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upgrade to firefox 4With Firefox 4, Mozilla has recently released a major upgrade to its popular open source browser.

With every browser upgrade, users have to adapt to a slightly new interface, some extensions may no longer be compatible, and personal data and settings have to be imported. Many people are reluctant to upgrade because they are not sure what to expect or they don’t welcome change. This article examines how smooth the migration from Firefox 3 to Firefox 4 really is and which first steps you should take after completing the upgrade to Firefox 4.

We have previously shown you what is new in Firefox 4 Test Run: First Impressions of Firefox 4 Beta Test Run: First Impressions of Firefox 4 Beta Read More and why you should upgrade 7 Reasons You Might Consider Upgrading To Firefox 4 7 Reasons You Might Consider Upgrading To Firefox 4 Read More . (Re)visit these articles in case you need an extra primer to make the move.

Download Firefox 4

Small upgrades within one version of Firefox usually happen automatically. To upgrade to a new version, however, you need to download the installer and perform a ‘manual’ installation, as if you were installing a new program.


Close Firefox and run the Firefox 4.0 setup file you just downloaded. I typically select the custom installation, not because I’m such an expert, but because it allows me to make some individual choices. For example you can decide where the installer shall place icons and shortcuts for the program and I don’t like shortcuts on my desktop.

upgrade to firefox 4


The upgrade is quick and painless. Within three clicks you will reach the installer screen that indicates it’s ready to upgrade and an incredibly quick few seconds later you will be presented with the finish and launch Firefox now window.

upgrade firefox 3 to firefox 4

First Launch

When you first launch Firefox 4, it will check whether your previously installed add-ons are still compatible. In other words, all your add-ons, provided they are compatible, will be imported automatically!

firefox 4 upgrade

Chances are that several add-ons will no longer work with Firefox 4. The candidates will be summarized in a list. Click the > Check Now button to see whether the developer meanwhile provided a Firefox 4 compatible version. If they did, you will be able to install the updated add-on in the next step.

upgrade firefox 3 to firefox 4

Click > Install Now to proceed and > Finish once the installation was completed.

Inside Firefox 4

When Firefox 4 has finally launched for the first time, you will see little difference to the version you closed only minutes ago. At first sight, it may look like you changed the theme, but nothing more.

In my case, Firefox 4 launched with the browser session I had just closed in Firefox 3. Moreover, I was already logged into all the services I had used before closing Firefox 3 for the last time. All my bookmarks, history, cookies, cache, and other personal data had been copied over as well. It almost felt like I had never upgraded.

If you look closer, however, you will probably notice a few changes after all, like the position of the tab bar, buttons that have changed, or add-ons that are missing because they are no longer compatible.

First Steps

Per default, Firefox 4 launches with the new Tabs on Top feature enabled. If you prefer the tabs where they used to be, go to > View > Toolbars and uncheck the > Tabs on Top option.

For those of you welcoming more space and less clutter, consider disabling the Menu Bar and thereby reducing it to a single button in the top left corner. It turns out that this feature is also available in Windows XP. Go to > View > Toolbars and uncheck the > Menu Bar option.

upgrade firefox 3 to firefox 4

In case you are wondering which extensions you have lost due to the upgrade, click the key combination [CTRL] + [SHIFT] + [A] to open the add-ons manager in a new tab. Contrary to previous versions of Firefox, disabled and incompatible add-ons are now shifted to the bottom of the list, so you can get a quick overview. If you find that any essential add-ons are missing, switch to the > Get Add-ons view and search for alternatives.

upgrade to firefox 4

Finally, enjoy a great new HTML5 page! Here are a few suggestions: 15 Sites That Do Amazing Things With HTML5 15 Sites That Do Amazing Things With HTML5 15 Sites That Do Amazing Things With HTML5 Read More and 10 Websites To See What HTML5 Is All About 10 Websites to See What HTML5 Is All About 10 Websites to See What HTML5 Is All About Read More


Upgrading from Firefox 3 to Firefox 4 is a very smooth experience. All your personal data will be imported automatically and superficially, you will notice very little change. Yet Firefox 4 does bring many new features, including significantly increased speed, synchronization options for your personal data, and support for HTML5.

You should keep in mind though, that it’s not really a question of whether it’s painless or worth it to make the move. Browser upgrades should always be treated as a mandatory operation, especially if your browser will handle security relevant data, such as passwords, credit card information, or online banking. Fortunately, with Firefox 4 the upgrade is both very easy and rewarding.

