Actually, I talk about browser problems all the time. Particularly since people encounter browser problems all the time. :-)
The problem, though, is that it’s never as simple as telling you “Well, here’s what you do to stop ‘not responding’ problems”. There are so many possible causes, there’s no way to know which one might applies to your situation.
What I use instead is a more general approach to dealing with internet web browser problems that applies to all popular browsers — not only FireFox, but Chrome, Internet Explorer, and more.
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Scan for malware
Browser problems can be a sign of malware, though it’s certainly not the most common cause of them.
Start by making sure your security software and anti-malware tools are up to date, and then run full scans. If malware is found, make sure it’s cleaned off.
If that makes your browser problems go away, then of course you’re done.
Clear the cache
This is such a common answer that until recently1, I actually had a “stock answer” configured in the question-answering system used by my assistants and myself. A couple of keystrokes on our part provided this answer:
I’ll suggest that you begin by clearing your browser cache as described in this article: What’s a Browser Cache, How Do I “Clear” It, and Why Would I Want To? Sometimes a browser’s cache can become corrupt, or just somewhat confused, and can cause a variety of issues.
That answer is so common, and so applicable in so many situations, that we just got tired of typing it over and over and over again as questions came in.
Needless to say, next to scanning for malware, clearing the cache is the first thing I recommend when dealing with just about any browser-related problem. It clears up a surprising number of issues. Visit What’s a Browser Cache, How Do I “Clear” It, and Why Would I Want To? for instructions.
The next recommendation when dealing with browser problems is to disable add-ons or extensions.
Add-ons are software added to your web browser to provide additional functionality. Adobe Flash is one example, and the LastPass password manager is another. The issue is that add-ons integrate tightly with the browser, and problems caused by a misbehaving add-on can manifest as a browser problem.
In Internet Explorer, manage add-ons directly from the “gear” menu.
In the resulting “Manage add-ons” dialog, you can control which add-ons are enabled.
Click on Toolbars and Extensions. For each extension listed in the right-hand pane, either right-click on the extension and click on Disable, or click on the extension and then on the Disable button in the lower right.
Repeat this same process after clicking on Accelerators on the left-hand panel: disable each of the accelerators listed on the right. (You can also disable or change Search Providers and/or Tracking Protection, but this rarely impacts browser stability.)
Return to using your browser in whatever scenario was causing issues. If the problems go away, then you know that one of the disabled items was the cause. You can then re-enable the add-ons one at a time, returning to using your browser each time, to see which one is responsible for your browser problems.
Firefox’s interface is similar, and is accessed from the hamburger menu.
Similarly, in Google chrome, click on the hamburger menu, then Settings, and left-click on Extensions.
Disable security software
One source of problems many people don’t think of is their security software.
In order to provide protection against malicious links, content, and downloads, some security packages insert themselves into the activity of your web browser. Many do so in the form of add-ons, which you’ll have seen above. Others, however, use different techniques that might not be so readily apparent.
I do not recommend uninstalling your security software to diagnose this type of problem.
Instead, I suggest examining your security software for options relating to its interaction with your browser. Unfortunately, different software packages have different terms in different places, but these are the types of options and common phrases you should look for:
- real-time scanning
- browser protection or integration
- download scanning
- web or URL filtering
There may be others, but the options all focus on what’s being displayed or downloaded by your web browser, typically in “real time” (as it happens).
Turn all those options off — not permanently, but as a test. If the problems you’re experiencing go away, you’ll know your security software is to blame, or at least heavily involved. If there are multiple options, turn them on one at a time to see if you can identify which of them is the culprit.
Once you understand which option in your security software might be responsible for your browser problems, you can decide between several options:
- Live with the problem.
- Disable the option in the security software permanently.
- Try different security software.
Trying a different browser is also an option I’ll talk about in a moment.
Reinstall the browser
Sometimes the best solution to start over. By that, I mean:
- Completely uninstall the browser.
- Download the most recent version of the browser.
- Install that download.
Reinstalling software “from scratch” is a way to restore any files, settings, or what-have-you that may have been damaged, or even just confused a little, in the previous setup. It can also eliminate add-ons, or even malware you might not even know you have.
Uninstalling the browser is easy enough, if you’re using something other than Internet Explorer. For IE, however, things are little more complex, since it’s actually deeply embedded in, and used by, Windows itself. See How Do I Reinstall Internet Explorer? for instructions.
Use a different browser
Finally, sometimes the most practical solution is a complete change.
Having problems with FireFox? Try switching to Chrome. Or back to Internet Explorer.
You get the idea. See if using another browser gets you a better experience.
While finding and fixing the problem in the browser you’re used to might be preferable, sometimes the quickest and most pragmatic solution is to try something different.
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