Tutorial: Dealing with unexpected quits

Tutorial: Dealing with unexpected quits


Unexpected quits -- accompanied by the error dialog box depicted below -- can be frustrating and carry elusive causes. A shotgun approach to the problem is usually best; throw various, loosely guided fixes at the problem and take note when resolution occurs for future reference.

[For more on the crash dialogs displayed by Mac OS X 10.4.x for unexpected quits, see Ted Landau's 'Tiger's new and improved 'application crash' dialogs' article]

Plug-in/add-on problems Plug-ins that have conflicts with newly introduced individual application updates or major system updates can represent prime sources of unexpected application quits.

For instance, a number of users were experiencing unexpected quits from iTunes, the Finder and more caused by OSS 3D -- a tool used for real-time audio enhancement In that case, the solution was to remove software by navigating to the Applications/OSS 3D directory and launching the OSS 3D Uninstaller. The issue was fixed in a later release of the plug-in.

So check your applications' plug-in directories. In some cases, these folders are co-located with the application; for instance, Photoshop's plug-ins live in /Applications/Photoshop CS2/Plug-ins.

Plug-ins and add-ons can also reside in the following standard directories:

  • /Library/Application Support
  • /Library/Internet Plug-ins
  • ~/Library/Application Support
  • ~/Library/Internet Plug-ins
  • /Library/Audio/Plug-ins

If you can't identify a specific plug-in, try removing items one-by-one (or in batches) and restarting in order attempt identification of a culprit.

Note that you will sometimes have to restart after deleting a problematic plug-in or add-on in order to nullify its effect.

Bad devices If software you are using has a compatibility problem with a specific connected printer, scanner or other device, unexpected quits may ensue.

The obvious fix is to disconnect potentially offending devices and check for persistence of the issue.

Make sure you are running the latest version of Mac OS X Though it may seem plain, simply updating to a newer version of Mac OS X may resolve issues with unexpected quits. In fact, the release notes for several iterations of Mac OS X explicitly reference resolution of unexpected quits. You can find the latest version of Mac OS X compatible with your system through VersionTracker or Apple's download page.

Re-install application Though tedious, re-installing applications from their original media or downloaded install package can resolve issues with unexpected quits.

Delete .plist files Many problems with individual application unexpected quits -- especially those that occur after a major Mac OS X update -- can be solved by deleting corrupt .plist files. Such .plist files will generally be located in the ~/Library/Preferences folder, and labeled as follows:

  • com.(name of developer).(name of product).plist [For instance, com.adobe.Reader7.0.plist for Adobe Reader 7.0].

Simply drag the potentially offending .plist file to the trash, re-launch the hampered application, and check for continuation of problems. In some cases, applications will have several .plist files, so make sure you check for any that contain the product name. Also, note that you may lose some settings or other personal data used by specific applications when these files are deleted.

You can also try deleting these .plist files, which are sometimes implicated in unexpected quits:

  • com.apple.ATS.plist
  • com.apple.BezelServices.plist

Note that applications other than the one directly associated with a specific .plist file can modify the latter, opening a new avenue for corruption. For further explanation, see this article.

Caches In some cases, unexpected quits an other issues can be resolved by deleting specific system caches.

Try deleting files that start with "com.apple.LaunchServices" from the /Library/Caches folder, then quit and re-launch StuffIt applications.

Failing that, try using the cache clearing routines offered by utilities like Cocktail, Mac Pilot or Tiger Cache Cleaner.

Turn off automatic virus protection software Some Mac OS X virus software that persistently scans upon certain actions in the background can cause issues with unexpected application quits. Symantec's Norton "AutoProtect" is notorious culprit. Try temporarily turning off this functionality and check for persistence of unexpected quits.

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