Firefox stores your browser data – bookmarks, history, preferences, extensions, and everything else – in a directory known as a profile. Each user account has a single profile by default, but you don’t have to restrict yourself to just one — you can create multiple profiles and even run multiple Firefox instances with different profiles as the same time.
Set up separate profiles for work use, personal use, extension testing, secure browsing – anything you like. With separate profiles, you can also log into a website with different user accounts at the same time – say, to have two Gmail inboxes open at the same time.
Google Chrome makes this easy with its support for multiple user accounts, but Firefox has the same feature – it’s just hidden. The tricks here also work with other Mozilla applications, such as Mozilla Thunderbird.
Launching The Profile Manager
Firefox’s Profile Manager can’t be accessed from within Firefox’s interface. To launch it, you’ll need to start Firefox with the -p option (make sure you use a short dash instead of a long one). If you’re already running Firefox, shut it down by clicking the Firefox menu and selecting the Exit option.
Once you have, click the Start button and copy and paste one of the following lines into the search box in the Start menu.
For 32-bit Windows:
“C:\Program Files\Mozilla Firefox\firefox.exe” -p
For 64-bit Windows:
“C:\Program Files (x86)\Mozilla Firefox\firefox.exe” -p
You’ll see the Profile Manager, which allows you to create new profiles, manage your existing profiles, and launch Firefox with the selected profile. To see the Profile Manager each time you start Firefox, uncheck the “Don’t ask at startup” checkbox.
Using The Profile Manager
To create additional profiles, click the Create Profile button and go through the wizard. The only important option is the profile name – you can use the default folder location unless you want to store your profile folder elsewhere. Using the Choose Folder option, you could share a single profile folder between different operating systems in a dual-boot configuration.
If you don’t want a profile anymore, you can delete it using the Delete Profile button. This wipes all browsing data associated with a specific profile, including its bookmarks, saved passwords and other settings. You won’t be able to recover the deleted data, so be careful.
Select a profile and click Start Firefox to launch the profile. Each new profile will be a clean slate with Firefox’s default settings. Their settings are completely separate – for example, if you use Firefox Sync, you’ll have to create separate accounts for each Firefox profile and configure them separately.
Using Multiple Firefox Profiles At Once
If you try to launch the Profile Manager while Firefox is already running, Firefox will just open a new browser window using the current profile. You’ll need to use the -no-remote option to launch multiple instances of Firefox with different profiles at the same time. To do so, use the same commands as above, but add the -no-remote option.
Select another profile to launch it – don’t worry, Firefox won’t let you use a profile that’s already in use.
You can also launch a specific profile with the -p option – just add the profile’s name. For example, use the following line to launch the default profile on a 64-bit version of Windows:
“C:\Program Files (x86)\Mozilla Firefox\firefox.exe” -p default
If the profile’s name has a space in it, enclose the name of the profile in quotes.
Once you know this, it’s easy to create special shortcuts that launch the Profile Manager or a specific profile – with or without the -no-remote switch to let you run multiple profiles. Just create a copy of an existing Mozilla Firefox shortcut, right-click it, and select Properties. In the Properties dialog, rename the shortcut and add the options to the Target field.
Create as many shortcuts as you want and use them to easily launch Firefox with your desired options.
To easily switch between Firefox profiles from Firefox’s menu, install the ProfileSwitcher extension. Remember, you’ll have to install the extension separately in each profile you want to use it from.
For more great Firefox add-ons, check out our list of the best Firefox add-ons.
Do you use multiple Firefox profiles? If so, what do you use them for? Let us know in the comments.