How To Sync Firefox Bookmarks and Passwords Privately

Martin Brinkmann
Apr 16, 2012
Updated • Jun 16, 2012
Firefox, Firefox add-ons

Most Firefox users who want to sync data like bookmarks or passwords use the built-in sync feature to do just that. Firefox Sync requires an account, and uses that account to save the data in the cloud. While easy to setup, it means that data is hosted on a third party server that you do not have control over. Most extensions and services that offer third party solutions do the same thing. If you do not want your data to be hosted on a third party service, either because you want to be in full control or because of business regulations, you could check out the Sync Places extensions for the browser.

SyncPlaces, unlike other tools of its kind, allows you to store the data on your own servers. The Firefox add-on can store the data on four different servers:

  • Web server
  • Web server with SSL
  • FTP server
  • File server

You need to restart the browser after you have installed the extension. SyncPlaces adds an icon to the browser's status bar that you can click on to open the options and configure the synchronization.

The configuration option consist of the usual information, server IP, username and password for instance, but also options that let you configure the process. You can configure the extension to synchronize data automatically, at specific times of the day, regularly, or on startup or shutdown. The information can be encrypted and compressed to secure and speed up the transfer, and you can furthermore switch from synchronizing all bookmarks to synchronizing a specific bookmarks folder only. Data can either be merged with what's stored on the server, or replaced completely.

Takes a backup of your current bookmarks before overwriting them, which you can restore if it all goes wrong. You can also manually take a backup at any time, or restore from this backup.

Bookmarks are stored in JSON or XBEL format. JSON is ideal for all the new Places features (tags, queries etc). XBEL is ideal if you still use Firefox 2 (although you'll lose the new Places features) or wish to style your bookmarks so you can access them from any browser, or without installing the SyncPlaces extension. You can also send bookmarks in HTML format if you don't wish to style XBEL yourself.

The core benefit of using SyncPlaces is that you have got full control over both the local installations of Firefox and the server the data is stored on. It in turn means that you need to have access to a server to use the extension at all. While it is possible to use third party servers like the GMX server, it would undo the main purpose the extension has been created for. Firefox users who have issues configuring the extension should check out the author's support website which offers a collection of tips to get common issues sorted out.

Update: The author has removed the extension from the Firefox add-on repository, probably because of Mozilla implementing Firefox Sync which too can synchronize bookmarks and other information. We have therefor removed the link to the now invalid page, and suggest you check out Firefox's Sync feature here.


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  1. crypto cat whine said on December 8, 2012 at 9:56 am

    any such backup should obvioulsy perform encryption LOCALLY (before uploading) but MUST ALSO

    * give full control to user to encryption
    ** key
    ** algorithms
    ** iterations

    trusting the cloud provider to be the keymaster is PURE FOLLY

  2. Nitrox said on April 16, 2012 at 1:33 pm

    It is also possible host your own Firefox Sync Server. Mozilla has a guide on that

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