Clint Huffman's Windows Troubleshooting in the Field Blog

Clint Huffman is a Microsoft Premier Field Engineer (PFE) who has been with Microsoft for over 10 years. This blog documents the challenges he faces week to week in hopes that these experiences will help others.

The Case of the Add-on Crashers

The Case of the Add-on Crashers

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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
  • "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?

  • !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.

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