Starting with a Fresh Profile

Updated 03/09/2013: Removed references to now defunct Personas Themes.

Updated 11/16/2011: Added info for backup and restore of Greasemonkey and Stylish scripts. Also added new step in the Starting Over section.

If you’ve been using the same profile since Firefox 3.6  (or older) you may run into performance issues with newer versions of Firefox. In the case of Firefox 8, some users have reported the browser is very unstable. This can be caused by bad/out-dated extensions and/or a damaged profile. With a new profile you are starting over from scratch with Firefox at its ‘factory default’ settings. However, you can bring most of your customizations (userChrome.css/userContent.css and about:config) as well as Bookmarks and Passwords over to your new profile. Your cookies and history can not be brought over. Also, you will need to install your add-ons (extensions, themes, plugins, etc.) again. While you can use an extension such as FEBE to do this, chances are one the add-ons you have installed could be causing the issues. Plus this makes sure you have the current versions of the add-ons.

Tip: It will be helpful to print these directions or open this article in another browser (Chrome, Opera, etc).

First step is to start with your current profile:

  • Backup your customizations (about:config, userChrome.css/userContent.css. Greasemonkey & Stylish Scripts)
  • Backup your bookmarks
  • Export your passwords
  • Add-ons Review
  • Uninstall Firefox (and remove profile)

About:config settings (prefs.js)

Your about:config settings are stored in a file called prefs.js within your profile folder. You can copy this file into your new profile to bring your about:config settings over.

Backup prefs.js

  1. In Firefox, open a new tab and type in the address bar about:support and press enter.
  2. In the Application Basics section click the button Open Containing Folder. Your profile folder will now be opened.
  3. Make a copy of the prefs.js file. Make note of where you saved this file (good place would be desktop or My Documents)

userChrome.css/userContent.css and other Customizations

Certain browser and site appearance customizations are done via the userChrome.css (browser) and/or userContent.css (sites) files. These are located in the chrome sub-folder within your profile folder. Optional if you are using Greasemonkey and/or Stylish you may want to backup these scripts as well.

Backing up the userChrome.css/userContent.css files

  1. In Firefox, open a new tab and type in the address bar about:support and press enter.
  2. In the Application Basics section click the button Open Containing Folder. Your profile folder will now be opened.
  3. Open the chrome sub folder. Note: If you do not have a chrome sub-folder you have never made these customizations and can skip this section.
  4. Copy userChrome.css and/or userContent.css (note you do not need userChrome-example.css and/or userContent-example.css files). Make note of where you saved these files (good place would be desktop or My Documents)

Greasemonkey (optional)

  1. In Firefox, open a new tab and type in the address bar about:support and press enter.
  2. In the Application Basics section click the button Open Containing Folder. Your profile folder will now be opened.
  3. Locate and copy the gm_scripts folder somewhere that you will remember (good place would be desktop or My Documents)

Stylish (optional)

  1. In Firefox, open a new tab and type in the address bar about:support and press enter.
  2. In the Application Basics section click the button Open Containing Folder. Your profile folder will now be opened.
  3. Locate and copy the file stylish.sqlite somewhere that you will remember (good place would be desktop or My Documents)

Bookmarks

The biggest thing people are worried about when moving to a new profile is losing their bookmarks. Firefox has a built in bookmarks manager which will allow you backup and restore your bookmarks.

Backup Bookmarks

  1. In Firefox, go to the Bookmarks Menu select Organize Bookmarks… (Fx 3.6) or Show All Bookmarks) (Firefox 4.0 and Newer).
  2. This opens the Bookmarks Library window. From the File menu and select Backup…
  3. Choose a location to save that will be easy to find later and click Save. A file named bookmarks-[date].json (where [date] is today’s date). Make note of where you saved this file (good place would be desktop or My Documents)

Passwords

You can move your saved user name/passwords between profiles, you will need the Password Exporter add-on.