What do you think of Firefox 4 and what are your favorite new features so far?

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  1. Kicsike
    June 17, 2011 at 9:42 pm

    I am disappointed with Firefox 4.  Since I upgraded from Firefox 3 on my Mac Pro (early 2009, but having the latest OSX upgrade on it) several things don't work.  The back/forward buttons are greyed and don't work.  Using the History pulldown menu is not the same, since it shows all the previous sites from all the tabs.  The back/forward button works only with the "active" tab.  When I exit then restart Firefox 4 all the tabs which were open when I exited Firefox came back, but not the website. I have to click on each tab, highlight the website description then pressing enter the website comes back.  And I have to do this operation with each tab separately.   I still have Firefox 3 on my MacBook Pro and I am seriously thinking "downgrading" to Firefox 3 on my desktop.  The advantages of Firefox 4 are overshadowed by its serious shortcomings.  I posted my concerns on Firefox Help website, but there was no help coming.  I would be very thankful to anybody helping me with this mess.

    • Tina
      June 18, 2011 at 1:50 am


      Mozilla actually has a Help page that explains how to downgrade to a previous Firefox version. It's not very detailed, but that's probably because it's not too hard. If you need further help downgrading Firefox 4 to Firefox 3.6, you should post a question on MakeUseOf Answers

      • Kicsike
        June 18, 2011 at 3:02 am

        Thank you for your reply.  I don't think I will have any problem downgrading to Firefox 3, but, if there is any possibility to overcome the Firefox 4 shortcomings I would stay with it, because it's faster than the old version.  And, I am also curious if anybody else has the problems I have with Firefox 4.

      • Kicsike
        June 18, 2011 at 3:08 am

        One more thing I'd like to mention about my problems with Firefox 4.  I removed all the add-ons from Firefox 4, but the problems were still there, so I cannot blame those problems on any add-on as suggested to me by some users.  I think this is a bug in Firefox 4.

        • Tina
          June 18, 2011 at 4:18 pm

          Unfortunately, you're not the only one. Try creating a new profile to exclude any changes you have made to Firefox. If that doesn't fix it, I recommend either downgrading or using a different browser...sad as it is.

        • Kicsike
          June 18, 2011 at 8:53 pm


          I created a new profile and all my old problems disappeared, but I have one new problem now.  How can I transfer all my bookmarks from my old to my new profile? 
          I am asking you this question, because you are the only one who tried and succeeded in solving my problem, and I am very thankful to you for that.
          I use both Firefox and Safari, but I like Firefox a a bit more, (in percentage form is about 70% to 30%).  If my last problem will be solved, then I can upgrade Firefox on my laptop, too and synchronize bookmarks with my desktop, thing which was not working because of the different versions of Firefox on the two machines.

        • Tina
          June 19, 2011 at 5:18 am


          you can easily move bookmarks from your old profile to your new profile.

          Locate your your old Firefox profile folder. 


          Profile folders are in one of these locations:
          ~/Library/Application Support/Firefox/Profiles/The tilde character (~) refers to the current user's Home folder, so ~/Library is the /Macintosh HD/Users//Library folder.

          You should have at least two folders with cryptic names (letters and numbers). Whichever currently is your default folder, has .default at the end of the name. Make sure you know which one that is. Open the old profile folder and copy the bookmarks.html file. Then rename the bookmarks.html file in the new profile folder. Finally, copy the file from the first one in there.

          And please let me know whether it worked! :)

        • Kicsike
          June 19, 2011 at 4:30 pm


          I don't know how I can thank you for your help, not only the direct one but also the "indirect" type of help.
          Yesterday I looked at your response about creating a new profile.  And, suddenly something clicked in my brain.   Yes, I have a new profile, but, what happens if I remove the prefs.js file from my old profile and, by relaunching Firefox with the same old profile, a new prefs.js file will have to be created.  And it was.  What I didn't know was the extent of settings I could lose.  Regardless, I tried it, and the results were excellent.  I didn't loose the bookmarks (my main concern), neither the add-ons, and what had been lost, could be easily "recovered" step by step, like my Last Pass unblocked sites and other settings in the add-ons.  That's not a big deal, and I would have had the same problem with the new profile in addition to adding all the add-ons I needed for the good functioning of the browser.
          This idea came as a result of your comment/reply about creating a new profile, that's why I called it "indirect".
          Anyway, I suspected the moving of bookmarks wouldn't be a big issue, whatever you gave me I  had sort of figured out myself, I just needed just a "confirmation".
          I will keep the moving of bookmarks procedure for future reference, if required.

