Backing up your Firefox Profile

This is actually quite easy. For those who do not know FEBE is a Firefox plugin used to back-up and retrieve user profiles. It copies and all plug-ins, themes, bookmarks and undeleted browsing history (including the cache) then compresses them into one zip file ready to be re-imported into Firefox should a profile become corrupt or destroyed, or should a profile just need copying to another computer.

I’ve discovered three downsides to FEBE:

  1. it isn’t always reliable (I recently lost a lot of bookmarks through an improper backup),
  2. FEBE must be installed before a profile can be imported, and
  3. a back-up cannot be imported into an active profile so a new profile must be created to be replaced by an old profile i.e there must be a minimum of two profiles: one from which the import process can be initiated and one to receive the imported data.

However, it does have at least three advantages over the alternative profile restoration method I’m about to explain:

  1. it’s easy to use,
  2. it’s possible to export and import profile components and not just the complete profile, and
  3. it leaves current profiles in tact i.e the restoration process only overwrites the profile into which the back-up profile is imported.

The alternative to using FEBE to back up and restore profiles is to locate your Firefox profile folder and copy it to a back-up location; this backed-up profile folder can then be used to overwrite another Firefox profile folder.

This method has at least four good advantages over FEBE:

  1. The backed-up profile is an exact replica of the original one that it mirrors,
  2. The only software that need be installed for the back-up to function is Firefox. To be precise, it must be a compatible version of Firefox from whence the back-up came (this stipulation is more strict with FEBE),
  3. the all  important bookmarks file is much easier to locate and restore should the back-up profile be incompatible with the version of Firefox into which the profile is to be restored, and
  4. whereas FEBE doesn’t always allow incompatible back-ups to be imported into Firefox, directly overwriting the profile directory kinda forces the issue such that Firefox will do its best to use an incompatible profile.

There is one disadvantage to not using FEBE:

  1. profiles already existent within the overwritten Firefox profile directory are destroyed when they’re replaced by the back-up. There is a way around this, though: edit the file that indexes the profiles contained within the profiles directory to include the imported back-up profile then only copy the folder containing the back-up profile (keep reading to learn how to do this).

So how does this work? How do you locate your Firefox profile, copy it then restore it should you need to? As I said right at the beginning of this article, it is actually quite easy…

How to back-up and restore Firefox profiles without FEBE

Linux

To back up:

  • open a file manager and browse to /home/*user*/ (replace *user* with the name of the user whose profile is to be backed-up),
  • get the file manager to show hidden files and folders. To show hidden files and folders when using Dolphin, select view from the top menu bar then choose Show Hidden Files,
  • access the newly visible .mozilla folder then enter the firefox folder,
  • you should now be in /home/*user*/.mozilla/firefox/ where you should see one or more folders and at least one file; one of the folders could be called *.default and the file will be called profiles.ini (the asterisk,*, in *.default represents a series of eight characters). These are Firefox’s profile file and folders and thus are what you’re there to get, lastly
  • copy the file profiles.ini and the folder *.default (or all similar looking folders as judged by the random character naming) into a safe back-up location,

To restore

  • overwrite the contents of /home/*user*/.mozilla/firefox/ with the copy folder(s) and profiles.ini file, then
  • restart Firefox.

Additional notes:

If needed, the complete firefox folder can be copied instead of the individual profile folders and the profiles.ini file.

To import an individual profile without overwriting any existent profile(s) then edit the existent profiles.ini file to include the contents of the back-up profiles.ini file (i.e merge them) but take care not to duplicate data; and copy over the individual back-up profile folder(s).

To copy the complete /home/*user*/.mozilla/firefox/ folder using only the command line type sudo cp -r /home/*user*/.mozilla/firefox/ followed by the path to backup directory and to restore the copy type sudo cp -r *backup directory path* /home/*user*/.mozilla/firefox

Windows

Learn to use Linux…but, if you must use Windows…

The profiles are located in different places according to the Windows version. To copy or restore a profile, back-up or replace the folder marked *.default (where * represents the eight characters that identify a unique profile).It should be located at:

98/Me

C:\WINDOWS\Application Data\Mozilla\Firefox\Profiles\*.default

Vista

C:\Users\<username>\AppData\Roaming\Mozilla\Firefox\Profiles\*.default

XP, 2000

C:\Documents and Settings\<username>\Application Data\Mozilla\Firefox\Profiles\*.default

Mac

Mac users, your Firefox profile is located at:

~/Library/Application Support/Firefox/Profiles/*.default

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