The Case of the Add-on Crashers


While on "vacation" in Ohio last month, a good friend of mine called me up saying that Internet Explorer is crashing and unusable, so I asked him to bring his computer over for a look.

The Problem/Symptoms

First, I wanted to confirm what he was saying, so I opened up Internet Explorer. Sure enough, it crashed immediately – meaning the process had a fatal, second chance exception and it crashed the process.

Relevant Technical Details

Operating System: Windows XP Home Edition 32-bit
Application(s): Microsoft Internet Explorer 8

Troubleshooting

Internet Explorer has the ability to load third party “add-on’” to it to enhance your experience while browsing with things such as a search engine toolbars like Bing, client-side code execution engines like Java, or specialized button toolbars like Windows Live. Since the core code of Internet Explorer is relatively stable, I suspected Internet Explorer (IE) Add-ons as the cause of the crash.

To prove or disprove IE Add-ons, I navigated through the Programs menu until I came across an icon named Internet Explorer (no add-ons). This time it opened up without crashing proving one of the Add-ons is causing the crash.

To fix this, I edited the Internet Explorer options through the Control Panel and navigated to the Internet Options icon. This brought up the Internet Properties of Internet Explorer.

IE_Options

On this dialog box, I clicked the Manage add-ons button which brought up another menu showing me all of the add-ons that are installed. At this point, it was just a matter of trial and error. I disabled each one at a time and tried to open IE. Once it finally worked without crashing, I knew which one it was. In this case, it was caused by an anti-virus search add-on.

Another way to troubleshoot this would be to get a crash dump of the process. This can be done through tools like Microsoft WinDBG or ADPLus from the Microsoft Debugging Tools for Windows a free download from Microsoft.com or the DebugDiag tool which is also a free download from Microsoft.com. Once a dump file (*.dmp) file was captured from the crashing application, it would just be a matter of walking the stack to see the faulting stack.

In conclusion, if Internet Explorer seems slow, hangs, or crashes, then it’s most likely due to a third party add-on that you installed.

I hope this helps.


Comments (2)

  1. Anonymous says:

    !analyze only helps with kernel dumps (blue screens). In the case above, you would a few hang dumps and do a ~*kb100 to see the call stacks of all of the threads to see a common thread.

  2. Dave Smith says:

    "just be a matter of walking the stack to see the faulting stack." – can you explain briefly how to do this? Does ‘!analyze -v’ help, as it does for system faults?