I'm a mild mannered vegetarian, but after spending most of the morning fixing bookmark problems caused by Firefox's latest update (188.8.131.52), I'd like to have a fox hunt and shoot this increasingly buggy web browser.
I dutifully download new Firefox updates when I'm told to. In the past they've installed smoothly, aside from occasionally having to fuss with getting an update to an incompatible extension.
But today Firefox started up in its new 184.108.40.206 incarnation having lost my bookmarks and RoboForm logins. Not a good way to start off the day.
Because it took me a couple of hours to figure out how to get them back. I won't go into all of the messy, frustrating, time-consuming details.
Suffice it to say that I backup my entire computer weekly to an external hard drive, and I'm a moderately competent computer semi-geek. Yet it still was tough to get Firefox back to a near-semblance of normality.
That shouldn't happen, especially with an innocuous seeming X.X.X.XX update. Come on Firefoxians, you're past the third decimal. This minor change to the browser shouldn't have caused major problems.
Others have been complaining about bookmarks being lost after Firefox updates. See evidence here and here. Plus, the list of bookmark bugs in Firefox contains quite a few bug reports from frustrated users, such as a guy who lost three hours of research.
What bugs me about this bug is that it's been well known for a long time, yet Firefox keeps on sending out updates that are buggy. I'd rather have a simple program that works, than an increasingly complex program that crashes and burns with depressing regularity.
Which recent releases of Firefox have been doing on my computer. Firefox used to be endearingly stable. The latest releases, though, have caused the browser to tell me fairly frequently that it needs to close. Firefox is able to restart with the tabs open that I had before, but it's still a bother.
Back to my main complaint: If this happens to you – losing bookmarks after a Firefox update – don't despair. Go to "Bookmarks" then "Organize Bookmarks." Under "File" you'll see "Import." Click that and choose "From file." Then navigate to your Firefox profile, as described here.
Use Windows Explorer. You might need to do this to see the normally hidden files in the Application Data folder:
To see hidden files:
1. On the Tools menu in Windows Explorer, click Folder Options
2. Click the View tab
3. Under Hidden files and folders, click Show hidden files and folders
When you get to Firefox > Profiles > some mysteriously numbered folder, inside you'll find a "bookmarkbackups" folder. In my case that held the past five days of my bookmarks.
I selected the most recent date and copied the file to another location. I then renamed it "bookmarks" by deleting the date information. If you tell Firefox to import that renamed file, you should be back to normal – aside from any bookmarks you might have added after your bookmarks were backed up.
Again, this shouldn't be necessary to do. Unfortunately, Firefox seems to be becoming as problem prone as Microsoft's Internet Explorer, which it was supposed to be a big improvement on.
I just installed MozBackup, which looks to be a quick and simple way of backing up and restoring not only Firefox bookmarks but also other aspects of your profile (such as log-in cookies). It got a good review from the Download Squad and the download is certified as spyware free from Download.com – where I got it.
I'm going to run Mozbackup before Firefox installs any more updates (I've got Firefox's automatic download and install of updates feature turned off, as I recommend everybody do, given my experience).
Hi, Brian and/or Laurel. You're right, 220.127.116.11 should definitely not have broken anything related to your bookmarks -- it's an extremely, extremely small change to address a specific problem introduced in 18.104.22.168. I've just re-checked the source differences between builds, and there is literally nothing in there that could affect your bookmarks -- it's all a change to how the tag works with a certain API.
If you're seeing bookmarks disappear, I fear there's something else afoot -- tens of thousands of people tested that 22.214.171.124 build before we put it out on the wire, even given the tiny changeset involved, and we didn't see other such reports. Is it possible that some of the directories in your profile were rendered read-only? You can contact me at shaver [at] mozilla.com with more detail if you like, and I can put you into contact with folks to help track down the source of your woes.
I should also note that we're quite concerned also about some historic reports of problems with bookmarks being harmed in Firefox 2. A large proportion of these happily-infrequent cases are related to how the bookmark system interacts with the Windows filesystem, and a major motivation for the overhaul of the bookmark system in Firefox 3 is to use an industrial strength database (sqlite) to better protect them against inclement computing weather.
