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Share Your Firefox Data Across Operating Systems & Computers

Varun Kashyap 26-08-2008

Many of us prefer to dual boot our systems. It could be that we don’t want to completely move to Vista or it could be that we are trying out Linux along with Windows.


Let’s face it, no matter which operating system you are using, you got to surf the web. It seems like a good idea if your browser automatically knew what you had bookmarked on the other operating system and you don’t have to customize your settings, passwords and search pages all over again.

Well if you use Firefox, and want to achieve something like this, then read on:

The Profile Manager

Firefox geeks may already know this but just to be on the same page, let me tell you that a profile manager exists for Firefox. The profile manager can be accessed by typing “firefox.exe -profilemanager” on Windows and “firefox -profilemanager” on linux systems. We are going to use this profile manager and Firefox profiles to accomplish our task.

The Steps

    • 1. Let’s assume we are using Firefox from within Windows XP and want to be able to access our bookmarks and settings from within Ubuntu. (If it’s other way round, read ahead, only minor changes are required).

2. Take a note of these locations, we will be using them in steps that follow.

– Windows XP : C:\Documents and Settings\<username>\Application Data\xxxxxxxx.default\
– Windows Vista : C:\Users\<username>\AppData\Roaming\xxxxxxxx.default\
– Ubuntu / Other Distros : ~/.mozilla/firefox/xxxxxxxx.default


where xxxxxxxx refers to a random string, username to you windows user name and ~ to you Linux home directory

3. Make sure that the profile directory in Windows XP as mentioned on step 2 is accessible from within Ubuntu. This should not be a problem as modern Linux systems have read write access to almost any file system that is used by Windows.

4. Now boot into Ubuntu, open terminal and type: “firefox -profilemanager”

5. Click create new profile, a wizard appears, give the profile a name, click next and when prompted to choose a directory, choose the Windows XP directory for your profile as found from Step 2.


Share Your Firefox Data Across Operating Systems & Computers profile

Share Your Firefox Data Across Operating Systems & Computers profile3

6. Click Finish and you are done. You will now have access to all the add-ons you installed, the bookmarks and other settings!


I want to do this the other way round Ubuntu to XP?


No problem, everything is the same except you have to make the Linux File System accessible from within Windows. This is easy to achieve using the freeware Ext2fsd. Once you do this, create a new profile for Firefox in XP and point it to the Firefox directory on Ubuntu / other distros. (refer Step 2)

I want to do this between XP and Vista ?

Still no problem, I already mentioned the location for the Firefox directory on Windows Vista. Just use that location and create a new Firefox profile on either operating system that points to the other.

What if I have a dual boot of Vista and Ubuntu ?


Same steps, just use the respective directories.

How can I get more creative?

If you have a home network, and you switch between computers you can share the profile directory on the network and obtain the same results.

How about sharing the profile over the internet ?

Well you can use the same method and share the profile directory over the internet as well, however this may not be the best solution. Try looking into Weave, or sync your bookmarks using Foxmarks (this will only sync bookmarks).

Any other Profile hacks?

Well not really, just a mention that if the browser is the mainstay of your work and you do a lot of work online and you don’t want to lose your customizations and bookmarks then you can backup your profile directory, just in case something goes wrong.

Also try using different profiles for different types of work you need the browser for. This way you don’t clutter up your browser with too many add-ons and this also avoids some problems. Like for example I use different profiles for developing sites in which I have installed Firebug, Web Developer Tool bar and similar add-ons, and I use a different profile for the casual – fun – entertainment browsing!

Have you used the Profile Manager creatively in a way that I forgot to mention? Why not share it with the world? Write it up in the comments.

(By) Varun Kashyap, who blogs about such interesting tip, tweaks and hacks on TechCrazy blog

Related topics: Mozilla, Mozilla Firefox, Online Bookmarks, Ubuntu.

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  1. Roy
    December 24, 2014 at 6:16 pm

    Pleases take note that you cannot run 2 simultaneous Firefox instances on different system sharing the same profile directory. For my case it was a networked folder.
    It would force you to shut down one of the instances. This is because the profile folder is constantly locked when firefox is open. This is a gotcha for me as I thought only certain files will be locked and only when Firefox is writing to it. Wrong!

