Multiple applications quit unexpectedly or fail to launch

The following AppleCare® Knowledge Base documents from Mac Help provide some assistance in troubleshooting cases when a given application quits unexpectedly or fails to launch:

Mac OS X version: Article:
Mac OS X 10.7 Lion "If an application quits unexpectedly."
Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard® "If an application quits unexpectedly."
Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard® "If an application quits unexpectedly."
Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger®

"My application quit unexpectedly."

Mac OS X 10.4-10.6 "Relaunching an application after it unexpectedly quits."

In addition to the reasons cited in the articles above, we would add the following in cases where multiple applications quit unexpectedly or fail to launch. This FAQ, derived from information in our Troubleshooting Mac® OS X series of e-books, can often resolve situations where multiple applications quit unexpectedly or fail to launch. Perform the troubleshooting steps below in the order specified.

  1. Font problems. When multiple applications quit unexpectedly or fail to launch, it is often a font problem.
    1. If you recently installed new fonts, remove them.
    2. If you disabled fonts with Font Book, particularly System fonts, re-enable them. Likewise, if you incorrectly resolved duplicate fonts, you may have disabled key fonts. Follow the instructions in our "Undoing Font Book" FAQ to resolve any issues that may have been caused by using Font Book incorrectly. Leopard introduced the concept of protected fonts, making it virtually impossible to disable the require system fonts.
    3. Certain fonts have been known to be problematic with Mac OS X, specifically Helvetica Fractions and Times Phonetic. If these fonts are installed, use Font Book to disable them. Font Book is located in the Macintosh HD > Applications folder. The instructions in the AppleCare® Knowledge Base document "Font Book 2.0 Help: Turning fonts off" apply to Mac OS X 10.4 and later.
    4. Some HP® printer software installs a corrupt Times RO font that can affect Mail, Safari, Software Update, and possibly other applications.
    5. Corrupted fonts:
      1. Introduced in Tiger, Font Book can check for damaged fonts. See the AppleCare Knowledge Base document "Font Book 2.0 Help: Checking for damaged fonts." The instructions therein apply to Mac OS X 10.4 and later..
      2. Morrison SoftDesign Font Doctor™ is an excellent utility for finding and often repairing corrupted fonts.
      3. Corrupted fonts can also be individually identified by process of elimination. This can be a tedious process which involves removing fonts one-at-a-time until all corrupted fonts are identified. Details can be found in the "Fonts" chapter of Troubleshooting Mac OS X.
  2. Disk, permission, or cache corruption. Run the Procedure specified in our "Resolving Disk, Permission, and Cache Corruption" FAQ. Perform the steps therein in the order specified.
  3. Incompatible Startup Items, Login Items, interface modifications or menu extras. See our "Troubleshooting Startup and Login Items" FAQ.
  4. Corrupted preferences other than those of the affected applications. Check preferences system-wide using the freeware application Preferential Treatment.
  5. Insufficient RAM or free disk space. See our "Problems from insufficient RAM and free hard disk space" FAQ.
  6. Downgrade installations of Mac OS X (Mac OS X 10.5 and earlier).
    1. If you are running Mac OS X 10.5 or earlier, perform an Archive and Install of Mac OS X, and do not use Software Update to reinstall the same version of Mac OS X you were using, multiple applications can be affected. See "Applications don't work after reinstalling Mac OS X."
    2. For the proper procedure to perform an Archive and Install, see our "General advice on performing an Archive and Install" FAQ.
  7. Programming errors. Bugs in application code are not uncommon. For third-party applications, check the vendor's Web site for updates to the application, reports of known bugs, or for information on how to contact the vendor for support.
  8. Corrupted application.
    1. See our "Uninstalling Applications" FAQ for general advice on uninstalling applications.
    2. For third-party applications, uninstall, then reinstall the problematic application following the uninstall instructions provided in the application's documentation.
    3. While it is rare that one needs to reinstall applications bundled with Mac OS X, one can:
      1. Trash the problematic application.
      2. Reinstall it from your Mac OS X Install Discs using the using the shareware application Pacifist. Pacifist has excellent documentation, so you should have no problems with it.
      3. Reapply the last Mac OS X Combo Update corresponding to the version of Mac OS X you are using. This will pick up any changes related to this application which were made since the application was originally published on the Mac OS X Install Discs.
  9. Other software problems or conflicts. Console can often provide for clues for additional troubleshooting. See our "Checking Console for clues" FAQ.
  10. Corrupted Mac OS X installation. Perform an Archive and Install of Mac OS X using the instructions in our "General advice on performing an Archive and Install" FAQ.
  11. Hardware problems. Run the Apple Hardware Test that came with your Mac. See our FAQ "The Apple Hardware Test" for details on using this important troubleshooting tool.

Related links

Did you find this FAQ helpful? You will find a wealth of additional advice for preventing or resolving Mac OS X problems in Dr. Smoke's book, Troubleshooting Mac® OS X.
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