Saturday, September 4, 2010

How to Back up Mozilla Firefox and Thunderbird

10:53 PM |

Backing up Firefox and Thunderbird is easier than you think.

Firefox and Thunderbird Firefox users need to back up regularly to guard against the possibility that their profile gets corrupted or wiped after installing a new extension or a new version of Firefox. If you use Thunderbird then it's even more important that you back up to ensure you don't accidentally lose your email correspondence and account settings.

There are two ways to back up: use a backup utility or do it yourself manually.

Backup Utilities

MozBackup is a free utility written by Pavel Cvrcek that will automatically back up Firefox and Thunderbird as well as Netscape and the full Mozilla suite. In fact, the most recent versions will also back up Mozilla Sunbird, Flock and Spicebird.

It works like a charm - the whole process is driven by a Wizard so easy to use that even raw beginners will be able to set up automatic backups. It also offers encryption of the backup files and a complete push-button restore option.

MozBackup only backs up the essential information rather than all the information in your Mozilla profile, but that's fine for most users. You can get MozBackup here:

If you only need to back up Firefox, an excellent, perhaps superior, alternative is the free FEBE Firefox extension. Initially designed for backing up extensions, it now offers the options of backing up various sections of your profile such as bookmarks, cookies, auto-complete, etc. Most importantly, it allows you to back up your entire profile just by checking a single box. Full or selective restore is available. Thanks to site visitor Anupam Shriwatri for the suggestion. FEBE is available from here:

There are also a couple of commercial utilities that will back up Firefox and Thunderbird. I've not used them but you can find details at

Manual Backup

Backing up Firefox and Thunderbird manually is as simple as copying their respective profile folders to another location. If you do that, you’ll have a full backup with all your setting and personal data saved.

An advantage of manual backup is that you don't need to have Firefox or Thunderbird functioning in order to restore your backup; it's just a case of copying the backup profiles. That's a good thing because the most common reason you want to restore is that your Firefox or Thunderbird installation is not working!

The hardest part is finding the profile folders. First up, they are not located where you would expect to find them. Secondly, they are located in different places for different versions of Windows. Thirdly, they may be assigned random file names that make them difficult to recognize.

On Windows 2000/XP machines the locations for your Firefox and Thunderbird profiles are respectively:

* C:\Documents and Settings\\Application Data\Mozilla\Firefox\Profiles\\
* C:\Documents and Settings\\Application Data\Thunderbird\Profiles\\

On Windows 9x/Me PCs they can usually be found at:

* C:\Windows\Application Data\Mozilla\Firefox\Profiles\\
* C:\Windows\Application Data\Thunderbird\Profiles\\

If you can't locate your profiles then check out this document for more information:

On my XP laptop the profiles are:
* C:\Documents and Settings\Ian\Application Data\Mozilla\Firefox\Profiles\default.ebq
C:\Documents and Settings\Ian\Application Data\Thunderbird\Profiles\25ve0lz5.default

To back these up I copy the profiles to an external USB drive. It's as simple as that. I do it manually but you could also use Windows Scheduler or a backup manager to do the job automatically. Make sure, though, that Firefox and Thunderbird are not running before you back up.

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