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It's inconvenient that Firefox's new version numbering system sometimes requires add-ons to be disabled for short periods of time. But the real question is: do you need all those add-ons?

I have Windows XP and use Firefox as my browser. Firefox is constantly pestering me to update to version 12. However, when I get to the download section, I am reminded that, "Some of your add-ons won't work with the update, and must be disabled. As soon as they are made compatible, Firefox will update & re-enable these add-ons: 1. Java Console 6.0.16, 6.0.20, & 6.0.26. 2. Microsoft .NET Framework Assistant 1.2.1. 3. Norton Safe Web Lite Toolbar 1.2.0 4. Norton Vulnerability Protection 10.1.0.68-1." I am then warned "This is your last reminder before you will be automatically updated to the latest version". If I download, am I putting my computer in danger? I don't understand the whole thing. It sounds like I could get screwed either way. Thank you, Leo.

In this excerpt from Answercast #21, I explain how Firefox version numbers occasionally create a backlog for add-on developers and look at what add-ons might really be unnecessary.

Will it harm my computer?

No, you're not gonna get screwed.

You're not really putting your computer in danger. In fact, several of the items that are listed there are things that I'm going to recommend, in a moment, that you remove anyway.

Why Firefox disables add-ons

What happens is that every time Firefox updates, it updates its version number. Many add-ons will check the version number to see if it's a version that they claim to be compatible with.

With Firefox recently, going to a mode where they update the version number more frequently (in fact, by the time you hear this, we might be up to versions 13, 14, or 15), the add-ons are kinda-sorta out of date a bit more frequently. Which is unfortunate. That is one of the complaints about Firefox having moved to a more frequent version incrementing scheme.

That being said, most of the add-ons are in fact getting updated very quickly after a new release of Firefox.

Go ahead and update

  • So, bottom line is: I would not hesitate to update Firefox to the latest version when that happens.

Go ahead and let the add-ons be disabled temporarily. They'll be automatically updated at some point when you restart Firefox and the new versions are available.

Firefox add-ons to remove

Now, as for some of those add-ons:

  • You have too many Java consoles.

I would remove (or at least disable from the add-on manager) Java consoles .16 and .20. I would actually remove them all because, ultimately, I'm not convinced that you need them.

  • Microsoft.net Framework Assistant has a long history... and in fact, almost no one needs it!

It was installed stealthily by Microsoft originally (this goes back a year or two ago) without a way to disable or uninstall it. Needless to say, the feedback on that was extremely negative. It's now possible to both disable and/or uninstall that extension. I would absolutely remove the .net Framework Assistant.

  • Norton Safeweb Light Toolbar and Norton Vulnerability Protection – those are kind of up to you.

I would assume that Norton will be relatively quick about updating those kinds of utilities. I don't run with those and typically, I don't recommend that people do run with those types of utilities installed in their browser. If it's been working for you – great. But I would be totally comfortable in updating to a version of Firefox that didn't support those yet and waiting for those to be updated by Norton. They will be installed automatically when the time comes.

So, like I said, ultimately, you're not gonna get screwed. It's a safe thing to do. I would recommend you go ahead and install the latest version of Firefox; uninstall a few of those extensions you've got hanging around; and go ahead and take the updated extensions as they become available.

Next from Answercast 21 – How can I send a hyperlink in email?

Article C5389 - May 26, 2012 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

Not what you needed?

1 Comment
Daniel Lauber
May 29, 2012 8:44 AM

There's an easy way around compatibility checking. Just install the add-on "checkCompatibility." It reinstates the extensions.checkCompatibility preference in FireFox. It's available at https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/checkcompatibility. It works like a charm.



The description:

While it used to be possible to disable add-on compatibility checking entirely, by setting the extensions.checkCompatibility preference to false, it is now necessary to set a different preference for each new application version. This add-on re-enables the functionality of extensions.checkCompatibility irrespective of the current application version and disables checking by default. Checking can be re-enabled by disabling the add-on (which can be done without a restart) or by toggling the preference.

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