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.