Export Passwords

  1. Install the Password Exporter add-on
  2. Restart Firefox
  3. Go to Tools > Options > Security Tab and then click the Import/Export Passwords button.
  4. Click Export. Warning: Selecting the Obfuscate Usernames/Passwords option will make the raw export file unreadable to humans, however the passwords can still be viewed once the file is imported into Firefox.
  5. A dialog box will pop-up asking you to select a location to save the export file. Be sure to make note of this location as you will need it when you go to import the passwords.

Add-ons Review

Now, we mentioned earlier you can not take your add-ons with you. However, before you remove Firefox take a moment to review what add-ons you have installed.

  1. From Firefox go to Tools > Add-ons
  2. Make note of what extensions you have installed
    • Check to see if they are enabled or disabled (will be greyed out and usually are at the bottom of the list)
    • For each extension that is enabled, ask yourself if you are using it
  3. Check to see if you are using a Theme by clicking on the Appearance Tab in the add-ons manager.
    • Look to see what themes are installed.
    • Check to see if they are enabled (only one can be enabled) or disabled (will be greyed out and usually are at the bottom of the list)
    • For each of these that are enabled, ask yourself if you are using it
  4. Click the plugins tab. Most of these JAVA, Shockwave/Flash, Silverlight, etc will be installed by default on the new installation.

Removing Firefox

Now that you have backups of your passwords, customization  bookmarks and made notes of what add-ons you have installed  it is time to fully uninstall Firefox. From your OS control panel, go to your installed programs. Locate Mozilla Firefox and proceed with the uninstall/removal. When the Mozilla Firefox Uninstall starts you will get a dialog box with an option to check to Remove my Firefox personal data and customizations. This is about the only time I will ever say to CHECK this box. Follow the prompts to uninstall Firefox.

Starting Over

Now that you have fully removed Firefox, it is now time to install a fresh copy then restore your settings.

  • Download and install Firefox
  • Restore your customizations (about:config, userChrome.css/userContent.css, Greasemonkey, Stylish)
  • Restore your bookmarks
  • Import your passwords
  • Run eCleaner
  • Install add-ons

Install Firefox

Go to getfirefox.com and download the latest version of Firefox. Run the Firefox installer and follow the setup directions

Restoring prefs.js (about:config settings)

  1. Open Firefox and open a new tab.
  2. Typing in the address bar about:support and press enter.
  3. In the Application Basics section click the button Open Containing Folder. Your profile folder will now be opened.
  4. Close Firefox
  5. Locate where you saved the prefs.js file from step 3 in the Backup prefs.js section above.
  6. Replace the prefs.js currently in the profile folder.
  7. Open Firefox

Restoring the userChrome.css/userContent.css files (if applicable)

  1. In Firefox open a new tab and type in the address bar about:support and press enter.
  2. In the Application Basics section click the button Open Containing Folder. Your profile folder will now be opened.
  3. Close Firefox
  4. You will need to create the chrome sub folder.
  5. Copy userChrome.css and/or userContent.css into the newly created chrome folder
  6. Open Firefox

Restoring Greasemonkey Scripts (if applicable)

  1. In Firefox open a new tab and type in the address bar about:support and press enter.
  2. In the Application Basics section click the button Open Containing Folder. Your profile folder will now be opened.
  3. Copy the gm_scripts sub folder into your profile folder

Restoring Stylish Scripts (if applicable)

  1. In Firefox open a new tab and type in the address bar about:support and press enter.
  2. In the Application Basics section click the button Open Containing Folder. Your profile folder will now be opened.
  3. Close Firefox
  4. Copy the stylish.sqlite file into your profile folder
  5. Open Firefox

Restoring Bookmarks

  1. Open Firefox and go to Bookmarks Menu then select Organize Bookmarks… (Firefox 4+: Show All Bookmarks).
  2. Select Restore > Choose File…and then select the .json file from step 3 in the Backup Bookmarks section and click Open.
  3. Keep in mind, if you have added any bookmarks prior to this point, they will be removed.

