by the way, applies to Firefox on OS X: Of the e-mail we received from Mac users, we saw only a few complaints, including one that reported freezes and the need to force the Firefox program to quit, and two that reported identical problems using scrollbars in Firefox 1.5 (a bug we can't duplicate). Once again, it's a case where maybe Firefox on OS X isn't oinking its way through acres of RAM the way it so often does on Windows -- or maybe enough people just haven't complained loudly enough yet.

Recommendations
Nothing has changed about the recommendations we made in the last story. If Firefox is an everyday professional tool for you -- as it is for both of us -- you might want to hang back on installing Firefox 1.5, at least until Firefox 1.5.0.1 is released. In our experience, Firefox 1.0.7 is far more stable. If you don't use the browser very often, odds are that you won't have problems, so version 1.5 is a better bet in that scenario.

We also recommend backing up your Firefox user profile before installing Firefox 1.5. Some people are reporting an issue with corrupted user profiles when they try to uninstall Firefox. If you plan to install Firefox 1.5, your first step should be to remove any and all previous Firefox installations using Add or Remove Programs in the Control Panel. (Doing this leaves behind all your customizations, bookmarks, cookies, extensions, and themes, which will be picked up by version 1.5 when you install it.)

You might also consider wiping your Firefox plug-ins, extensions, and themes prior to uninstalling your previous version of Firefox. It adds more work, but it's less likely that you'll encounter the problems that some people have had if you upgrade that way.

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