For a small number of users of Chromium-based browsers (including Chrome and the new Microsoft Edge) on Windows 10, after updating to 78.0.3875.0, every new tab crashes immediately when the browser starts.
Impacted users can open as many new tabs as they like, but each will instantly crash:
What’s going wrong? This problem relates to a security/reliability improvement made to Chromium’s sandboxing. Chromium runs each of the tabs (and extensions) within locked down (“sandboxed”) processes:
In Chrome 78, a change was made to prevent 3rd-party code from injecting itself into these sandboxed processes. 3rd-party code is a top source of browser reliability and performance problems, and it has been a longstanding goal for browser vendors to get this code out of the web platform engine.
This new feature relies on setting a Windows 10 Process Mitigation policy that instructs the OS loader to refuse to load binaries that aren’t signed by Microsoft. Edge 13 enabled this mitigation in 2015, and the Chromium change brings parity to the new Edge 78+. Notably, Chrome’s own DLLs aren’t signed by Microsoft so they are specially exempted by the Chromium sandboxing code.
Unfortunately, the impact of this change is that the renderer is killed (resulting in the “Aw snap” page) if any disallowed DLL attempts to load, for instance, if your antivirus software attempts to inject its DLLs into the renderer processes. For example, Symantec Endpoint Protection versions before 14.2 are known to trigger this problem.
If you encounter this problem, you should follow the following steps:
Update any security software you have to the latest version.
Other than malware, security software is the other likely cause of code being unexpectedly injected into the renderers.
Temporarily disable the new protection
You can temporarily launch the browser without this sandbox feature to verify that it’s the source of the crashes.
- Close all browser instances (verify that there are no hidden chrome.exe or msedge.exe processes using Task Manager)
- Use Windows+R to launch the browser with the command line override:
Ensure that the tab processes work properly when code integrity checks are disabled.
If so, you’ve proven that code integrity checks are causing the crashes.
Hunt down the culprit
Visit chrome://conflicts#R to show the list of modules loaded by the client. Look for any files that are not Signed By Microsoft or Google.
If you see any, they are suspects. (There will likely be a few listed as “Shell Extension”s; e.g. 7-Zip.dll, that do not cause this problem)– check for an R in the Process types column to find modules loading in the Renderers.
You should install any available updates for any of your suspects to see if doing so fixes the problem.
Use Enterprise Policy to disable the new protection
If needed, IT Adminstrators can disable the new protection using the RendererCodeIntegrity policy for Chrome and Edge. You should outreach to the software vendors responsible for the problematic applications and request that they update them.
Other possible causes
Note that it’s possible that you could have a PC that encounters symptoms like this (all subprocesses crash) but not a result of the new code integrity check.
- For instance, Chromium once had an obscure bug in its sandboxing code that caused all sandboxes to crash depending on the random memory mapping of Address Space Layout Randomization.
- Similarly, Chrome and Edge still have an active bug where all renderers crash on startup if the PC has AppLocker enabled and the browser is launched elevated (as Administrator).