Applications on the Mac crash every so often. Some times this is a one off event that happens at random which you can just ignore. More persistent crashes and hangs can be a bigger problem. Troubleshooting these problems can take a while, however I am going to go through a list which I use to diagnose a problem and hopefully find a solution. This post will refer to application crashes, and not kernel panics. Kernel panics are usually harder to solver and nearly also involve some piece of hardware at fault.
Steps to solving application crashes:
1) Restart the app, probably a simple one to start with. I have apps open for long periods of time, if it starts hanging a lot its usually time to restart it.
2) Log off. This is usually done to clear caches and allow you Mac to reload files. Some times bits of code get overwritten in memory and cause frequent crashes if you have your computer on for a long time.
3) Restart. A more extreme version of number 2. This will clear all code from memory and allow you to start again. This will usually solve problems that are caused by apps running for too long.
4) Delete Preferences. If an app crashes frequently the preferences may have inadvertently be changed. Find the preference file in ~/Library/Preferences. Application name is usually at the end of the file name.
5) Update the app. The crash and bug you may be experiencing could be caused by dodgy code, this code may have been cleaned up in a new version. Head to the developers site and see if there is a new version of the app to download. This is the same as system updates though Software Update.
6) Disable plugins. If an application such as Firefox crashes it might be time to disable plugins and start them up one by one. You can then find what plugin is causing it and see if there is a solution on the plugin developers website.
That is the normal method I will usually take. If an application or system is constantly crashing it may be a deeper problem. The next couple of steps are more complicated yet allow you to nail the problem down more effectively. These methods contain a lot of computer output code which can be quite complicated so may not be suitable solutions for all.
1) Activity Monitor. This app is more than just a monitor for system resources, you can monitor what files and application opens. If you find that an app is crashing, select it from the list and press Inspect from the tool bar. On the window that opens select the “Open Files and Ports” tab and scroll to the bottom. When you Mac uses the program and accesses a file it will be added to the bottom of the list. You can then see which file is causing you the grief. For example Firefox would hang when I opened a new window. The file path to pop up in the window was the path the the Flash players file. I now know that Flash player was causing the problem and rectify it by downing the newest version of flash or searching for more help on this topic.
2) Spin Control. To access this app you need to have installed the developer tools from your install CD. Its located in /Developers/Applications/Performance Tools/. When an app hangs this little app will record the data from the application. Most of the time the data which is returned to you doesn’t make much sense. However you may come across a file name or something else which you can use to see what the problem is. If you haven’t got developer tools installed, it doesn’t matter as the information you receive from Spin Control will probably not help you.
3) Console. You would think the the log reporting application, Console, would be full of information about crashes. However I find the information found within the error logs to be not very specific. However if you do look through the various logs (it takes some searching) you may find a small bit of information which points to the reason why an application is crashing. Its worth having a check, however don’t let your hopes up.
To conclude, the best ways to solve why and app is crashing is to follow steps 1 – 6. For me this solves most of the problems I encounter. Only when applications are persistently crashing would I use the other three steps. If you find that a 3rd party app crashes a lot you may have to switch to a different app. If you find that your system is crashing a lot, it may be worth re-installing the operating system. Some re-occurring system problems may be due to hardware. If you have recently installed a new bit of RAM or a hard drive, you may need to check that out. Guides can easily be found on the web.