Your browser setup is a fragile thing. One “oops” moment and you’ll have to say goodbye to it. Don’t let that happen to you.
Setting up your browser just so involves quite a few experiments and false starts. Once you have done it, you don’t want anything to ruin it. But it’s you who might mess it up by committing a few rookie mistakes. Don’t!
Avoid the following traps and your browser will stay in good shape for a long, long time.
Not Backing up Your Browser Data and Settings
Malware infections and system crashes are unpredictable. They could damage your browser and make its data and settings irretrievable.
With a fresh installation, you can get your browser back, but not the customized setup that you have spent so much time on. Stay smart and prepare for such a contingency.
All you need to do is take advantage of your browser’s sync feature. It backs up your browser favorites—from your bookmarks to your add-ons—to an external server.
Saving your browser settings elsewhere makes fresh installations stress free. Even if you have to reinstall your browser, you won’t have to spend time customizing it from scratch or retrieving its data. Just log into your sync account and it all comes back.
With sync enabled, you can also carry your favorites with you everywhere and on all your devices.
In Chrome: Sync your setup to your Google account through Settings > Sign in.
In Firefox: To enable sync in Firefox, you’ll need to set up a Firefox account via Options > Sync.
In both these browsers, you can choose which info (bookmarks, apps, history, etc.) you’d like to back up. Enabling sync is a one-time thing, and we urge you to do it today.
Leaving Your Browser Unprotected
Sharing a desktop with someone or allowing them to use your browser is risky unless you have some kind of protection in place. Through intent or accident, said person could delete your browser data and mess with its settings. Here’s how you can forestall such an occurrence.
Set Up a Browser Password
Chrome’s built-in profile lock feature is no longer available. Chrome users will have to settle for a third-party extension like LockPW.
To password-protect Firefox, navigate to Options > Security > Passwords. There, once you check Use a master password, you’ll get a prompt to set one.
After you set up the password, you’ll have to enter it once per session. Keep this password safe, because having to reset it will cost you your stored Web passwords, private keys, etc.
Enable Guest Browsing
Enable Chrome’s guest browsing feature through Settings > People as shown in the image below. Then even if you happen to share your computer with someone, they can’t access your browser settings or data.
When it comes to Firefox, the guest browsing feature is available only on Android. For the desktop version, you’ll have to make do with a guest profile. Keep one ready to go.
Syncing/Importing Stuff Without Planning
Your browser comes with built-in options for saving your data such as bookmarks and passwords. Do you use third-party desktop or cloud services for these functions? If yes, disable the corresponding built-in feature. Otherwise you could end up with a lot of duplicate data.
For example, if you sync your bookmarks using both Xmarks and Google Chrome sync, you’re in for a messy set of bookmarks. This is because Xmarks often breaks Chrome’s Bookmark sync and creates endless duplicate bookmarks. To avoid this mess:
- Go to Settings > Sign in > Advanced sync settings.
- Select Choose what to sync from the drop-down menu available.
- Uncheck the Bookmarks option. Now your bookmarks stay synced only via Xmarks.
In Firefox, you can make the same tweak via Options > Sync.
About to import data from a file or a different browser? First take stock of what’s already present within the browser, and clean up any data that’s no longer required. Import data selectively if possible. This way you won’t have to waste time cross-checking for duplicate data.
Not Backing Up the Sync Password
The sync options in Chrome and Firefox will make your digital life a lot easier. But beware. You might hit a snag if you’re a “serial password forgetter”. An irretrievable sync password means lost browser sync data. Your browser favorites and customizations are gone for good unless you have backed them up to a cloud service.
You do have the option of resetting sync on both Chrome and Firefox. But this deletes your data from the server for security reasons. The local browsing data stays intact and you can sync it back once you set a new password. Here’s how you can do that:
In Chrome: From the Google Dashboard
In Firefox: Via Forgot password? on the Firefox Sign in page.
This method is helpful only if your haven’t cleared your browser history, restored any settings to default, or moved your bookmarks around. In any case, storing the sync password in a safe location can save you a lot of headache.
Restoring browser settings to default is a quick way to roll back any experimental changes you have made. It can also fix problems caused by misbehaving plugins.
The catch is that you can’t use the reset feature selectively. It affects even the settings that you want to keep. This is why we recommend that you use this method only as a last resort.
If you are sure you want to reset your browser profile, here’s how you can:
In Chrome: Navigate to Settings, and click on Show advanced settings. Under Reset settings, click on the Reset settings button. This will restore Chrome to its original settings.
In Firefox: The reset feature is available under Help > Troubleshooting Information. Navigate to this section and click on Refresh Firefox.
The reset function varies between browsers and also varies from one browser version to another. Read your browser’s help section to understand what info you’ll lose once you hit that reset button.
Guard Your Browser
Rebuilding your browser from scratch is a painful process, and you can avoid it, in most instances anyway. Protect it from accidents as well as its user(s). Then you won’t have to worry about losing your data and settings. If anything goes wrong, you can restore your browser to its best state with ease and zero stress.
I have goofed up a few times and wrecked my browser setup. Have you? Where did you go wrong and how did you fix things after? Share your experiences in the comments.