Friday, 30 March 2007

Adobe Acrobat Reader crashes Firefox, Internet Explorer - workaround

The problem

Do you, like me, find that the free Adobe Acrobat Reader often causes Firefox or Internet Explorer to freeze, i.e. the dreaded "not responding"? Here's a fix, of sorts, in Windows XP - not a full solution but possibly a helpful hint that may reduce the impact of the freeze.

I've had to end task the browser in which I was trying to view the offending PDF document because the "not responding" not only stops me from viewing the tab with the PDF, it also won't let me switch to or view properly any other tabs of the same browser.

Kills all known browser tabs and windows, fast! (and it's not even bleach)

Unfortunately killing the offending tab also kills all the other open tabs and windows of the same browser - not just the tab with the PDF document in it.

It's annoying enough that my other browser tabs or windows get closed down too; I can get them back via my history or Fox session saver, but it still takes time.

Kills Web forms too, ack

However if I've been filling in a Web form or drafting a post in Blogger's post editor, then I lose everything I've been typing out - which is a right royal pain in the proverbial, and can lead me to throwing things especially when I've been working on a draft for a while and been so focussed that I forgot to save it. Particularly when I've only opened the PDF to check something in it which I need to consult for the post I'm working on.
Frequently saving drafts on Blogger. Yes, I know I must save more regularly. I'm still waiting for a Greasemonkey userscript that will save my draft post and re-open the draft post for me automatically to continue editing it, instead of taking me to the Edit Posts page where I have to first find the draft in the list and then reopen it manually. Still, we should all save, save, save, bois and gels.

Acrobat Reader crashes often happens not just when I'm trying to view a PDF document on the Web, but also when I've already downloaded it, seemingly without problem, and then later returned to the browser tab or window, or just tried to scroll through the PDF.

Delays XP shutdown too

Furthermore, when I shut down Windows XP, if I've been using Acrobat Reader during that session (even when there have been no browser or Acrobat Reader freezes or crashes), it will often throw up errors, usually more than one, to do with Acrobat Reader - and I have to kill them before my PC will shut down.

A solution?

Now I've not figured out the full solution, yet, but I've worked out one thing that may help some people who have experienced the same problem but hadn't hit on this tip yet.

Tip for a workaround

When a browser tab or browser window displaying an Acrobat PDF document freezes and won't respond, you can kill that one tab or window without affecting your other open tabs or windows. Here's how to do that workaround:
  • Do the usual ctrl-alt-delete and click Task Manager to bring up the Windows Task Manager
  • Click the Processes tab, and find Acrobat Reader (I find it easiest to click the Image Name column heading to sort the list of processes alphabetically by image name) - it's called AcroRd32.exe
  • Highlight AcroRd32.exe, click End Process, and Yes.
All tabs or browser windows which were displaying Acrobat PDF documents will either close down, or go blank. That includes any PDFs which were in fact responding fine.

But the good news is, your other browser tabs or windows won't be affected. You won't lose the draft post or the form you were filling in. Now would definitely be a good time to go ahead and save that draft, quick - whether it's by the Save as draft button or the like, or by copy/pasting the HTML or text you were writing, into something else like Notepad, Word or (as I do) a draft Outlook email.

Next, you can get back the PDF you were trying to view. If the window or tab displaying the PDF is still open, but blank, just refresh it (while viewing that tab, F5 or Ctrl-F5 or the Refresh button will do it). That should open horrid buggy ol' Acrobat Reader up again and display your PDF in all its former glory. This works for other tabs with PDFs in them too. If the window has been closed down, then you shoud be able to find it in your history.

'Course if it crashes again then you'll have to go through the whole palaver again, but at least you won't have lost your other work.

Hope this helps some others. Me, I'll use this temporary workaround for the time being as and when necessary, but I'm off to try freeware or open source alternatives to Adobe Acrobat Reader (which hopefully won't take so long to open or use so much memory, and, of course, won't keep crashing browsers or hold up my computer shutting down).

When I find one I like which doesn't break browsers like Acrobat Reader does, I'll blog about it.


Flash said...

Good tip, I use it often already. I often find it helps when a computer is just running slow; often the user will not even know Acrobat is running because they closed it's window long ago.

For your problem regarding losing half finished web forms when your browser crashes, try the Textarea Backup script. It will save all text areas and refill them when you return to the same page, so it will also help when you lose half completed comments on someone else's site. Might mean that it sometimes will fill in a web form you already submitted, but a simple Ctrl-A and Delete fixes that.

Improbulus said...

Thanks for your comment, Flash (Gordon rather than Adobe Flash, I imagine?? :D), and the tip about Acrobat slowing the computer even when you think you've closed it down.

I'll have a look at the backup script, ta for the suggestion. I did try something like that a while back but it clashed with my Blogger post editor enlarger script so I got rid of it. Will try again!

Anonymous said...

Firefox certainly has some big problems with pdf files crashing the browser but this can be solved as per this thread
Hope it helps..

Anonymous said...

FYI - I just read this security alert on the Adobe website:
It says to temporarily alleviate this probelm (until mid-March when they will have an update to fix it), that one should disable JavaScript in the Reader system (direction at above link). Hopefully this will help somewhat.

Anonymous said...

For posterity:

The reason is that some third-party PDF creators use Acrobat’s DLLs, but rather than keep them in their own folders, copy them to system32/ which causes Acrobat to open defunct DLLs – and fall over as a consequence.

To resolve the issue, do the following:

Open C:\Windows\system32

Move the following files somewhere else: