Fix a black screen in Firefox

Occasionally when using Firefox, it will interrupt you by blanking the screen momentarily, and then The screen returns, and it may or may not show the same window it was showing before the screen blanked. Here’s how I fixed my black screen in Firefox.

The conventional advice

The usual advice to solve the black screen problem is to reinstall your video driver. This makes sense, because the behavior looks exactly like what Windows does when it’s video subsystem resets.

But this isn’t a permanent solution to the problem. Reinstalling the video driver doesn’t hurt anything, and it does indeed make the problem go away for a while. But the reason for that is because reinstalling the video driver forces you to reboot.

I can also make the problem go away for a while by rebooting without reinstalling the video driver. For that matter, I can make the problem go away for a while by just restarting Firefox.

Fixing your user profile

The hidden setting to fix your momentary black screen in Firefox
Verifying the integrity of your Places Database may not sound like a likely cure for the momentary black screen in Firefox, but it worked wonders for me.

When Firefox runs low on resources, it resorts to some weird trickery to avoid crashing. One thing I noticed is that when it blanks the screen, it is also inducing other delays, which is one of its tricks when it can’t get enough memory from Windows. Mozilla found if they wait a few moments and ask for the memory again, it works on the second or third try, almost every time.

My theory is that a bloated user profile is causing both problems.

Firefox has provisions for repairing a user profile and for starting over. Repairing the user profile is the less destructive of the two methods, so it’s worth trying first.

To repair your user profile, type about:support into your address bar, then scroll about 2/3 of the way down to the section labeled Places Database, and push the button labeled Verify Integrity.

If you’d rather have an easier way, you can use the program Speedyfox to optimize your user profile, which includes this fix. Launch Speedyfox, select the checkbox next to Firefox, then click Optimize.

The process usually only takes a few seconds, and then you can close the tab and get back to what you were doing.

If the problem comes back in a week or two, then you know it wasn’t enough, and then you need to rebuild your user profile.

Rebuilding your user profile

Rebuilding your user profile is more destructive, because it saves your bookmarks and your saved usernames and passwords, but that’s it. Losing your browser history probably isn’t a big deal, but losing your extensions might be. So before you do this, take note of which extensions you are running, because you will need to add those back.

It is also very possible that one of your extensions is causing the problem or is a major contributor to the problem. So if you started seeing this problem soon after adding a new Firefox extension, try leaving that one out for the time being after you reset your profile.

To reset a user profile, follow Mozilla’s instructions for refreshing Firefox.

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