May 082012
 

The Mozilla Maintenance Service was introduced in Firefox 12. Although currently only used by Firefox, it may in future be used by other Mozilla products e.g. Thunderbird.

Mozilla Maintenance Service is an optional background Windows service which allows Firefox to install updates without requiring you to click yes in the Windows User Account Control (UAC) dialog in Vista/7.

[Note: even though XP does not have UAC, this Service is still installed so that Mozilla can further streamline the update process in future]

The Mozilla Maintenance Service was one of the new features of Firefox 12 reviewed last month – it will also be included in future versions of Firefox and should allow ‘silent’ updates (or almost silent – Firefox will still need to be restarted to apply the upgrade).

It works as follows – once Firefox has downloaded an update, it starts up Mozilla Maintenance Service to automatically get permission from Windows to allow the update to be applied (with no UAC dialog). Until that time, the service doesn’t run so it doesn’t use any computer resources – once the update process begins, the service has done its job and therefore closes.

Silent Updates

If you have Firefox updates set to ‘Automatically install updates’ and are using the Mozilla Maintenance ‘background Service’ (as shown in the example below) then the next update to Firefox 13 should be seamless:

Mozilla Maintenance Service

‘Automatically install’ and ‘Use a background service’

1. Firefox will check for updates
2. If an update is available it will be downloaded in the background
3. Firefox will then call the Mozilla Maintenance Service to allow the update to be applied without UAC
4. The update is applied and (presumably) a message will appear asking you to restart Firefox for the upgrade to take place

I say ‘presumably’ because it is not yet certain but I would expect some sort of confirmation to be required from the user – if Firefox just suddenly restarted by itself with no warning you could lose whatever website sessions you had open.

Technical Details

Mozilla Maintenance Service appears in the list of Windows Services (visible from Start \ Run \ services.msc in XP or just type services.msc in the Vista/7 search box). The startup type of the service is ‘manual’ i.e. it only runs when called upon by Firefox in the event of a new update (and closes afterwards).

The actual file for the service is usually located in C:\Program Files\Mozilla Maintenance Service\maintenanceservice.exe

How To Disable The Service

Note: most users should leave it enabled to ensure that future Firefox updates (including security and stability fixes) are installed automatically. As the service only runs when needed (usually at 6 week intervals when a new version is released) it won’t slow down your computer.

However, if you really want to be prompted to authorize Firefox updates, you can disable it:

  • From the Firefox menu bar click Firefox (or ‘Tools’ in XP) and then click Options
  • Click the Advanced tab then click the Update tab
  • Untick the box next to ‘Use a background service to install updates’ and click OK to finish

[You could also uninstall the Mozilla Maintenance Service from Add/Remove Programs (XP) or Programs and Features (Vista/7) but it may be reinstalled by the next version of Firefox]

Conclusion

Mozilla Maintenance Service should help make future Firefox updates automatic and almost silent so you can forget about having to install new versions manually.

This is especially useful if there are urgent security updates (outside of the normal 6 weekly update cycle) which you might otherwise miss out on.

  2 Responses to “What The Mozilla Maintenance Service Does”

  1. I close firefox on exit and the next day it tells me firefox is still running and I cant get into it and have to restart my PC to get into firefox I am running Norton 2013 internet security and have run all the scans and am clean can you help me with this problem

    • If Firefox is still running in the background – end the Firefox process in Task Manager to avoid having to restart the PC.

      However, you need to find the cause – most likely due to a faulty extension (add-on) so you should troubleshoot them i.e. disable them all and see if the problem reoccurs then enable each add-on one by one until you find the one that causes Firefox to hang.

      For more detailed suggestions, see Firefox Support on this topic – http://support.mozilla.org/en-US/questions/845252