03:18 PM

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.

Help Is On The Way
The troubleshooting steps outlined in this article will get 99 people out of 100 precisely where they need to go: back on the Infobahn, riding Firefox to wherever they want it to take them.

Troubleshooting Firefox

•  Introduction

•  Using Firefox Safe Mode

•  Using The Standard Diagnostic

•  Performing A Clean Install

•  Extensions From Hell

•  Getting Help, Avoiding Trouble

•  Image Gallery

And then there's that hundredth person. If that happens to be you, before you go slinking back to that Other Web Browser or do something you'll regret with a baseball bat (which you really should put down, 'kay?), remember that we've only covered the tip of the tech-support iceberg. Now it's time to dive in and go a little deeper: to one of the many, many forums where Firefox help is available.

Fortunately, you may not need to go very far at all: One of the very best Firefox support forums is at MozillaZine. The regulars here are a friendly bunch -- just as long as you do your homework and learn a little bit about how things work within the support forums.

One of the most important things you can do before asking a support question is to search for and review topics that may already contain an answer to your question. Better yet, there are a few key MozillaZine forum topics that you may want to review before you have trouble, simply because they're such good sources of information on popular (and often problematic) third-party software you're likely to run with Firefox:

  • Firefox is crashing, how can I fix it?
  • Troubleshooting problems with Flash.
  • The complete guide to embedded and streaming media player plugins, including Quicktime, Windows Media, Real Player, and Adobe Acrobat reader.
  • Also, it's easy to overlook the MozillaZine forum on Firefox extensions, simply because it's much father down the main forums page than the primary Firefox support forum. Yet it's worth your time to browse both forums, especially as you get into more advanced Firefox tweaks and customizations.

    Avoiding Trouble Of A Different Kind
    I couldn't resist ending this piece with a tip for avoiding a whole different kind of online trouble: personal data theft.

    Firefox enjoys a well-deserved reputation for raising far fewer security risks than Internet Explorer 6. But security is a two-way street: Your browser needs to keep external threats at bay, but it must also allow you to control and monitor your personal data at all times -- and, if you wish, remove it entirely.

    Get familiar with the Privacy section of your Tools > Options menu, which includes settings to control and/or erase info that you've entered into online forms or your Search Bar (Saved Forms), where you spend your time online (History), or what you do when you get there (Cookies, Passwords, and Download History).

    Clear your personal data when you shut down. Click image to enlarge and to see image gallery.
    Click the Settings button at the bottom of any of the Privacy area's six tabs to call up the Clear Private Data tool. Here you can configure Firefox to delete some (or all) of your personal data, either with or without confirmation, every time the browser shuts down.

    There's also a panic-button method of accessing the Clear Private Data tool: a link near the bottom of the Firefox Tools menu. This does pretty much the same thing as the first method, with one key difference: You can activate it instantly, using a hotkey (Ctrl+Shift+Del) sequence, rather than having to shut down Firefox to make it work.

    Take A Pass

    Firefox 1.5 sports an impressive-looking interface for storing and managing your online user IDs and passwords, along with a Master Password option that, once activated, will prevent anyone from accessing the saved passwords and user IDs on your computer without permission.

    Unfortunately, I can't recommend the Firefox Password Manager, if only because it has an annoying habit of "forgetting" saved passwords, usually just after the point when I no longer remember them either. There's a better way: the PasswordMaker extension, which creates unique, secure passwords that you can use anywhere, on any browser. Find out how it all works at the PasswordMaker site.

    And don't forget to check out Firefox Essentials: 10 Must-Have Extensions for more extensions that should be in every Firefox user's kit bag.

    More Firefox Essentials:
    Firefox Essentials: 10 Must-Have Extensions
    Firefox Essentials: Get To Know Your Profile
    Firefox Essentials: Fixing The Fox

    Matt McKenzie is the editor of Linux Pipeline. Over the years, he has broken more PC hardware than most people will ever use -- and he's not done yet. Contact him at with questions, comments, complaints, or cash.

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