Duplicating your Firefox profile

If you use several computers, then you’re likely familiar with the frustration of having to re-input your settings, passwords, bookmarks, history, extensions, and form auto-fill information into your new Firefox installation everytime you re-install your operating system, or get a new computer altogether (lucky you!). I recently got my hands on yet another extra laptop, and I thought of transferring my profile from one of my existing systems. Yes, you can download software that automatically does the backup and restoring for you, but where’s the geekiness in that? Real geeks do it manually–which is perhaps the most straightforward way, anyway.

So how do we go about with duplicating a Firefox profile?

First, open up your source (the original one, where you want to copy the profile from) profile in Windows Explorer. Let’s assume you only use one profile on your system, which is automatically named by Firefox as default, and that you use Windows XP. Point Explorer to:

[Windows installation drive]:\Documents and Settings\[Your username]\Application Data\Mozilla\Firefox\Profiles

You might have to first enable viewing of hidden files and folders and system files at TOOLS – FOLDER OPTIONS – VIEW. Simply uncheck the boxes that say “Hide protected system files …” and select the radio button for “Show hidden files and folders.”

You will see at least one folder inside, with this format:

XXXXXXXX.default

where XXXXXXXX is an eight-character code for your Firefox installation on that particular machine.

This folder contains all your Firefox information, including bookmarks, history, extensions, form auto-fill, passwords, and cache. You can already ZIP/compress and copy this onto a USB flashdrive or any other recordable media, or transfer via the network. Remember that this folder could get very large if you have a large cache of temporary Internet files, so you might want to clear your browser’s cache first.

Then, in the destination computer, make sure you’ve already installed Firefox, and opened it up at least once, so that the application would automatically create a new default profile for you. Then open up Windows Explorer and then browse to:

[Windows installation drive]:\Documents and Settings\[Your username]\Application Data\Mozilla\Firefox\Profiles

where you will see a folder named

YYYYYYYY.default

where YYYYYYYY is the eight-character code for that firefox installation.

Simply copy or uncompress the folder containing the original profile into this \Profiles folder.

Now copy the YYYYYYYY string onto your clipboard (so you won’t forget), and then rename that folder as you please (i.e., YYYYYYYY.default.backup). Then rename XXXXXXXX.default into YYYYYYYY.default. Make sure Firefox is not running while you do this, or you’ll get file access conflict errors.

Now open up Firefox, and voila! Your original settings have been copied. Do check some of the options, though, as some extension and proxy settings may not have been transferred. But what’s important is that your new Firefox installation looks and feels like your old one. Now you can go and browse away to your favorite, bookmarked sites, not having to re-input all your URLs and passwords again.

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