Editor's note: This is the third installment of InternetWeek's "Firefox Essentials" series. Be sure not to miss the earlier segments on must-have extensions and understanding and managing your profiles.
One of the secrets to making any software work well is knowing what to do when it won't work at all. Firefox is no different: If you know how to isolate, identify, and cure the most common problems, you can get back to surfing without missing a beat.
Using Firefox Safe Mode
Using The Standard Diagnostic
Performing A Clean Install
Extensions From Hell
Getting Help, Avoiding Trouble
Using the options you'll find under the Update tab in the Advanced section of the Firefox Options menu, you can configure Firefox to download and install approved Mozilla updates automatically, or (the default option) instruct the browser simply to tell you when updates are available. The auto-update feature will even check for updates to your Firefox extensions, themes, and search engine plugins.
Playing The Numbers Game
Should you always install the most recent Firefox release? That may seem like a strange question, but if you've followed the ins and outs of earlier Firefox releases, it's a legitimate one.
During the first month or so after Firefox 1.5 made its debut in November 2005, quite a few experienced users concluded that it was far less stable and reliable than the previous release, Firefox 1.0.7. But that changed with the release of Firefox 22.214.171.124. Among many other improvements, it fixes two memory leaks in Firefox 1.5, including one that could make a serious nuisance of itself. More important, Firefox 126.96.36.199 patches eight security holes, some of which could pose serious threats to your PC and your personal data.
Right now, there simply isn't a good reason to use an older version of Firefox.
Troubleshooting Firefox: Where To Begin?
If you've kept Firefox completely updated and you're still experiencing problems, it's time to begin your search for troubleshooting answers.
The first place you should look is the MozillaZine list of Firefox issues. If your problem matches one in this "greatest hits" collection, you can find out how to fix it (or why you should abandon all hope and start anew) without further ado.
If you don't find your answer there, it's time for phase two: Safe Mode.