The new Reset Firefox feature is like magic

Planet Mozilla viewers – you can watch this video on YouTube.

Update: This feature is available in the latest Firefox. Download it now from mozilla.org/firefox

A little more than two years ago when I joined the support team, one of the first things that struck me was that most every support procedure we had involved a long list of troubleshooting steps. The idea seemed to be, let’s try to identify the exact cause of the problem and just fix that. That sounds reasonable but the practical implication of that often isn’t: Is your software up to date? If yes, let’s turn off your plugins and see what happens. Did the problem go away? No? Does the problem happen in safe mode? If no, let’s try turning half of your extensions back on. What about a new profile? Great, now just copy places.sqlite from your old profile to your new profile.

What a mess. What mere mortal has the time, skill and patience to work their way though all that? And if the thing that needs fixing isn’t easily reproducible? Forget it. It’s now become a part-time job. I suspect that for many people, it’s just easier to switch to another browser since you’ve already got one installed on your computer. Problem solved.

So the support team worked with product and engineering to create the Reset Firefox feature. The first implementation of this is a button on the Troubleshooting Information page (about:support). What is does is create a new profile and migrate your bookmarks, passwords, cookies and form data. Everything else gets set to the defaults.

I have to say, this thing is like magic. You basically get a brand new Firefox installation without the penalty of losing all your data. This is especially useful as a quick fix for the thousands of posts we see on social media where people often express vague complaints about Firefox. “Firefox is slow.” “Firefox crashes too much.” “Firefox sucks.”

The big gap in the current implementation is that, for the most part, people won’t know about this feature unless we tell them about it. Future plans involve making it discoverable. Soon we’ll give users the option to reset Firefox when it crashes on startup for the third time. And the really big thing will be giving Windows users this option when re-installing Firefox. Maybe one day the phrase, “I tried re-installing Firefox but it didn’t do anything” will go away.

Read more about Reset Firefox on the support site and then download the latest Firefox and try it out.

    Notes:

  • It only saves bookmarks, passwords, cookies and form data. You will lose your add-ons, Sync settings, open tabs and tab groups.
  • It only works with the default profile. If you’ve opened Firefox via the command line or shortcut with a profile that isn’t the default, you won’t see the Reset Firefox button.

56 thoughts on “The new Reset Firefox feature is like magic

  1. This is wonderful, and I didn’t realize it was in beta already! Excellent, excellent.

    It says “reset Firefox to its default state”. That implies that your history, cookies, etc, won’t be kept. Maybe “reset settings while keeping history” would be better? Not sure.

    The follow-up dialog tells you what is kept, but it doesn’t tell you what is discarded. I see that http://support.mozilla.org/en-US/kb/reset-firefox-easily-fix-most-problems does tell you, I wonder if an abbreviated version of that could be included in the dialog.

    Anyway, even if you don’t change either of those things, this is still fantastic. I shudder to think how many users we’ve lost because they had busted profiles that screwed things up.

    • I think it’s too late for this version because of localization but I’ll bring that up for future versions.

  2. Ok, I’m going meta now. Can you help me troubleshoot my troubleshooting information page?

    I’m using Nightly on OS X and I can’t see the reset button on my main profile. With a new profile, no problem, the button is there. Is there any pref or add-on that could disable it?

    • I just added a note to the end of the post about this. It only works with the default profile. If you’ve opened Firefox via the command line or with a shortcut to a profile that’s not the default, you won’t see the button. Also it may be broken in Nightly at the moment.

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  4. What about sync information? What if one sets up Firefox to synchronize addons then resets the profile? I’m really curious about that one.

    • I added a note about this too. You will lose your sync settings. If you’ve saved your recovery key or set up sync on another computer you can add this one back. I’ll have to add that to the documentation.

  5. Is this supposed to work in Nightly? I see the button in about:support but when I tried it just now, it created a new profile but didn’t copy over any of my personal data. Thankfully it didn’t delete my old profile, so I could just switch back.

  6. Geez I’m glad I don’t have the soft TL:DR attitude and read all the way to the bottom. I’m running Nightly with a very old profile and I went as far as opening the Troubleshooting page and hovering on the button. Only the strange misguiding text that Nic referred to stopped me from potentially borking my system!

    This is such an incredibly overdue tool, it’s great to see it around. The only thing I’d have trouble with is losing the add-on settings. I don’t use Sync.

    I realize it might compromise the principle of the tool but are there plans to incorporate the copying of more settings? Alternatively, is there a mini-MemShrink/Snappy effort happening to reduce the corruption of profiles in the first place?

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    • Thanks! Plugins (Flash, Quicktime, Java, etc.) are globally installed so they’re unaffected. We don’t copy over extensions because as helpful as some of them are, there are others that can cause huge problems. And with Sync now syncing extensions we didn’t touch it in this first iteration but it’s probably something to work on in the future.

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  30. This still doesn’t seem to address the most insidious and most time consuming problem of all: the all-too-frequent trashing/disappearance of the Restore Session tab data from prior crashed sessions. It is an absolute nightmare to lose dozens of open tabs when Firefox arbitrarily wipes them and leaves you with an empty Restore Session tab upon restarting Firefox. Since there seem to be no effective third-party or other add-ons to handle this, it’s a shame the few extra lines of code couldn’t be folded into this seemingly major change, to also move, protect and make accessible the contents of the seemingly unfathomable sessionstore.js file, or at least provide some utility to make the tabs within that file more manageable and recoverable on a tab-by-tab selection basis!

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  35. Been a faithful firefox user but I’m joining the masses of people who are switching from firefox to chrome. The six week release cycle was a bad idea, frustrating, and completely annoying. Maybe I’ll come back when you release firefox 50 which will come out in 4 years at your current pace. Good luck!

    • We switched to a six week release so that we can get new features to you sooner. Even with the new release cycle we still release Firefox about as often as we did before. The change is that new features don’t have to wait a year and instead go out with the bug and security fixes. BTW, Chrome (now on version 19) has been doing the six week release cycle longer than we have. If you switch to Chrome you’ll still be on a six week release cycle.

      • Problem is, that means Firefox has lost its uniqueness. And Chrome knows how to do the fast release cycle. They don’t release things that can cause a decreased browsing experience, and they don’t make the user have to execute an action to affect an upgrade. Note that the thing the guy found annoying was constantly seeing the updates.

        Honestly, my only problem is how often updates seem to cause breakage. I never see that in Chrome. But I constantly see people get an upgrade in Firefox and then lose functionality. The underlying system wasn’t designed for this many updates, and sometimes things go wrong.

        What’s really messed up for me right now is that Firefox doesn’t seem to be able to tell that it’s in a limited profile on Windows XP. To update, I have to run Firefox as an Administrator. It’s annoying.

        • Hi trikly,
          I hear you. These have been issues for people. But, just so you know, we’ve actually fixed many of these problems. Firefox will now update without bugging the user (not sure about the limited profile on XP case though) or requiring action. Most cases of breakage on update were due to add-ons and we fixed this for almost all add-ons a while back. Anti-virus add-ons are the notable exception though they are usually updated within a day or two of release. And finally, the update cycle post Firefox 4 is about the same as before in terms of numbers of updates per year. We’re just doing them on a regular schedule and including additional features more often.

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  41. I want to say a big thank you for the information gave to me to beable to reset my firefox. Thanks so much.

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