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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 Ultimate Browser Settings: Must-Change Items In Chrome, Firefox, & Internet Explorer Ultimate Browser Settings: Must-Change Items In Chrome, Firefox, & Internet Explorer Let's take a look at those must-change browser items. Maybe you do the same, or perhaps you think that the settings should be different? Read More 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 How To Clean A Hijacked Web Browser How To Clean A Hijacked Web Browser What's more frustrating than launching Firefox only to see that your homepage has been changed without your authorization? Maybe you've even got a shiny new toolbar. Those things are always useful, right? Wrong. Read More 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.

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firefox-sync-intro

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.

chrome-sync

In Firefox: To enable sync in Firefox, you’ll need to set up a Firefox account via Options > Sync.

firefox-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.
ff-set-master-password

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.

chrome-guest-browsing

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 How To Use Firefox Profiles & Run Multiple Firefox Profiles At Once How To Use Firefox Profiles & Run Multiple Firefox Profiles At Once 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... Read More . 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 Everything You Need to Know About Managing Chrome Bookmarks Everything You Need to Know About Managing Chrome Bookmarks Chrome has a number of features to help you sync, easily access, manage, sort, and tidy your bookmarks. Some people manage just fine without bookmarks, but not most of us. If you use the Chrome... Read More . 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:

In Chrome:

  • 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.

chrome-selective-sync

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 Stay in Sync: Access All Your Browser Data From Any Device Stay in Sync: Access All Your Browser Data From Any Device How can you make the process of switching devices more efficient, so that you can easily pick up where you left off? Read More .

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

chrome-sync-passphrase

In Firefox: Via Forgot password? on the Firefox Sign in page.

firefox-sync-reset

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 Defaults

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.

chrome-reset-settings

In Firefox: The reset feature is available under Help > Troubleshooting Information. Navigate to this section and click on Refresh Firefox.

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 Everything You Need to Know About Managing Chrome Bookmarks Everything You Need to Know About Managing Chrome Bookmarks Chrome has a number of features to help you sync, easily access, manage, sort, and tidy your bookmarks. Some people manage just fine without bookmarks, but not most of us. If you use the Chrome... Read More 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.

  1. Tony C
    June 23, 2016 at 10:13 pm

    #1 should have been "Don't install Chrome Browswer" - every time I clicked on this link through twitter, it would freeze up on "This page cannot be displayed" - In fact, every time I click any link on Chrome browser I get that message. I finally learned that if you wait 45 seconds or sometimes up to a minute, it will in fact load the page. But who wants to sit there and wait 1 minute for Chrome to get its act together. Just use Microsoft Edge. It never does any of the BS that Chrome does. It's faster too since you don't have to wait for "This page cannot be displayed" error message to get over itself before showing you the web page. "Oops Something went wrong" and "Google Chrome cannot find "www.youtube.com" perhaps you didn't spell it correctly?

  2. helpful55
    January 15, 2016 at 10:07 am

    As far as I can tell firefox sync is a mess. I have tried it and end up with a pile of bookmarks and them doubled up and end up with just a MESS. This is simple, you should be able to set a pc as the master bookmark setup or be able to pick which pc you want to clone from. And there should be a way to select what things you want to sync. It is impossible to understand how all of this works and it is a mess. I am just going to do a file of my bookmarks and export it to another pc. I can edit it also in HTML. I will have to go back and find out how to do that again, but I did it a while back and I can do it again, until this big firefox sync mess is made usable.

    • helpful55
      January 15, 2016 at 10:10 am

      I mean more of a way to maybe modify the bookmarks easier when you are syncing as there is a way to pick the options for sync.

  3. fcd76218
    June 29, 2015 at 1:11 pm

    In Firefox, try using FEBE add-on to backup your settings.

    • A41202813GMAIL ..
      June 30, 2015 at 5:09 am

      The Best Extension Ever.

      Saving All You Extensions, In Individual .XPI Files, Is A Feature I Dearly Miss In CHROME ( And OPERA15+ ).

      Cheers.

