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Over the years, Firefox has kept gaining users and respected by many. First applauded for taking on the “big guy” Internet Explorer by Microsoft, it was soon also appreciated for its features. It has brought many people tabbed browsing and a plugin structure.

Doing my research for this post (yes, it’s almost like real journalism here at MakeUseOf), I was surprised to read the first version (1.0) was released only five years ago, in November of 2004. Even with the recent extra competition brought on by Chrome from Google, Internet Explorer and Opera, it kept gaining popularity. Mozilla Firefox now has a market share of about 22%.

Alright, enough with the history lesson. Many people like to take Firefox with them on a USB drive to college or work so that they can use their personalized settings and plugins. A lot of these places still use Internet Explorer 6 or something like that, so using a portable version of Firefox seems like the smart thing to do. Installing is easy when you use the portable version PortableApps, but updating Firefox portable is not so easy. If you don’t have a portable version of Firefox installed yet, read this article on how to turn your USB drive into a fully functional PC How to Turn USB Device into Almost Full-Scale PC How to Turn USB Device into Almost Full-Scale PC Read More or just go to www.portableapps.com to install it. But if you want to update a portable Firefox app, you can’t just click the auto-updater button that pops-up when there’s a new version. You have to install a normal version of Firefox, with some special settings. Here’s how.

Download the regular setup file

You can download the regular setup file from Mozilla. The latest version at the time of writing is 3.5.2. So if you have a previous one, it’s wise to update because Mozilla keeps plugging security holes all the time.

Start the installation

Double-click the file you have just downloaded. Click ‘Next’ in the first window. Now pay attention as it goes a little differently than usual. In the second screen, select “Custom” and deselect the check-box next to “Use Firefox as my default web browser”.
update firefox portable
Click ‘Next’ to continue.

how to update firefox portable

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In this screen, click “Browse” to search for the folder where your portable Firefox is installed on your USB drive. Select the “DefaultData\Firefox” folder so the location ends with “\FirefoxPortable\DefaultData\Firefox”. This way, you overwrite the files from the current installation but keep all your settings and plugins. Click ‘OK’ and ‘Next’.

firefox portable upgrade

In the next screen, deselect the options to create icons since you already have icons from the previous installation. After this, you can click ‘Next’ to check the summary and press “Install” to do just that.

firefox portable upgrade

There you have it, your portable Firefox is updated, all secure and future-proof. Until the next update anyway. Click “Finish” with the checkmark in place to check out the newest version of the open-source browser. You can take Firefox with you to your school or office. It’s also a great way to try out the newest alpha versions without endangering your stable version. You can find the latest test versions here, but as Mozilla themselves claim it “might delete all your files and cause your computer to burst into flames”.

If you’re new to the portable apps, I recommend looking around at their site Portableapps.com. There is a suite of the most used software that you can start with. Some apps to check out are OpenOffice.org Portable, Pidgin Portable and FileZilla Portable. Here 100 Portable Apps for your USB Stick (for Mac and Win) 100 Portable Apps for your USB Stick (for Mac and Win) Read More are some more portable app suggestions.

Do you use portable apps? How do you update them to the latest versions? Share your technique in the comments.

  1. Vijay
    September 7, 2009 at 11:30 pm

    I use PortableApps.com app. This provides us to update the portable version easily.

  2. BARRY
    September 7, 2009 at 7:02 pm

    I use a U3 Smart Drive [sandisk].Standard is FF 2.0 if I update to 3.0 it wont work right. I use 3.5 at home and work, I'd like to update the portable. Help

  3. Shawn
    September 7, 2009 at 4:39 pm

    I too think this is making the updating more complicated than it has to be. I always use the file from portableapps.com. They usually have their updates within 24 hours. I extract from there into a temporary folder, and then copy and paste my "profile" folder into the data folder of the new version. Then when I am satisfied that it works, I replace the folder that contains my older version.

  4. V.C
    September 7, 2009 at 2:26 pm

    I prefer Firefox Installed.
    It's very easy to install, maybe just takes you guys 30s.

    • Tobias Verhoog
      September 7, 2009 at 5:48 pm

      I also have a regular install of Firefox, but the portable edition is good for when you want to take it with you to work or school or try out new unstable versions.

  5. my2cents
    September 7, 2009 at 12:26 pm

    another site worth checking out for portable apps is http://www.liberkey.com

  6. Robert
    September 7, 2009 at 11:50 am

    Dont know what im missing but i always just use the integrated update from FF portable, and it seems to work fine. I've even transfered my portable FF folder from home to work via usb stick and all things seem to be still in place.. ??

    • Tobias Verhoog
      September 7, 2009 at 5:46 pm

      Sounds good, but I would be careful. Portableapps.com give the advice not to use the feature for now because of bugs and it doesn't work for me. But if it works then that's nice.

    • Anomaly
      September 7, 2009 at 9:48 pm

      Updating Portable Firefox with the internal updater will mess up the registry settings of your installed version of Firefox if you have one. Explained here http://portableapps.com/node/10338

  7. JK the Fifth
    September 7, 2009 at 10:39 am

    I second Anomaly.

  8. Myself
    September 7, 2009 at 9:58 am

    You can also just download the Firefox.zip from Mozilla's ftp pages to get the latest versions and past the firefox folder on top of your Portable Firefox\App\Firefox folder.

  9. Anomaly
    September 7, 2009 at 8:03 am

    Updating a portable app is much easier than regular apps. The way that you described is not the correct way and unnecessarily complicated. The correct way is to download the new version of the portable app and install over your old version. It's clearly explained on portableapps.com. For safety make a back up of your current version of the portable app. You doe this by simply copying and pasting the folder the portable app is in to a different location. This way if the update fails for some reason you still have the original version in perfect working order.

    • Tobias Verhoog
      September 7, 2009 at 5:44 pm

      Thanks for your comment. It is wise indeed to make a backup, although it never has gone wrong with me. Did it with you? I have described installing just the regular version over your portable Firefox, it's just written down clearly so nothing can go wrong.

      • Anomaly
        September 7, 2009 at 9:43 pm

        Yes I have had an update give me a problem once only though. It was nice having the back up. I simply deleted the folder of the messed up Portable Firefox and copied my backup to the original location and updated again.

        I get that you explained the way to update Portable Firefox with the standard version of Firefox. I just don't see why some one would update that way. Portable apps from portableapps.com are made to update by installing over the older version.

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