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Troubleshooting Safari update problems

Safari updates can result in odd problems with individual Web sites or the browser itself. Here are ways to troubleshoot these if they occur.

Like most software updates, the latest Safari update (version 5.1.4) causes changes to the system's configuration that will undoubtedly result in problems for some people's setups. Typically, even if no outstanding issues crop up in the software after an update, some people may find certain Web sites will not work or load correctly, and plug-ins might show odd behavior when displaying content.

If you have updated Safari on your Mac and are experiencing problems after updating, then here are some things to try that may fix them.

  1. Reset Safari
    Reset Safari window
    The Safari reset window has a number of options for clearing the browser's settings. Screenshot by Topher Kessler/CNET
    Often problems with Safari happen when temporary resources such as Web site cookies or caches become corrupted, and can cause pages to load incorrectly or not load at all, or even result in the browser crashing. A simple approach to fixing these problems is to clear these settings by going to the "Safari" menu and choosing "Reset Safari," followed by choosing the option to remove all Web site data, and possibly the other settings as well.

    In addition to using the Reset Safari window, you can manually empty the cache by choosing that option in the Safari menu, and you can remove individual Web site data such as cookies by clicking the small Details button in the program's Privacy preferences. If for instance you can get one Web site to work but can't get another one to work, then you can use this option to locate and remove the cookies for the second site without disturbing the settings for the first one.

  2. Adjust bitness
    In order to maintain compatibility with plug-ins and other add-ons during the transition to 64-bit computing, Apple has included an option to load many of its programs (including Safari) in either 64-bit mode or 32-bit mode. If you are having trouble with some plug-ins not loading correctly or Web site content from apps such as Google Apps and YouTube not loading, and resetting Safari didn't help, then try checking or changing Safari's bitness.

    To do this, locate the file in the Finder, select it, and press Command-I to get information on it. In the information window there should be an option to open the program in 32-bit mode, so uncheck this if it is checked, or even try running in 32-bit mode if you are having troubles in the default 64-bit mode.

  3. Remove add-ons
    Safari plug-ins preferences
    Uncheck this box to disable all plug-ins for Safari. Screenshot by Topher Kessler/CNET
    One major area where problems occur with any Web browser is third-party add-ons such as plug-ins and extensions, which offer customizability but also open avenues for instability in the program. Usually if the browser crashes because of a plug-in, you can see references to this somewhere in the program's crash report. However, the cause might not be so obvious if the program malfunctions without crashing.

    To test whether or not a plug-in is contributing to the problems being experienced, you can go to Safari's Security preferences and uncheck the option to enable plug-ins. Doing this will prevent certain sites like YouTube from working properly, but may help for Gmail and other JavaScript and HTML-based Web applications with which plug-ins might interfere.

    In addition to plug-ins, Safari supports browser extensions, which like menu extras for OS X offer small functional boosts to the program such as social networking options. To manage these you can go to the Extensions section of Safari's preferences and turn this feature off, or individually manage extensions you have installed to see if they are contributing to the problem.

    Unfortunately Safari does not have a plug-in manager similar to its extensions manager interface, but you can perform a similar management of plug-ins by removing them from the Internet Plug-Ins folders in your user library and the global library:

    /Macintosh HD/Library/Internet Plug-Ins/
    /username/Library/Internet Plug-Ins/

    In OS X Lion the user library is hidden, but you can get to it by holding the Option key and choosing "Library" from the Finder's Go menu.

  4. Remove preferences
    While in most cases problems with Safari have to do with add-ons, caches and other temporary items, or Safari settings, at times problems do occur because of errors in the program's preferences file. Therefore, you can try removing the various preferences files that Safari uses by quitting the program and going to the /username/Library/Preferences/ folder on your hard disk, and locating and removing any file that begins with "" in its name. When finished, relaunch the program and these files will be recreated from default settings.

  5. Check for residual Safari installations
    Apple prefers that you keep application files directly in the /Macintosh HD/Applications/ folder; however, there are times when people may organize this folder by putting some programs in subdirectories, such as a directory for Browsers, Text Editors, or Games. With these setups, when you update the program may be installed twice and you might be running the older version of the executable even though the underlying frameworks and other support structure have been updated to work with the new executable. Therefore, go to the Applications folder and check to see if you have two versions of the file. If so, then get information on them in the Finder to check their versions, and throw out the older one so you only have one copy of version 5.1.4.

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