  4. dun36u9 4Lpha
    June 27, 2015 at 6:35 pm

    Both Chrome and Firefox browsers have methods to backup your bookmarks. Suggest you back up your bookmarks regularly. Firefox uses a .json and Chrome uses an .html backup.
    This backup can then be imported if needed and is transportable to other devices. You may wish to save your backups to a thumb-drive or disk. Hope that helps.

  5. shelley
    June 26, 2015 at 3:44 am

    I really do hate half-assed answers to questions.

    I DO NOT want to sync my browser with anyone outside my home!!! Nobody else needs to see or know what my settings or my preferences are.

    What I do NEED TO KNOW is where my browser settings are!!! What is the name of the file that contains my settings and where is it located. Then I can PROTECT my own settings on my own computer or a backup USB memory stick.

    • fcd76218
      June 26, 2015 at 11:10 am

      "I really do hate half-assed answers to questions. "
      Then ask specific questions.
      How about letting us know what browser you are using so we can tell you where your settings are?

      • Postom
        January 18, 2016 at 2:49 am

        How about answering the frigging question shelley asked, which she prefaced by yelling "What I NEED TO KNOW". If you can't answer her questions for all or even any browsers, stop clogging up the forum with your useless prattle.

        • fcd76218
          January 18, 2016 at 2:26 pm

          "If you can’t answer her questions for all or even any browsers"
          Of what use would that be? If she is using IE, giving her the location of Chrome settings would be worse that useless, it would be confusing. Also, depending on the O/S, the file names for the same browser may be different.

          BTW - if someone cannot find "Preferences" in the browser menu, maybe that person should leave the browser settings alone.

  6. Read and Share
    June 24, 2015 at 6:07 pm

    I love Google Chrome but disdain Google the company. So I have my Chrome browser set up to block any and all Google cookies. Google does not need to know when where and how I surf.

    But that also means no ability to back up or sync to Google, as recommended in this article. Still, no biggy at all. Many apps that I use (Adblock, Click&Clean, Ghostery, etc.) provide ability to save user preferences / settings. Restoring from scratch takes me about 10 minutes total (yeah, I have done it a few times, actually). Besides, even Google doesn't keep track of all extension settings anyway.

    • Akshata Shanbhag
      June 25, 2015 at 5:44 pm

      I can totally understand wanting to keep Google from prying into your browsing activity. It's one of the reasons I use Firefox as my primary browser. Then again, nothing on the Internet is 100 percent private.

  7. prittman
    June 24, 2015 at 5:43 pm

    Nice post. Im very big on backing up browser settings. Ive had a few problems with sync on both FF and Chrome, so I find it quicker just to copy the profile folder every month or so. I dont know if Chrome has all its preferences in one folder too, but its worth a look. Just to be sure, I also export my browser profile to online backup so if my laptop crashes, I can still have my old browser settings.

    One other feature that some FF users might want to employ--the addons.mozilla.org site (where you find and install FF addons) lets you keep a collection ( a list of links to the addons) of favorite addons (if you register for an account there). So the times that I want a new profile, I can go to that site and in a few minutes, have new versions of all my addons installed into my new browser. I like it.

    The problem Ive had with sync has been that Ive imported old bookmarks that were already on the cloud "sync" space.

    • Read and Share
      June 24, 2015 at 6:11 pm

      I used to backup the entire Google folder -- making a full Chrome recovery from scratch as easy as simply copying back that one folder. Worked like a charm. HOWEVER, I recall starting with a newer version back a few months ago -- this trick no longer works!! Upon a system restore or upon copying a backup user profile folder -- current Chrome will give you an error message (can't remember the exact wording but something to the effect that data has changed and therefore Chrome has reset to initial configuration). The only user configuration retained are the bookmarks.

      • Read and Share
        June 24, 2015 at 6:13 pm

        I should note that my reference to the "entire Google folder" above meant the user profile folder -- not the program folder.

    • Akshata Shanbhag
      June 25, 2015 at 5:47 pm

      Thank you, Prittman. Backing up your user profile is a good idea.

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