When I have a problem, I'm always amazed at how often a simple Internet search will reveal other with the same problem and very often a solution. But sometimes not. The negative results fall into two catgories: either I'm having a genuinely rare difficulty, or I haven't found the right combination of search terms to narrow the results down to something relevant.

I don't know which was the case with our recent Firefox problem, but I couldn't find any help, so I'm posting this in case it might help someone else.

Invisible Firefox, Firefox opens invisbly, invisble window, can't maximize window, perpetually minimized window, can't see open application window. Maybe that's enough search terms, at least for someone who thinks as I do.

You may have guessed the problem. Suddenly Firefox started operating in stealth mode on our laptop. It would appear to be opening, and would show up as a taskbar button, but appeared to be perpetually minimized. But in reality it was maximized ("maximize" was greyed out when I right-clicked) but invisible.

I won't detail everything I tried, but it was an interesting puzzle and I did find some interesting things, including that the program was still running and would respond to keyboard controls, even though I couldn't see what I was doing. That way I was able to bring up the bookmarks manager and export the bookmarks, which provided a measure of relief.

Doing a system restore did not work; the process was unable to complete for any of the three restore points I tried.

I uninstalled and reinstalled Firefox, but even that was not enough.

After I discovered that uninstall doesn't delete your profile, I repeated the uninstall, then changed the names of the old files to force the reinstall to create a new profile, and that did the trick: the Firefox window was visible once more.

Clearly something about the profile had become corrupted, because when I switched back to the old profile (by modifying the profiles.ini file), the problem returned. I had planned to add pieces of the old profile back in a bit at a time to try to discover the source of the problem, but then decided I didn't want to spend any more time on the project; it was faster and easier just to import the old bookmarks into the new profile, set up our customizations again, and deal with the loss of a few cookies and remembered passwords

If this story has a moral, it is the same moral as in all computing tales: backup, backup, backup.

Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, August 15, 2006 at 7:34 am | Edit
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UPDATE: The problem happened again, with no apparent cause, only this time it affected, in the same way, both Firefox and Internet Explorer. This time I didn't reinstall Firefox, but just added a new profile, which worked. Then I tried replacing various files in the corrupted profile with ones from the good one, and the offending file was "localstore.rdf." I haven't figured out what to do with IE yet, nor what might be causing the problem.

Posted by SursumCorda on Thursday, August 31, 2006 at 5:02 pm
UPDATE: YES! The problem happened yet again, and this time Porter had an inspiration, one that solved the problem and explained why the system "broke" somehow between a normal shutdown one day and a normal bootup a few days later. The critical piece of information is that sometimes the laptop is used freestanding, and sometimes in a docking station. More to the point, the docking station has its own monitor, so that Porter can use a double-screen desktop. The Invisible Firefox (or IE, or whatever) Probem occurs if he exits a program that is displayed on the external screen, and at some later point used the laptop outside of the docking station, or with the external screen turned off. This explains why the invisible program was acting as if it was offscreen -- but I couldn't drag it back onscreen. Windows can be dragged from one screen to another, but ONLY if they are not minimized or maximized.

Recovery procedure: (1) If in the docking station, turn on the external monitor; problem solved. (2) If away from the docking station, right click on the taskbar button to reveal the shortcut menu; choose "Restore." This may have to be done more than once, until the "Move" option is available on the shortcut menu. When you can choose Move, do so. Then use the arrow keys to drag the window back onto the laptop screen. Whew!

Posted by SursumCorda on Monday, September 04, 2006 at 1:24 pm

This has nothing to do with Firefox, but I'm putting it here so I can find it again. Some of my programs open windows on the alternate screen that have no accessible taskbar button. In that case, use ALT+SPACE then M then arrow keys to move the window onto the laptop screen. (This won't work if the window is maximized on the alternate screen. In that case, first use ALT+SPACE then R, then ALT+SPACE then M.)

Posted by SursumCorda on Thursday, July 17, 2008 at 7:35 am

I had a similar problem and through this post quickly realized it was because I just set up a new TV as a second monitor. And of course FireFox was opening on the TV and seemingly broken due to 'invisibility' on the monitor. I may have eventually thought of this but I was going to try re install FireFox until I spotted this post. Thanks to the OP.

