Helping users with the top crashes

Chris Ilias


Helping users troubleshoot crashes has always been a hard thing to document in the knowledge base. We try to help the user better define the circumstances of their crash, then list possible causes and solutions for those circumstances. An (obviously) unintended consequence is that there is so much information to digest, it confuses users.

The problem is that if Firefox crashes, it could be for any number of reasons. The range of causes and volume of troubleshooting is so great that we end up doing more to try help the user navigate crash documentation, than offer a solution. In most cases the solution is vague and not very helpful, which confuses users even more.

Each Firefox crash reported to Mozilla using the Mozilla Crash Reporter has a crash ID and lists the type of crash, called the crash signature. Usually, each crash signature has a much more specific cause/solution. Instead of asking users to define each circumstance of their crash, they can get to the solution more quickly if we ask for the crash signature, then provide a document for each crash sig.

What we’ve done is turned our Firefox crashes article into a tutorial on accessing your crash report via about:crashes. At the top right corner of each crash report on, you’ll notice that there is a [Get Help] button. What that does is search for the crash signature from the report.


By creating an article for each crash signature, and putting the crash signature in the article content, the Get Help button on will provide the user a link to the article that addresses their specific type of crash.

Naturally, there are a lot of crash signatures. We can’t provide an article for every crash. However, we can get a list of the most common crash signatures, and try to make sure the 10 most common crashes have articles in the knowledge base. Ever since Firefox 3.5 was released, we have been keeping an eye on the top Firefox 3.5.x crashes, and adding them to a list here.

What we need now is people to draft an article for each crash sig. There is a bug link for each crash sig on the list, that contains details about known causes/solutions for each crash. If you need help creating articles, we have a contributor page about creating articles. For any further help, just ask in the Contributors forum.