Mac OS X 10.6.3 and Finder/Preview/Quick Look crashes

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Macintosh
April 13th, 2010 • 2:59 pm

The problem started with a specific build of the Mac OS X 10.6.3. I am part of the AppleSeed testing program for Mac OS X updates and so I got early builds of the 10.6.3 update to test before the final version was released.

I definitely didn’t have any such problems with previous versions of Mac OS X 10.6 (Snow Leopard), and it didn’t start with the very first build of the Mac OS X 10.6.3 update either.

But at some point along the beta testing process, I started getting regular crashes in the Finder and in Preview. In the Finder, the crashes specifically occur while I am attempting to use Quick Look to preview a file. Mac OS X starts the zooming visual effect with a growing file icon, and then the zooming freezes, and after a few seconds the Finder crashes altogether and relaunches.

(Fortunately, in Snow Leopard, the Finder now saves open windows nearly in real time, so typically after it relaunches things go back exactly to where they were just before the crash. If this were occurring with a previous generation of Mac OS X, it would be much more annoying, because after each crash the Finder would revert to the last-saved state, which could be a days-old or even weeks-old state, since the Finder used to save its state only when the user would manually quit it or log out and back in.)

I also get more crashes in Preview, usually when attempting to open a file.

Needless to say, after a crash, a new attempt to open the same file in Preview or to preview it with Quick Look fails to reproduce the problem.

I started submitting bug reports to Apple as soon as I got that first build that would trigger the crashes. But obviously they were not able to reproduce the problem, since it is still there in the final version of Mac OS X 10.6.3, at least on my machine.

A search through the Apple Discussions forums reveals a couple of threads that seem to describe similar problems:

Finder crashes repeatedly under Snow Leopard

Quick Look helper crashing in SL constantly

But the first reports predate Mac OS X 10.6.3 and the discussion threads don’t tie the problem specifically to the Mac OS X 10.6.3 update. There are also no clear indications of what the conditions required to trigger the problem are. Most people just post their crash logs and hope that someone is able to read more into them than they are.

I am not, and I am not sure Apple’s engineers are either. I don’t really know how useful crash logs are when it comes to attempting to pinpoint the source of a crash. I do know that, when I report crashes either to Apple or to other developers, they frequently request more information about the conditions required to reproduce the problem, beyond the crash logs themselves. So my guess is that, even though they look like they are full of information, crash logs are not necessarily all that useful.

In other words, unfortunately it looks like this is one of these hard-to-reproduce-reliably problems that we might be stuck with for a while, until Apple manages to reproduce it or accidentally fixes it in the process of fixing/changing something else.

The only additional bit of information that I have about this particular problem is the exact build number when I started experiencing it. As far as I can tell, this indicates that the problem was introduced by a change first made in that particular build. But only Apple has full information about the changes that they made in each specific build, and they already have my information about the build number, so there’s not much else I can provide them.

But the reality is that these crashes really happen quite frequently. I seem to be getting at least one a day on average, and at one stage three days ago I was actually able to trigger three of them in a row by repeatedly attempting to Quick View the same file.

But it’s all very fuzzy and, without specific steps with specific files that can be used to reliably reproduce the problem, I am not likely to be able to get very far in my own investigations and provide Apple with useful information. (I don’t really fancy doing a clean install of Snow Leopard and trying to reintroduce third-party add-ons one at a time in order to try and determine if the problem is a conflict with such a third-party add-on. That would be a very time-consuming process, and the problem is not severe enough to justify such an investment in time and energy, at least in my case.)

This is just life in a world full of bugs, I am afraid.

One Response to “Mac OS X 10.6.3 and Finder/Preview/Quick Look crashes”

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