Posted by D on Thursday, December 24, 2009 at 12:45 pm

It has nothing to do with FF. Go to control panel, screen resolution, where it says "multiple displays", select "show desktop only on 1". That did the trick for me.

Posted by Fifi on Tuesday, November 02, 2010 at 6:49 pm

I had the same problem with only a notebook running Windows 7 Starter involved and through trial and error found out that I could bring back a visible display of the window by opening Firefox twice. Once my homepage and window was visible again, I closed the first window.

This just happened and so I don't know whether it is a permanent fix but it is working right now.

Posted by Therese on Sunday, March 27, 2011 at 8:00 pm

I found deleting localstore.rdf to be the cure. In gratitude to this forum, here's a link explaining the source of the problem:



Posted by Cecilieaux Bois de Murier on Friday, April 08, 2011 at 7:45 am

In my case the problem turned out to be a window off-screen, and fixing localstore solved it in a tangential manner. But for the future, and in the name of the many folks who end up here with Firefox problems, I thank you.

Posted by SursumCorda on Friday, April 08, 2011 at 8:29 am

After scrolling through the program windows with Windows+Tab or Alt+Tab, stop at Firefox, then press the F11 key. That at least gets you in there till you do whatever maintenance or saving you have to do. But the localstore.rdf fix did the trick for me also. Thanx.

Posted by Luis on Friday, June 17, 2011 at 1:51 pm

WOW, I had this problem and tried the many things suggested to me all over the place and this finally helped. Seems the page had ended up shrunk to next to nothing and I was fiiiinally able to get at it. Thank god, since it was the one for my school paper.

Posted by KCarey on Sunday, July 31, 2011 at 4:30 pm

Based on what is suggested above, here is one solution:

1) Close Firefox.

2) Open localstore.rdf in Notepad.

3) Near the beginning, my file contained:

Posted by PdA on Sunday, September 18, 2011 at 11:08 pm

Sorry, PdA, we seem to have lost the rest of your post. That sometimes happens if you include html that is either incorrect or one of the commands not allowed here.

Posted by SursumCorda on Monday, September 19, 2011 at 6:33 am

OK, let's try again:

Based on what is suggested above, here is one solution that worked for me:

1) CLOSE Firefox.

2) Open localstore.rdf in Notepad.

3) Near the beginning, my file contained:

4) Reset screenX= and screenY= to zero.

5) Save the file and restart Firefox.

Posted by PdA on Monday, September 19, 2011 at 9:08 pm

Thank you very much, PdA.

Posted by SursumCorda on Tuesday, September 20, 2011 at 6:11 am

In my case I could see that when I tried to restore it appeared to be going down below my start bar in Vista. So I tried using the Move command for the window as suggested with the arrow keys and it moved right up.

Thank you all.

Posted by CaptainBli on Monday, November 07, 2011 at 11:33 am

Thanks for the Alt-Space hint. That sorts it for me. I just had to select maximize. To shrink the window again once this problem has struck, the only way is to drag the title bar, the minimize option puts you back in trouble otherwise. Thanks for this quick and clear cause plus solution.
Is considering writing a script to just reset or restore the X and Y when they get toasted.
In my case I suspected the problem was remote-desktoping software causing pain, since I don't use a docking station... But turns out I do someimtes plug a monitor into my laptop for LCD presentations :-(

Posted by Conrad on Sunday, March 04, 2012 at 5:13 am

I just read about your site, woah. I knew there was something about the way your FireFix Invisible Window question was just so thoughtfully worded. (And solved.) `It's not about winning the argument, it's about progress` - is something I have now got to take away with me to work on Monday as well.

Posted by Conrad on Sunday, March 04, 2012 at 5:23 am

Thanks, Conrad. It is a sad reflection on the current spam situation that I almost deleted your comments because the second was laudatory. Usually a commenter who praises my blog also wants to sell me fake designer handbags, counterfeit passports, or worse. But your comments were actually related to the post topic, so I took the time to determine that you are a real person. :)

Posted by SursumCorda on Monday, March 05, 2012 at 11:18 am