Troubleshoot Safari Freezes & Crashing in Mac OS X
Some Mac users have discovered the Safari web browser has become significantly less stable after updating to some versions of Mac OS X system software including OS X El Capitan, OS X Yosemite, and MacOS Sierra. This can range from periodic crashes of Safari that never happened before, to Safari freezing up entirely, to Safari outright refusing to open as it crashes immediately upon launch.
Troubleshooting app crashes can be frustrating, but there are some tricks specific to Safari that may help to resolve instability with the Safari browser. If you’re experiencing Safari crashing or freezing on a regular basis under Mac OS X whether in Yosemite or newer and you’ve already reset Safari to no relief, follow each of the steps below. If all fails to resolve the problem, we’ll offer a reasonable workaround too.
1: Update to the Latest Versions of Software
Often simply updating to the newest version of Safari and OS X is enough to remedy random crashes, particularly if the cause is due to a known bug that has since been fixed. Many users fall behind on software updates, which makes this an easy first recommendation.
As usual, you should do a quick backup before updating system software.
- Go to Apple menu > App Store > Updates and install any version of MacOS X and/or Safari that are available
This alone can often fix a problem with Safari crashing of freezing out. For example, if you’re on Mac OS X 10.10, updating to 10.10.1 or later with Safari 8.0.2 may be sufficient to fix the freezing or crashing issues.
Some beta users have reported that Safari has become more stable under the latest beta versions, which typically are a few weeks behind a wider release. This further suggests that updating to the latest version when it is available is a good idea.
When you relaunch Safari, immediately clear the recent web data and try to visit the website(s) that were causing issues. Things just may be working fine now, though sometimes resetting Safari will do the trick too.
2: Ditch Safari Caches Manually
You can manually remove all caches pertaining to Safari by going into the User Library folder and making some targeted moves. We’re going to recommend doing this in Safe Mode because booting into OS X Safe Mode dumps some system caches as well.
- Reboot the Mac into safe mode by restarting and immediately holding down the “Shift” key
- From Finder, hit Command+Shift+G and enter the following path:
- Remove Safari caches manually by placing them into the Trash
- Restart the Mac again, this time normally
- Open Safari as usual
If Safari works fine at this point, you shouldn’t need to do anything else. If problems persist, carry on with the next steps.
3: Disable Third Party Extensions & Plugins
Flash is notorious for causing problems, and many other video and animation plugins can be problematic as well. The Adobe Acrobat reader plugin has also been known to cause issues with Safari in Yosemite. Either disabling or removing these extensions and plugins can often remedy a problem specific to a plugin, like if Safari only crashes when a Flash video or Silverlight animation is loaded.
- Quit Safari (if it’s open and hasn’t crashed yet)
- From the Finder, hit Command+Shift+G and enter the following path:
- Create a new folder on the desktop called something like “Plugin Backups”, and drag suspect third party plugins into that folder – you’re placing these into an accessible folder so you can easily undo the change by moving the plugin back to the origin if necessary
- Relaunch Safari
This is a bit more advanced, so you should have some familiarity with what third party plugins you installed yourself and what comes native. Focus exclusively on third party plugins, do not remove plugins if you aren’t sure what they are or if you have no idea what you’re doing.
Similarly, getting a new version of Java can also be helpful if the difficulties only occur with sites that make prodigious usage of Java.
4: Safari Still Crashing? Chrome or Firefox to the Rescue
If Safari is still experiencing persistent issues, your best bet may be to use Chrome or Firefox for the time being. Both are free and excellent web browsers, my personal preference is for Chrome but many users adore Firefox. Try out both and going with what you prefer:
Using another browser is obviously more of a workaround than a solution. This may be the only option left until another system update to OS X or a bug fix release for Safari is made available, which could remedy a specific problem you’re experiencing.
Have you experienced problems with Safari crashing in OS X 10.11, 10.11.5, 10.10, OS X 10.10.1, or OS X 10.10.2? Did you resolve the issue, and how? Let us know in the comments!