          I always liked MakeUseOf, now I like it even more . . .

          George Klein

          P.S. My nickname "kicsike" is the diminutive form (from "kis", not "kiss", the "s" in Hungarian is always pronounced as "sh" in English, except when it's followed by a "z", when "sz" becomes an "s" in English) of the Hungarian translation of my last name, "little" or "tiny" in English. 
          Calvin Klein is unfortunately not my relative.  It's his loss, not mine . . . (just kidding).

        • Tina
          June 20, 2011 at 2:52 am

          Glad you solved your issue. And thanks for the tip with the prefs.js!

  2. Brigadier Sir Guest III (Mrs.)
    April 20, 2011 at 12:39 am

    Thanks for a good article, Tina. :)
    And to some others for their tips about MozBackup and installing the new version alongside instead.
    I wasn't sure you could do that without causing problems.
    You CAN do it without causing problems, right?
    If so, I think I may try that first.
    Anything tricky about it or just install to a separate folder or..?

    Maybe it's just the sleep deprivation, but it seemed inordinately difficult for me to track down this information for some reason, even though you'd think it would be reasonable to have something like this or a link to it right on their official download page, or possibly in the FAQ, even if it's not technically a frequently asked question.
    Though I can't imagine that something along the lines of "What (if anything) should I back up, make note of, or otherwise do before upgrading from version x to version y so as not to destroy any of my data, cost me a lot of time re-doing things and rediscovering how I did them in the first place, or generally f*** up my s*** up in such a way that I want to switch to another browser or possibly make a trip to Mozilla headquarters and commit a murder-suicide?" doesn't come up fairly often, especially for major releases.

    Anyway, to my main point which brought me here..
    Somebody else installed the last versions for me, so I needed the info you provided about bookmarks and add-ons and even session history being preserved, but I'm still unsure of a few things like bookmarklets and custom buttons I've added to toolbars, arrangement of toolbars and spacing of icons, etc., so if you or anyone else knows about that sort of thing, I'd love to hear about it.
    These are certainly fairly minor concerns, but if you're a bit anal about your layout and functionality and spent a lot of time tweaking it to be just what you wanted, it's good to know if and how such things will be affected beforehand, whenever possible.
    Otherwise, you know, I could end up going to post on some forum, for example, and finding out I can't do or find what I want and wind up taking so long to track down and re-do everything just right that the topic is closed by the time I finally get around to making my rambling post full of convoluted and questionable sentence structuring.

    • Tina
      April 21, 2011 at 9:51 pm

      If you are currently using a theme or rely on certain plugins, make sure they offer a Firefox 4 compatible version before you upgrade. If they don't and you cannot live without them, don't upgrade.

      Bookmarklets should survive the upgrade just as good as your bookmarks bar, bookmarks, saved passwords etc. Nothing to worry about. Exceptions possible.

      To be honest, I don't know how you can install Firefox 4 alongside Firefox 3.6. When I installed Firefox 4, it automatically replaced Firefox 3.6. I think explaining how to install them next to each other would be an independent article.

      Back up your profile with MozBackup as suggested. Just check all the options and back up your entire profile. Takes longer, but it's the safest thing you can do. If you don't like Firefox 4, uninstall, re-install version 3.6 and restore the profile backup.

      If you dread change and fixing things up again, best don't bother. There will be changes and things will look different. To me it was almost not visible. However, I love change, am used to it, work with two different browsers on two different computers with two different operating systems on a regular basis, so what is nothing or minor to me, might be major and huge to you.

      Actually, judging by your paragraph above I'm pretty sure it would be a huge change for you. So don't do it, you wouldn't like it! Why fix a running system?

      • Brigadier Sir Guest III (Mrs.)
        April 22, 2011 at 7:56 am

        Well, I was kinda tired when I wrote that.. I'm really not OCD, I swear. ;)
        I too usually have several browsers and such for web design related things, though I sure wish that necessity would end one of these days, but I do tend to set them up fairly similarly, and actually, right now what's driving me crazy is the top panel icons in my Ubuntu 10.10 won't stay put and keep randomly moving around on their own so I never know where they'll be.
        Tried everything I could think of, including glaring and cursing at them, but they're stubborn little anarchists.

