How to Backup and Transfer Your Firefox Settings, Add-Ons, and Data

If Firefox is your web browser of choice and you've got it all tricked out with your preferred options, add-ons, and tweaks, dealing with a fresh install on a new machine, or data loss, can be traumatic. Fortunately there's a free tool that lets you back up all of those things and transfer them anywhere you go.
Published: Jun 14, 2007
Author: Jordan Running
Related OS: OS X / Windows / Linux
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Mozilla Firefox for Windows 20.0b6
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As an occupational hazard (though certain loved ones of mine prefer the term "addiction"), I spend many, many hours each week staring at a single program: Mozilla Firefox. I live on the web, and Firefox is my vehicle of choice, and as you might imagine I've got it tricked out with a thousand little tweaks, add-ons, hidden preferences, custom favicons, and so on, not to mention my cookies and stored passwords, which means when installing a fresh copy on a new machine, it can take weeks before I've got everything arranged to my liking again.

Wouldn't it be nice if this ritual wasn't necessary, if there was a way I could just transfer all of those customizations to the new Firefox and be done with it? Okay, okay, you know where I'm going with this: Of course there's a way, and I'm going to tell you what it is.

Backing It Up

Though there are a number of ways to do it, my tool of choice is FEBE, short for Firefox Extension Backup Extension. It's a free add-on (extension) for Firefox, and don't let the name confuse you: It's not just a tool for backing up your extensions; it can back up everything in your profile: Bookmarks, settings, cookies, saved passwords, browser history... everything. And it's configurable, so you can choose which of those things you want to back up or transfer, and which ones you want to leave behind.

Here's how you use it. First, install the add-on and restart Firefox. Now FEBE has added a new item to your Tools menu. Under it you'll find "Perform Backup," but you'll want to set at least one option, so click on FEBE Options. Here you'll see all the different things you can back up. If you want to back up your whole profile, check "Backup entire profile?" on the right. Otherwise, cherry-pick those you want to save on the left.

FEBE Options

Next, click on Directory at the top. Here you'll choose the directory (folder) where you want to store the backup file. I put mine under My Documents, but you may want to save it to your Desktop or a thumb drive, for example. I like the "Use timestamped directories" option because it helps me to make multiple backups and remember when they were created. You can feel free to poke around the other options, but those are the basics you need to know. When you're finished, click OK.

Now, to create the actual backup, Go to the Tools menu and under FEBE choose "Perform Backup." A progress bar will pop up and the backup file will be created. Depending on how many add-ons you have installed, this may take some time. It took about a minute on my copy of Firefox. When it's done the progress bar will disappear and you'll see a new tab that tells you if the backup was successful, and where the backup file was stored.

The backup file will end in .fbu (for FEBE backup) and will have the name of your Firefox profile in it (if you don't use more than one profile with Firefox, it will probably be "default"). You can now take this file wherever you want, which brings us to transferring your profile to that new machine.

Transferring It To Its New Home

First, make sure your new copy of Firefox is installed and working. Now you need to launch Firefox's profile manager, which is kind of hidden. To open it, quit Firefox, and then click on the Start menu and then Run..., and in the box type "firefox.exe -ProfileManager" (without the quotation marks, natch) and hit enter. You'll see the Profile Manager (if you have trouble with any of this, or if you don't use Windows, refer to Mozilla's excellent help page), which unlike mine will probably have just one entry, "default."

Firefox Profile Manager

Because FEBE can only restore a backed up profile from a different profile, you'll need two profiles, so click on Create Profile... and go through the wizard. The only thing you need to enter is a name for the new profile, and since you'll probably only use this profile temporarily, it doesn't matter what you call it. Then click on Finish. You'll see the profile you just created. Before opening the new profile, uncheck the "Don't ask at startup" check box, then click on Start Firefox, first making sure that the new profile is highlighted above. Firefox will launch, which is your cue to install the FEBE add-on again. Once it's installed, restart Firefox again.

Don't fret, you're in the home stretch. All that's left to do is restore your profile from the FEBE backup you made. So go to Tools > FEBE > Restore, and choose the option you want. If you want to restore everything, just pick the last option, "Restore Profile." Now a file selection dialog will pop up, and you'll want to find the .fbu file you created before. Finally, the Restore Profile dialog will pop up and you'll choose which profile on the new Firefox install you want to put your backed-up profile data into. The profile you're using now (the new one you created) will be grayed out (which is why we created the new profile in the first place), so you'll want to choose the main profile, which is probably called "default," and click OK.


Again the progress bar will appear, and the backed-up profile will be restored to the profile you chose. Once it's done, quit Firefox and start it again. Since you unchecked "Don't ask at startup" in the Profile Manager before, it should pop up again this time. If not, do Start > Run > "firefox.exe -ProfileManager" again. Now choose the main profile and click Start Firefox and�if everything went according to plan�Firefox should launch with all of your old bookmarks, settings, add-ons, or whatever you chose when you made your back-up.


You're pretty much done, but there's just a little housekeeping to be done. First, since you unchecked that "Don't ask at startup" box, the Profile Manager will pop up every time you want to start Firefox. If you want to banish it, just re-check that box and Firefox will start with the chosen profile every time without prompting you. Second, there's that temporary profile we created. You've probably figured out how to get rid of it yourself: Just select it in the Profile Manager and click Delete Profile... Again, if you have trouble with profile management, your best resource is 4Mozilla's help page.

About Jordan Running

Blogger since 1999, Jordan Running went pro in 2005 and never looked back. Sometimes programmer, occasional photographer, and serial tinkerer, he decided to to switch to Linux in 2001 but just hasn't quite gotten around to it yet.

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