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Firefox Essentials: Fixing The Fox

Trouble with Firefox? Never fear: We'll show you how to keep Firefox running its best--and how to isolate, identify, and fix problems when they do crop up.

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.

Troubleshooting Firefox

•  Introduction

•  Using Firefox Safe Mode

•  Using The Standard Diagnostic

•  Performing A Clean Install

•  Extensions From Hell

•  Getting Help, Avoiding Trouble

•  Image Gallery

But we'll get to that in a minute. The first step to avoiding trouble with Firefox is to keep it updated with the latest security patches and bug fixes. Thanks to a new auto-update feature in Firefox 1.5, keeping Firefox up to date is much quicker and easier than in earlier versions. You no longer have to reinstall the whole browser every time Mozilla releases a security patch or a minor bug-fix update.

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 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 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.

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