        Mainly with Firefox and other browsers I'm just tired of thinking or being told everything will be fine and then realizing that wasn't the case at all and if I'd only known ahead of time what to save or whatever I could have saved myself a lot of headache.
        Change can definitely be a good thing, especially if it involves plugging security holes or forcing us to get rid of those dozen extensions we installed and never use but always forget to uninstall or think just maybe one day.. and then when they're gone we forget all about them.
        So, just to stay current and a little more secure, and since I made sure all my addons were 4.0 compliant before installing them, I think I will back my stuffs up as you recommend.
        Think I'll also ask my Intel friend about the side by side versions thing though, since that might be handy in the future and now I'm curious.
        Thank you again, for both the article and your quick reply. :)

        • Tina
          April 22, 2011 at 11:52 pm

          You're very welcome. :)

  3. Nevada
    April 9, 2011 at 6:26 pm

    I had the good sense to install FF4 beside FF3.6, so I could do an ACCURATE comparison. I never believe the party line about newer being better. You have to prove it to me and FF4 didn't.

    FF4 rendered about 50% of my add-ons unusable, ones I use daily, not some frilly fluff like Facebook apps or other crap like that, these are for business and other reasons.
    So for now FF4 is a nice curiousity sitting on my system, which I will switch to in perhaps 6 months or so when there's a real reason to switch to it and ALL of my add-ons work. If it take a yea, so be it, Iam in no hurry. Also Mozilla released an update to 3.6 the day after they release FF4, so they are still supporting it as well.

    Also, there is a lot of extra nonsense I have already changed in FF4 and removed from it. I saw no major difference between it and FF3.6 for speed or anything else.

    Also, FF4 is about 20% larger than 3.6 when installed. Tighter and smaller code would be appreciated, not more program bloating.

    To Tim: Good move, XP Pro will be fine until Win 8 or 9 comes out! Maybe by then MS will finally get it right and remove all the crap and give us a decent OS.

  4. Foo
    April 9, 2011 at 6:23 pm

    Some explain whose brilliant idea it was to change the Right-Click menu order of "open in New Tab" and "open in New Window" Grrrr... Keep opening a New Window, ah muscle memory how wierd you is...

  5. theoldrang
    April 9, 2011 at 6:09 pm

    I agree, bringing Firefox 4.0 up was easy...

  6. James T. Kirk
    April 9, 2011 at 6:05 pm

    After endless months of beta versions and release candidates, I was very surprised that even Internet heavy weights like Y! didn't have the addons ready for 4.0 (the Delicious add on still hasn't been updated).

    Also, I have no idea what meaning of the app-tabs should be. If I click on a link on a page that was pinned as an app-tab, the app-tab changes to this new site. A completely useless function in my eyes.

    I don't see any advantages over 3.6.

  7. Maisrando
    April 9, 2011 at 6:04 pm

    i'm lovin it

  8. mc
    April 9, 2011 at 6:02 pm

    Autocomplete in Google toolbar not working in FF 4.0. When I select a search term from drop down menu it doesn't load when using the mouse...but using the up/down arrows (keyboard) it works fine. Its a small problem but non the less annoying.

  9. Andrew Gould
    April 9, 2011 at 6:00 pm

    The only problem I've had with FF4 is that it's something of a memory hog. On my POS Acer laptop running Vista (yes, I know...) I can't use it while downloading or syncing in iTunes, which I could do in the earlier version.

    • Tina
      April 9, 2011 at 7:07 pm


      to be honest, I also noticed an increase in memory usage, although the browser appears to be much faster and runs less add-ons (due to incompatibility). Weird and definitely not good.

  10. Guest
    April 9, 2011 at 6:00 pm

    I tried FF 4.0 and have gone back to 3.6. Over half of my add-ons were incompatible, and the browser itself would not hold on to my settings. There's no reason I should have to change the same settings each time I open the browser. I'll hold on to 3.6 at least until they update 4.0 for the first time.

    • Tina
      April 9, 2011 at 7:05 pm

      What do you mean the browser would not hold on to your settings? Maybe Firefox 4 was set to clear all your personal browsing data on each exist, which would delete cache, cookies, and potentially open tabs.

      I understand that you downgraded again due to add-ons not being compatible. It's a pity that developers didn't manage to release versions compatible with Firefox 4 in time for the official launch. As previously mentioned, however, this is not Mozilla's fault.

  11. Thegoldy
    April 9, 2011 at 6:00 pm

    The one thing that's bugging the heck out of me with Firefox 4 is the file menu. On the older version, clicking on "File" gave you a drop-down and one of the options was "Open Location". With Firefox 4, you can still get that drop-down, but you have to do the ALT-F routine to get it. Clicking on File shows a much abbreviated drop-down and "Open Location" isn't on it.

