Mac OS X 10.6 (Snow Leopard): Changing Crash Reporter settings

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Macintosh
June 23rd, 2010 • 4:55 pm

I am really getting sick and tired of Mac OS X’s Finder, Quick Look and Preview crashing on me all the time while browsing collections of PDF files on my hard drive.

I’ve talked about this problem before and unfortunately, I still haven’t found a solution. I still get multiple crashes every day while using Snow Leopard’s Finder and its Quick Look function to explore PDF files, or when opening and browsing these PDF files in Preview. It is really quite irritating, and I’ve decided that it’s really time to do something about it.

The first problem I had to deal with was that, for some reason, my Snow Leopard system was not sending any crash reports to Apple’s servers. I would get the usual crash report dialog, but the only options I was given was to relaunch the offending application. The dialog seemed to imply that the crash report would be sent to Apple, but I have Little Snitch’s Network Monitor window open at all times, and I would never see any network activity with my system trying to connect to Apple’s servers after I dismissed the dialog.

I had no idea why my system was not sending the reports to Apple, but I figured that there had to be a way to make it work again. (This was not a new problem, but until I got a decent high-speed Internet connection last week, I just couldn’t be bothered to try and solve this problem knowing that my connection was so slow and unreliable anyway.)

So I explored my home library folders to try and find a preference file or cache that I could trash to force Snow Leopard’s crash reporting process to offer me to send the crash reports to Apple again, but I couldn’t find anything that had any impact on anything. I trash a few files and tried to relaunch the appropriate processes, but Snow Leopard continued to refuse to send its reports to Apple’s servers. (It was easy for me to trigger crashes, because I would get them all the time when attempting to explore a specific folder with PDF files with Quick Look.)

Finally, I did a Spotlight search for “crashreport” in file names on my hard drive, and Spotlight told me that I had an application called somewhere inside my “Developer” folder:

I launched that application and, sure enough, it offered the following options:


I changed my option from the first one (which was selected) to the second one and quit the application. I triggered another crash and finally I got a different dialog box with the option to specifically trigger the sending of the crash reports to Apple. I kept an eye on my Network Monitor window, and it did indicate that my system was communicating with Apple’s servers.

So I managed to get that working again. But of course it did nothing to fix the crashes. It’s just that now I am sure that, each time I get a crash, Mac OS X will send a report to Apple. Since I get so many crashes, maybe, just maybe there is a tiny hope that the presence of all these crashes will add to other people’s crash reports and cause Apple to notice that there is something wrong and try to fix it.

Because I am fairly certain that it is some kind of bug in Mac OS X. As I wrote in my earlier post, the whole thing started with a specific build of the Mac OS X 10.6.3 update, and has been going on ever since.

Now, it is of course possible that it is just a coincidence and that the problem has nothing to do with this particular update. But then, what could it be? I have tried trashing preference files. I have tried deactivating various third-party plug-ins that might interfere with Quick Look (but they don’t have anything to do with Preview, and Preview crashes on a regular basis too). I have tried clearing caches, repairing permissions, rebuilding my LaunchServices database. Nothing helps.

I should also note that I am not the only one with this problem. There are all kinds of complaints about Finder crashes on Apple’s forum, but this thread in particular describes a situation that is exactly the same as mine. Unfortunately, so far no one has posted any kind of suggestion of a solution.

So, what to do? I am afraid the next option for me will probably be to try and rebuild a separate user environment from scratch. Because if I try to reproduce the crashes in a blank user environment with zero customizations and no third-party application running, of course I am unable to do so. I can only reproduce the problem in my own user environment, so it must have something to do with some specific settings, caches, or third-party tools in my environment.

But rebuilding a new user environment from scratch will be very time-consuming, all the more so if I want to try and identify the specific setting/incompatibility that causes the problem with the crashes. Because if I rebuild everything at once, and the problem reappears, then I will not have a better idea of what is required to reproduce it and I will be unable to do anything further about the problem. The only way to identify the source of the problem will be to rebuild things slowly, piece by piece, and try to reproduce the crashes after each step. It’s going to be mightily painful.

I have put it off for many months, but since Apple does not seem to be able to reproduce the problem (I have submitted several bug reports about this), what other option do I have?

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