Importing Passwords

  1. In your new profile, install the Password Exporter add-on and restart Firefox
  2. Go to Tools > Options > Security Tab and then click the Import/Export Passwords button.
  3. Click Import
  4. A dialog box will pop-up asking you to select a location to import the file from. Locate where you exported your passwords from Step 5 in the Export Passwords section above and click Open.
  5. Your passwords will be imported. Note: If a password entry already exists for a given website when importing, that entry will not be imported.

Run eCleaner

Since there no extensions install at this point in your new profile, it would be a good time to install and run the eCleaner add-on. eCleaner will clean out all the old extension settings from your old profile that are still in your prefs.js file that you brought over.

  1. Install the eCleaner add-on
  2. Restart Firefox
  3. In Firefox go to Tools > Add-ons. Locate eCleaner in the list and click Options. A window similar to below will open (in your case, your will be showing a lot more items). Below is what a fresh profile should look like:
  4. DO NOT REMOVE autoDisableScopes or shownSelectionUI as these are part of the new Add-on Installation Controls in Firefox 8. If you do not want to be taking part in testpilot (aka Feedback) you can remove that add-on and preferences. Everything else can go by clicking on the name and then the Clear Selected button. Note: You can do CTRL+Click to select multiple items at once.

Install Add-ons

At this point you have restore your saved passwords, bookmarks and customizations. Now it is time to start installing add-ons again. If you took the time and did as we suggested by making note of what add-ons you had installed, this process shouldn’t be too time consuming. In Firefox go to addons.mozilla.org to get started.

You are done and should notice performance and stability improvement in Firefox now.

10 Comments on Starting with a Fresh Profile

  1. Guru,
    I meant to leave a comment earlier and ended up somewhere between lost and confused. Anyway, I have in the past used my “extensions” and “gm_scripts” folders
    and the “stylish.sqlite” file out of my FF profile to setup a new instance of FF for myself or for others. I’ve also used my prefs.js file after deleting any references to my profile number, sync account and computer. Along with what you’ve mentioned it saves a lot of time downloading and configuring add-ons, userscripts and userstyles. I’m not aware of any negative impact in doing it the way I have, was wondering if you had any thoughts on my deviation from your procedure.

    • I suppose doing the gm_scripts folder wouldn’t cause any issues. As with Stylish (forgot about the stylish.sqlite file, but I rarely use Stylish scripts) not everyone uses those and wouldn’t be much of a trouble to reinstall a couple scripts. Now of course if you’re a power user for both then I would recommend doing the gm_scripts folder and stylish.sqlite file. In fact, I may just throw those in there as ‘optional’.

      Extensions, however is where I can foresee problems. The reason I did this post was because I have heard numerous complaints that Firefox X (whatever the new version is at the time) is slow, it crashes constantly or it is still eating lots of RAM. In those cases, the culprit is likely a bloated or damaged profile caused by too many extensions (many which the user may not be using), out-dated problematic extensions or even left over ‘crap’ from removed extensions (which some of this is carried over by bring the prefs.js file over. I may need to suggest taking the eCleaner to it before installing any other new extensions).

      Looks like a revision is in order on this thanks to your insight.

    • One other ‘issue’ I can see with porting over the extensions folder is on the first run of Firefox 8 (or newer) the user is going to have to “approve” the install of every extension they have as a result of the new Add-on Controls. I am guessing this is because it checks against one of the ‘extensions’ files in the profile folder. I discovered this the other day when one of those files went bad on another profile and I removed all the ‘extensions’ files from my profile. In the past this was a good way to fix extensions issue, but now upon restart I had to ‘approve’ the install of every extension on that profile.

      The solution to that would be have the user go into about:config and disable the controls feature. I rather not have users do that as this makes them vulnerable to unauthorized 3rd party extensions being installed.