  2. Markus
    November 12, 2009 at 2:56 am

    On a multi-boot PC (WinXP, Win7, Ubuntu 9.1) I have tried to access my WinXP Firefox 3.5 profile from Ubuntu 9.1. according to the recipe above. The profile is accessible, but when launching Firefox, I get an error message saying the profile was locked. Any ideas?

  3. Dante
    August 9, 2009 at 3:58 am

    Use the FEBE firefox extension. It can back up your profile, bookmarks, cookies, history or any combination of those.

  4. MrIncredible
    January 26, 2009 at 1:41 pm

    OR how about just installing the foxmarks plugin that comes with every browser regardless of OS? All of this stuff is unnecessary. Foxmarks takes your bookmarks and browsing history in 15 seconds instead of going through all of this.

    • Varun Kashyap
      January 26, 2009 at 2:01 pm

      Yes, that's mentioned in the article, however if you both the operating systems on the same computer, why bother transferring profile data to the web?

  5. Michael Robinson
    October 14, 2008 at 12:05 pm

    I tried running it from the console and I get a popup that says "Firefox is already running, but is not responding. To open a new window, you must first close the existing Firefox process, or restart your system." I find this an odd message as I just rebooted the laptop. Then I wind up having to go through those steps I noted earlier to get the thing working.

  6. Michael Robinson
    October 14, 2008 at 9:45 am

    I have done this, but I find that the Linux side of things keeps having problems. I'll try to run Firefox and nothing happens. I run the profile manager and try to start from there with the shared profile and Firefox will tell me that the profile is already in use. I then have to remind Firefox where the profile is by going through setting up another profile and cancelling at the last step. Is there something I can do to stop this? It's kind of annoying to have to keep doing this.

    • Varun Kashyap
      October 14, 2008 at 9:50 am

      Looks like a problem with FF at your end. It works fine for me. You might have to start all over again with FF in Linux. Or try running FF through terminal, in that case if something is misbehaving you will get to know the source of the trouble.

      • Michael Robinson
        October 14, 2008 at 10:45 am

        I'll try that.

  7. Varun Kashyap
    August 29, 2008 at 3:37 am

    @ PP
    Yes that would work. However you would have to constantly keep syncing the two folders, (using something like Microsoft SyncToy) so that the changes you make to your profile on one computer are also reflected on the other computer

  8. PP
    August 28, 2008 at 8:10 am

    Nice article! What about sharing profiles between different machines by copying the profile files/directory from one machine to the other, would this work?

    For instance, I have a profile in my home computer that I'd like to use in my office computer, and I can't do it through the Internet. Could I just copy my home computer profile directory and (maybe using a pen drive) paste it on the other machine?

  9. Alex
    August 27, 2008 at 9:37 pm

    Why not just try Mozilla Weave? Even though it is still new. Or if you're just a bookmark user, use to syncronise book marks between browsers.

    It currently syncs all mine between Firefox portable on my USB drive, my work computer, my home desktop, and my Acer Aspire One.

  10. Nathan Mylott
    August 26, 2008 at 8:42 pm

    Or you could just install Yoono sidebar on all your Firefox browsers on all operating systems. Plus you can run Firefox Portable on your flash drive with that installed and then you can have your bookmarks on any computer you go to with an open USB port.

    Or you can also install the Google Toolbar, which I love, and everything you bookmark with it will be saved to your Google Bookmarks. You can access these from from anywhere or right from the browser with Google Toolbar.

  11. Varun Kashyap
    August 26, 2008 at 6:03 pm


    I am not exactly a Mac guy, but the whole idea is to have the folder containing the firefox profile accessible from within Mac OS or the other way round. Just in case you are wondering about the location of profile dir in Mac OS, here it is:
    ~/Library/Application Support/Firefox/Profiles/xxxxxxxx.default/.

  12. rich
    August 26, 2008 at 3:44 pm

    um, what about mac? it's not exactly a cross platform solution if you don't have mac

  13. Abhijeet
    August 26, 2008 at 3:24 pm

    Nice one Varun ! Btw simply typing ' firefox.exe -P ' in run in windows should give you the profile manager.