  12. Tim Turner
    April 9, 2011 at 6:00 pm

    Obviously Firefox 4 is better than IE 9, since IE 9 will not work on my XP Pro, and I will never buy another computer with Windows 7 on it. I made the mistake once. The transition to the new Firefox was simple and successful. I'm now preparing to wipe my new Super Dell Hard Drive and install XP Pro. I've tried Windows 7 for a year and hate it.

    • Tina
      April 9, 2011 at 7:02 pm


      what was the problem with Windows 7? Was your hardware not compatible, maybe?

      I think it's not very smart to stick with an old operating system. You're opening yourself up to potentially serious security threats, new hardware and software will not be compatible with your computer, and you will lack out on new features.

      Microsoft is phasing out support and security patches for Windows XP by 2014. Until then you should definitely upgrade your operating system, either to a newer Windows or a Linux distro.

  13. Gary12349
    April 8, 2011 at 8:01 pm

    "Chances are that several add-ons will no longer work with Firefox 4."

    By the time all my extensions are FF4 compatible, there will already be a FF5. But if I was willing to give up my extensions, I would just switch to Chrome. If Mozilla keeps imitating Chrome, there will be no reason for anyone to stick with Firefox.

    • Tina
      April 9, 2011 at 1:07 am

      You have a point there, Gary.

      However, Mozilla / Firefox 4 is really not at fault here. The individual developers are responsible for making add-ons compatible with the latest browser build and Mozilla gave them a lot of time with the release of the alpha and beta versions.

  14. chris
    April 8, 2011 at 2:33 pm

    I have several clients who are having difficulty with seeing the tabs. In Mozilla 4, the tabs are light and somewhat difficult to see. Any suggestions?

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    April 8, 2011 at 1:04 pm

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  16. Cate Eales
    April 8, 2011 at 3:26 am

    Upgrading to Firefox 4 was easy, but it does break some add-ons. That's a problem if you actually rely on an add-on to get work done. I highly recommend using MozBackup before you upgrade to save your existing profile. Then, visit MajorGeeks, download version 3.6.16 and keep it handy. Now, go do your upgrade and see how you like FF4. If you don't like it, blow it completely away, install 3.6.16, and restore your profile. You'll be glad you made your backup. Also, the new UI is a little disconcerting. You can get "Firefox 3 theme for Firefox 4" to help with that.

    Two of the add-ons that broke on upgrades here are Google Toolbar (I KNOW! Who would have guessed that?) and RoboForm. There is a fix for RoboForm but Google Toolbar is still hooped.

    • Tina
      April 9, 2011 at 1:11 am

      Good tip regarding MozBackup.

      And yes, it's a little unsettling that even developers of major add-ons didn't upgrade them in time for Firefox 4 to be released officially. Google might have done that on purpose.

  17. Satyajit Nadkarni
    April 8, 2011 at 3:12 am

    Took your advice. Got rid of almost all extensions and add ons. Just kept one 'ff-lite' theme and a couple of essentials. Firefox 4 starts much quicker - very noticeably. Now lets hope it does not "hang" my mac again. :)

    • Tina
      April 9, 2011 at 6:58 pm

      Glad you were able to speed up Firefox! :)

  18. Sondra Harnes
    April 8, 2011 at 1:28 am

    Firefox 4 caused my Apple Macbook Pro (17") to freeze repeated when I was working with video. I'm not using this browser any more.

    • Tina
      April 8, 2011 at 1:42 am


      apparently you're not the only one who has issues with Firefox 4 freezing and it's not limited to the Mac, it also happens on the PC in a variety of situations.

      Users who experience such issues are encouraged to install the Grafx Bot add-on, which tests and analyses your system and sends data back to Mozilla, so that they can fix any issues.

      Other than an issue with your hardware, you could see freezes due to incompatible add-ons. An easy test is to create a new profile, i.e. one free of any extensions, and see whether the issue persists.

      • david
        May 13, 2011 at 12:50 am

        Same experience here. My Macbook slowed down in Firefox mode, froze once, so I went back to the former Firefox version, and in fact now use Safari more often now. I like Mozilla's attitude and company profile, but I feel that if a company is going to introduce a new and improved program, that they would've figured it all out before leaving Beta. Reminds me of Microsoft. Ugh.

        • Sagar
          May 30, 2011 at 5:47 am

          Firefox creates a friction, Chrome is much better than Firefox !