    • Thanks for your feedback it is appreciated and also gave me an opportunity to check how Firefox would behave on first startup with a ‘duplicated’ profile made with the ProfileManger application. If you are looking to create a fresh profile for say testing purposes, the easier way to do that would be with the ProfileManager application. One of the cool things about this application besides an easy way to manage and access multiple Firefox (and Thunderbird) profiles is you can do a one-click ‘copy’ of an existing profile. Since it is making a duplicate of the profile, the ‘extensions’ files that Firefox checks against what is in the ‘extensions’ folder are present, thus the user will not be prompted to ‘approve’ the install of all their extensions they brought over.

  2. Appreciate the input! As far as using the extensions folder to start a new profile I would only ever use “my” folder because I’ve used the same extensions for a few years and know that everything works as it should (at least I think so). But I absolutely agree that installing them fresh would be the safest way to go and I never thought about the new add-on control, thanks for pointing that out. I haven’t used the ProfileManger because I can manually copy a complete profile over to a new install but it seems you “always” end up with a smaller/faster profile when doing a clean install. Part of the reason I’ve used the “extensions” folder is just plain laziness. I use 23 add-ons, 20 userscripts and 9 userstyles, downloading and installing everything would take a little while. Even though I usually clean out the prefs.js file manually I’ve also used Preferences Cleaner which looks to be similar to eCleaner. Excellent article, there is a reason why I have to keep an eye on your blog, some of us need all the help we can get!!! Still haven’t figured out why my warm boot times for FF are so slow but I guess I can live with 2 seconds. ☺

  3. Dear Guru,

    I’m not sure if this is comment is best posted here or in another area.. The issue I’ve encountered, which I only recently discovered yesterday, is that when I looked in my profile for the Prefs.js file there wasn’t one anywhere. Also, which I believe could be part of the reason why my preferences for addons/extensions, specifically the Personas Expression are not being saved since updating from FF v 7.0.1 to v 8.0 three days ago was the existence of 3 corrupt file types in my profile. The file name itself is the “Places.sqlite file which is not corrupt. It’s the ones that follow in the listing [Places.sqlite.corrupt, Places.sqlite.-1.corrupt, -2.corrupt upto -9.corrupt]. Is it possible to delete these “corrupt” files without causing any damage to both my profile as well as to the browser itself?
    Please let me know asap what can if anything be done to correct the issue regarding addon/extension preferences not being saved on browser close & the corrupt files within my browser profile on my system.

    Thank you in advance for your advice, time & understanding.

    Respectfully,
    ~Diesirae.

  4. Terrific work! This is the type of information that should be shared across the web. Shame on the search engines for not positioning this publish upper! Come on over and discuss with my site . Thanks =)

  5. Thanks for your advice on how to do this; I have a question: I have an add-on called NoSquint that remembers how I want the page displayed in size, preventing articles with microscopic print in a two inch column to fill up the screen. Where are its remembered settings stored? In the prefs.js file or elsewhere?

    I basically want a brand new Firefox with just the NoScript settings and bookmarks to return to the new environment, with everything else brand spanking new.

  6. I am somewhat familiar with NoSquint as my co-author Gareon reviewed it in the past. However, I do not use the add-on. I doubt that the settings are in prefs.js file. I would almost say userContent.css but then that would require a restart every time you made changes. It may have its own preference file may be something to effect nosquint.sqlite in the profile folder. The easiest way to check this is to make a change in the NoSquint settings then from with in Firefox got to Help > Troubleshooting Information and the click on big button Open Containing Folder. Once your profile folder is opened sort by date with newest on top. See what file(s) is/are on top.

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  1. Starting with a Fresh Profile | Firefox Extension Guru’s Blog » WinCom7 NewsLinks
  2. Revision to Starting with a Fresh Profile | Firefox Extension Guru's Blog
  3. Restoring default about:config settings | Firefox Extension Guru's Blog

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