Chrome is normally a very stable browser, reliable and easy to use. But sometimes you’ll get a run of crashes, which can be frustrating.
First things first: how often is Chrome crashing? You can get a report on this by typing chrome://crashes into your omnibar. This will show you a list of all the times Chrome crashed and when those crashes took place.
If there really has been a sudden uptick, it might be time to find out more.
1. Update your endpoint security (or do this in the meantime)
Google has figured out what’s been causing so many Chrome 78 users to see the Oh Snap message. It’s not a flaw in Chrome directly. Instead, it’s a problem with compatibility between the new build of Chrome and older versions of Symantec Endpoint security. SEP is very popular with business users, so if Chrome is crashing at work, this could well be the issue.
The solution is probably to update SEP from SEP 14.2, which many businesses have yet to do and which may not be in your control.
If you can, Symantec advises to upgrade to SEP 14.2 RU2 MP1 build 14.2.5569.2100.
If you can’t, consider using an Application Control Exception—this is likely to be the solution if you do have admin access to your Symantec account, but your OS is Windows Server 2016 or Windows 10 RS1 with any version of SEP installed.
What if you can’t do either of those things, but you still need to get Chrome to work now?
Here’s a short-term fix.
Find Chrome in your Start menu and right-click it, then select “Properties.” Find the target field and paste this text in at the end:
Click “Apply,” and Chrome should work as normal when you relaunch it.
What if that’s not the problem?
2. Close tabs
Chrome typically runs each tab as a separate process. You can check that for yourself in Task Manager (Activity Monitor on Mac). Count your Chrome tabs and then check for Chrome processes in Task Manager. You might see there’s the same number of Chrome processes as tabs.
But you might not. That’s because Chrome also sometimes runs several tabs as the same process. And it runs extensions and plugins as separate processes, so you might see many more Chrome processes than you have tabs open.
It’s not great for memory and a large number of open tabs can crash Chrome.
Additionally, web browsers don’t simply display static content. Chrome browser is more or less an operating system in itself, capable of running all kinds of code. Some of that code might be malicious; some of it might just be bad. But if you have a Chrome tab that’s misbehaving, that could crash your browser too.
When your browser does crash, Chrome will offer you the option to report. That’s up to you, though you’re doing Chrome users everywhere a favor by handing over your data to help Google improve Chrome.
Next, you’ll be offered to reopen all your tabs from your last session. Trouble is, if one of those tabs crashed Chrome, guess what’s about to happen?
There’s a smarter way.
Go to History in your Chrome menu and you’ll see Recently Closed at the top. If you had a bunch of tabs open when your session crashed, they’ll all show as “48 tabs” (true story, not proud) or something like that. Click on that and you get a dropdown, from which you can open Chrome tabs from your last session individually. Check them all; if none of the tabs you had open contained anything that crashed Chrome, try reopening them all. If that crashes Chrome, you might have a memory problem.
3. Quit everything and reopen
Here’s what I have running right now:
- Chrome Canary
- Express VPN
- Activity Monitor
If you’re on a desktop machine, you’re probably used to being able to just run anything you like. 10 applications? No problem. But if you have big, memory-hungry apps—such as something from the Adobe Creative Suite—open, you might find there’s not enough RAM left to go around all the stuff you’ve left open in the background.
When Chrome crashes, try shutting down all your applications, then restarting Chrome. It’s rare that an application is actually interfering with Chrome (though it does happen—see Find and remove harmful software), but you might be at the limits of your device’s active memory.
Chrome is more likely to crash if it’s out of date. Chrome Stable, the standard build, is updated every couple of months to couple of weeks. If you’re well overdue for an update, Chrome could start to act buggy as websites and extensions update their code to match the new version and you’re not running it yet. (New versions of Chrome also come out to patch security flaws.)
Fortunately, updating Chrome is easy and quick. On desktop, you can simply quit Chrome and reopen it; it should update automatically. If it doesn’t for some reason—some methods of installing Chrome don’t also install the auto-updater, for instance—you can update it manually.
Open the Chrome menu and select “Help” > “About Google Chrome.”
You’ll be able to see whether your version of Chrome is the latest. If it’s not, there’s an Update button right next to the version information. Once the new version has downloaded the Update button becomes a Relaunch button.
If that doesn’t work—sometimes it doesn’t—you can download the latest version of Chrome directly here.
5. Check for malware
Head over to Chrome Settings and check to see that your security and search engine settings are as you left them.
That’s a big giveaway that you’ve accidentally downloaded something that’s messing with your browser, redirecting you when you search. It won’t show up serious, cunning malware, just adware and other junkware.
You can also use this opportunity to delete cookies and cache, erasing another possible source of malicious code and redundant functionality that could be destabilizing your browser. If you suspect you have been infected with malware but everything in Settings looks fine, do a scan with a tool like MalwareBytes.