Our own crash-reporting data indicates that Firefox 2 has become significantly more stable over the course of its updates, though historically there have been some problems with Roboform, as it used to poke around in the internals of Firefox in some decidedly unsafe ways. I believe that they fixed that a while back, but if you're not running the latest version, you might be running into problems there. (Or there might be other issues; I don't think the Roboform source is available, so it's somewhat hard to determine exactly what the interaction is at times.)
Sorry to hear that you've been experiencing problems with updates; we do take the integrity of them very seriously, and we don't put new features into stability updates -- just fixes for security, crash, and data-loss bugs that are critical for our users. If the product is becoming more complex for you due to applying the security updates, I fear that something is very wrong indeed (are you on a beta channel?) -- please do get in touch so we can get to the bottom of it.
Finally, I hope you'll reconsider your decision to turn off automatic update installation, as getting fixes promptly into the hands and onto the computers of our users is a key part of how we keep our 125+ million users the safest on the web.
Thanks for using Firefox!
Posted by: Mike Shaver | December 14, 2007 at 05:56 AM
Ack!!! I hate to even read something about losing bookmarks *making the sign of the cross* for fear it'll hex mine. Fortunately I had already had it update the other day and no lost bookmarks but it is less stable and both my husband and I have noted the same thing with pages that suddenly lock up requiring starting over. I also have been a Firefox fan mostly because I dislike using explorer so much and have felt Firefox has cleaner operations with very few pop-ups. I hope the instability improves as it has after previous updates.
Posted by: Rain | December 14, 2007 at 06:04 AM
Mike, I appreciate the Mozilla Corporation responsiveness. I sure wouldn't have gotten a comment like yours from Microsoft if I'd complained about their software (which, I have).
I hadn't updated RoboForm to the most recent version. I've done that now. That could have been the problem, I suppose. This isn't a huge deal, especially since I've discovered MozBackup, which makes it easier to back up Firefox files.
It just was frustrating yesterday to spend so much time restoring my bookmarks and passwords when I'd (obviously) planned to do something else.
And as the commenter above says, it's undeniable that Firefox is less stable than it used to be. Crashes are common now, whereas in the good old Firefox days your browser was highly reliable.
That said, I much prefer Firefox to Internet Explorer. Much. And I look forward to version 3. Keep on improving Firefox, and one day users like me won't have much to complain about.
Posted by: Brian | December 14, 2007 at 11:16 AM
I very recently "upgraded" to .11, and yesterday FF started crashing repeatedly.
I go back in - crash. Again - crash. Totally useless.
Uninstalled using My Uninstaller, reisnstalled - same thing. Uninstalled, installed a previous version - same thing.
I also .11'd an old eBaying Dell which had been working fine with .10 and IE 7 - haven't used it in the last 2 days; DNK how it's doing.
Posted by: Don | December 22, 2007 at 05:25 PM
Yep. Just installed 126.96.36.199. It crashes everytime i load it!! Ironically it seems to crash as soon as the Firefox Feedback dialog pops up!! I love to explain to Mozilla how terrible their new version is but crashes before i get the chance.
Now i'm forced to use IE7 :( gah! What is the browser world coming to i might have to use Opera at this rate 8-O
Posted by: TripleOx | December 29, 2007 at 09:12 AM
I had .11'd an old Dell which had been working fine with .10 and IE 7 - I'm happy (and surprised) to say that it's still working fine with .11 & IE 7...
Posted by: Don | December 31, 2007 at 11:04 AM
Thanks for the help in restoring my bookmarks. I found your post after I Googled "firefox 188.8.131.52 bookmarks". I agree..time to shut off the automatic updates!
Posted by: Susan | January 16, 2008 at 07:48 PM
My copy of 184.108.40.206 also crashes at least once a day now. It's especially annoying because there's no way to restart FF without restarting the whole machine - it just hangs in limbo and causes problems for other applications.
It's hard to say what causes the crash, but it seems guaranteed to crash every time it is opened :(
Posted by: Dan | January 24, 2008 at 05:47 PM