Go ahead and reinstall Firefox to get it working again, and then import the profile file where bookmarks are stored, Patrick Marshall tells a reader. He also addresses trouble with an external hard drive and a question about “closed” applications that seem to keep running.

Share story

Q: For several years I’ve used several browsers, but Mozilla Firefox has been my main browser, and I have many bookmarks there. For the first time, I cannot open the program. When I click on the icon or try to launch it in other ways, I get the pop-up message, “Could not find the Mozilla runtime.”

I think you’re going to advise me to uninstall and reinstall the program. I’m hoping there will be a way to preserve my bookmarks.

— Reiley Kidd, Seattle

A: Yes and yes. Yes, I am going to advise you to reinstall Firefox. And, yes, there is a way to preserve your bookmarks.

Actually, you’re almost certainly in luck. Firefox stores your bookmarks — which other browsers call “favorites” — and other configuration information in a profile file. You can reinstall Firefox and then import the profile. For specific instructions on how to do this, go to this Mozilla support article.

Also, note that the current version of Firefox allows you to sync this data on multiple installations of Firefox that you may have on different devices. One benefit of this is that if you ever need to reinstall your bookmarks, they are always handily available.

Q: I’m having a problem with an external hard drive and I hope you can help me with it. I bought a Hewlett-Packard SimpleSave external hard drive in 2010. I connected it to a desktop running Windows XP and a laptop running Windows 7 Pro. The hard drive worked well, backing up all my data on both computers.

About a year ago, I bought new desktop and laptop computers, both running Windows 8.1. The hard drive won’t respond to either of them, nor to the Windows 7 laptop, which I still have. I thought of wiping the hard drive and scrapping it, but I can’t even get it open on any of the computers to do that.

I’m guessing that the external hard drive is corrupted, and I’m OK with recycling it. I’d like to make sure that all my data have been removed; I tried reformatting the external drive but I get a message that it’s not available. Ideas?

— Marty Byrne

A: I was about to write that you should check for Windows 8-compatible drivers for that external drive. But since you note that you can’t access the drive with a Windows 7 computer that formerly could, yes, I’d agree that the drive either has hardware or software problems. Just to be sure, though, try connecting it to the Windows 7 computer with a different cable.

I’m not one to recommend throwing anything away that can be repaired and reused, so I’m all in favor of donating the drive if you can’t get it working. While it’s possible that a technician can repair it, it’s also possible that it may get tossed as not worth the effort.

But if you are concerned about your data on the drive, take it to a recycle service that promises to wipe the drive. Most of them do make that promise. Can you trust them to do so? I haven’t heard of any reports to the contrary.

If you don’t trust the recycle services, however, and you can’t access the drive to use a wiping program — which writes over all the sectors on the drive — you can always resort to the old-fashioned remedy of a sledgehammer.

Q: I have noticed that when I close programs (by clicking the X in the upper right corner) started from Start in Windows 8.1 that the program isn’t actually closed. Checking in Task Manager, I’ve noticed that these programs are still running.

Is this a “feature” of Windows 8.1 or is there something wrong? If it is what is supposed to occur, is there a way to actually have the program close when I click the X?

— Bob Stone

A: While the X in the upper-right corner of programs generally closes the application, that behavior is determined by the creator of each application. Skype for Windows, for example, closes the on-screen window when the X is clicked, but it does not shut down the application.

Also, many applications have been designed to leave mini-applications running even after the primary application has been closed. Most often, such mini-apps are devoted to such tasks as checking for updates.