Firefox 4 has finally been released. I do not really want to rehash all that's been said in the past twelve months or so ever since the first beta releases appeared on the Mozilla servers. Only that much: Firefox 4 is faster and really not that much different from Firefox 3.6.
Here are a few overview guides that you may want to read if you have to read up on the release, everyone else may skip ahead.
The basic idea behind resetting the browser is to get rid of all the "garbage" that has been accumulated ever since the browser, or the profile that is currently used, was installed for the first time. This includes leftover files, first and third party settings that have been changed or removed, extension leftovers and bloated database files. A fresh start may improve the performance and reliability of the browser. It highly depends on past usage though.
There are actually only two sets of data that I'd like to move over to the new version: Bookmarks and Extensions. Some users may have other things that they would like to keep, for instance passwords if they are using the built-in password manager to store passwords in the browser.
I like to be on the safe side of things, which is why I recommend to create a full backup of the existing Firefox profile. This backup acts as a last resort to restore the profile and data, but also as an option to restore select information from the old profile.
I recommend Mozbackup for the job, but you are free to use other means like copying the profile manually or using extensions such as FeBe instead. What I like about Mozbackup is that it takes less than a minute to create a full backup of the Firefox profile folder, and that it offers restoration options.
I suggest you take a look at my how to backup Firefox with Mozbackup guide linked above to create the backup. The basic steps are as following:
And that's it, you have successfully created a backup of your Firefox profile. An alternative is to configure a Firefox Sync account which automatically backs up bookmarks, passwords and settings on Mozilla servers. It would then be possible to restore those settings once Firefox 4 has been installed. Keep in mind that Firefox Sync is not backing up extensions.
Now you need to download the latest version of Firefox from the Mozilla website. This is important as we need to uninstall previous versions of the browser (skip ahead to creating a new profile if you feel less adventurous.
Now it is time to completely uninstall Firefox on the system. Make sure you delete the full profile folder as well. If you have troubles locating the profile folder consult the following Mozilla Support page. You can use a program like Revo Uninstaller to catch all leftovers and Registry keys that may still be on the system after using the standard Firefox uninstaller.
Install Firefox 4 using the recommended settings. The browser is installed without extensions, customizations, bookmarks and everything else that you may hold dear.
The first thing that you may want to do is to restore data that you have backed up. If you use Mozbackup it is a matter of selecting restore from the program options and then the components that you want to restore to Firefox 4.
It is obviously up to you what you want to restore, but I suggest to restore at least the bookmarks and extensions. Keep in mind that all extensions will start with no customization if you only restore. This means that you will spend some time configuring the extensions again. I had to enter the Last Pass master password and force compatibility checks in Firefox 4 to get an incompatible add-on working.
The Firefox interface will also be reset, which means that you may have to customize it as well. I for instance enabled the add-on bar again, got rid of the Firefox button and moved the NoScript icon to the add-on bar. Some settings, like getting rid of the new tab button can only be changed in the advanced configuration. This may take additional time if you are unfamiliar with the parameter names.
The customizations took less than five minutes to complete on my system, the time may differ depending on your experience with the browser and the number of extensions installed.
Starting fresh may sound like a daunting task.Users who do not want to uninstall Firefox can instead create a new profile using the Firefox profile manager which acts as an independent copy as well.
A fresh start can remove old settings and data that would otherwise still be carried around. I for one have resolved my Google sign out issues with the fresh install. I also managed to reduce the profile folder by more than five Megabytes. I cannot really say for sure but the browser feels a tad more responsive as well.
Have you installed Firefox 4 yet?
Update: MozBackup Final has been released.
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