6. Disable extensions
Extensions bolt on additional functionality to the core Chrome browser. With them you can do everything from sales prospecting, web scraping and SEO through to forcing dark mode or changing text on websites.
But extensions are also miniature programs, and they’re not all created equal. Chrome’s relatively open rules about who can build extensions—compare them with Apple’s famously strict regime—mean a Web Store brimming with cool tricks and useful tools. It also means you get more malware and just plain bad code. It’s not uncommon for Chrome extensions to fail to play well with each other, or with the code on certain sites. And when extensions jam up they can jam up Chrome too.
You don’t have to fully remove your favorite extensions to check if they’re the culprit. You can disable them instead.
Open Chrome and go straight to Menu > “More Tools” > “Extensions.” Your extensions will all be laid out there, and each will have an option to remove and to disable.
Try disabling them all, then open the tabs you had open when your Chrome crashed last and see what happens. If it’s all clear, enable them, one by one. If none of your extensions causes Chrome to crash, we probably need to look for the culprit elsewhere.
7. Find and remove harmful software
Chrome has inbuilt tools to find and remove harmful software. These replace the now-deprecated Chrome Cleanup Tool, and let you find and remove unwanted software directly from your browser.
This works differently depending whether you’re on a Windows machine or a Mac. On a Windows machine, you can do the job through Chrome. On a Mac you’ll have to do it through the OS directly.
Before you do it, bear in mind you may be asked to reboot your computer afterwards.
For Windows machines:
Open Chrome and go to Menu > “Settings” > “Reset and Cleanup,” or type chrome://settings/cleanup/ into your omnibar. Click “Clean up computer,” then “Find.”
Chrome will list any unwanted software it finds. You can then click “Remove” to delete it.
On a Mac:
Go to Finder > Applications, and look for anything that you don’t remember installing. (You can also search your Downloads folder in finder for .dmg installer files that don’t look right.) If you’re not sure what something is, Google it to check.
If you do find anything that doesn’t look right, drag it to the trash and then empty the trash.
What about third-party cleanup tools for Macs? These basically act as an interface between you and functionality that’s built into Mac OSX anyway. You shouldn’t need one, and some are notoriously difficult to remove themselves once installed.
8. Uninstall and reinstall
Updating Chrome isn’t the same as uninstalling it. Sometimes files associated with an application can cause it to crash or interact badly with extensions or websites. If you’re at this stage of the list and Chrome keeps on crashing, it might be time to uninstall and reinstall your browser.
To uninstall Chrome on Windows:
(These instructions are for Windows 10.)
Go to Start and click Settings, then scroll down and find Apps. Click Apps and scroll down the Apps and Features list until you find Google Chrome. Click on it, click “Uninstall” and confirm. Google Chrome will be uninstalled.
Double check for Chrome files on Windows by opening the Control Panel and searching for %programfiles% and %appdata%. These are the folders where data associated with applications is stored. Once you have found these folders, open them and search for Google Chrome and delete any remaining files.
Note that if you do this and you weren’t signed in to your Google account on Chrome, all your browsing data will be lost, including bookmarks and history.
To uninstall Chrome on a Mac:
Quit Chrome first. If you don’t, you won’t be able to uninstall it—Mac OS X won’t uninstall a running application. Go to Applications and find Chrome, then drag it to the trash and empty the trash.
This may still leave some application files on the hard disk. To remove these, go to Finder > Library > Application Support/Google/Chrome and delete the files you find there. In some cases these can take up far more space than the original application.
Once you’ve finished uninstalling, you can reinstall Chrome from the Chrome website here. Installing Chrome should be a simple matter of downloading the installation file and running the installer, and the Chrome website should automatically detect your operating system and serve you the right download. If you get stuck, we have a comprehensive guide to installing Chrome here.
9. No Sandbox flag
Chrome Flags are tools for enabling special functionality inside Chrome. They change the way Chrome works rather than adding new code, and they’re used to access experimental features that sometimes wind up being a normal part of the Chrome experience.
This is a different kind of flag, one that tells your operating system how to treat your browser when it runs the application. It’s not available for Mac.
Here’s how to use it on a Windows machine:
Find the Chrome desktop shortcut and right-click it, then click “Properties.” Click the Shortcut tab and type –no-sandbox into the file path. Typically, Chrome will be installed in your C drive so the file path should now look something like:
You can now click the desktop shortcut to open the application with sandboxing disabled.
You can also do this in Linux.
Open a terminal instance and find /usr/bin/google-chrome. Add –no-sandbox at the end of the last line, line 42. Now you should be able to start Chrome from the menu as root with no sandboxing.
However, addressing sandboxing is a cosmetic fix. If you’re having trouble right now, it might get you through the day, but what you really need to do is get to the root of the problem, which probably means updating your endpoint security when that becomes possible.