What you need to do if Firefox is not automatically updating anymore

Martin Brinkmann
Jul 13, 2015
Updated • Jul 13, 2015

The Firefox web browser is configured to check for and install updates automatically by default. It offers configuration switches to change that to give users of the browser control over the updating functionality.

This can be useful if updates need to be tested before they are deployed on machines for instance, or if users don't want to update because of broken add-ons or other incompatibilities.

Generally speaking, it is recommended though to update Firefox regularly as updates patch security vulnerabilities which, when unpatched, may leave users vulnerable on the Internet.

There are three core reasons why Firefox may not update itself even though that is the desired behavior of the browser:

  1. The automatic update preferences were changed by the user in the browser.
  2. The update preferences were modified by third-party software.
  3. The browser or some of its files are corrupt which prevent automatic updates.

1. The automatic update preferences were changed by the user in the browser

firefox automatic updates

This is the easiest to solve, as you can do so right from within the browser. Do the following to check and modify Firefox's update settings:

  1. Type about:preferences in the browser's address bar and hit enter.
  2. Switch to Advanced > Update on the page that is loaded.
  3. Check under "Nightly updates" and make sure that "automatically install updates" is selected.

If that is not the case, switch to the option and you have enabled automatic updates again.

2. The update preferences were modified by third-party software

user.js firefox automatic updates

If the changes mentioned above don't stick, then the update settings may have been modified by third-party software or a system administrator.

This happens if specific instructions are added to the file user.js which you find in the Firefox profile folder.

Tip: the fastest way to open the profile folder is to type about:support and to click on "show folder" under application basics.

The file does not exist by default and needs to be created first before it can be used. Settings in in are prioritized over settings in the browser. While you may change various settings in Firefox while it is running, those are reset to the values set in the user.js file on each restart of the browser.

This means that you need to modify the preferences in the user.js file directly in regards to automatic updates.

The preferences of importance are:

  • user_pref("app.update.enabled", false);
  • user_pref("app.update.auto", false);
  • user_pref("app.update.silent", false);
  • user_pref("app.update.staging.enabled", false);

If you find some or all of them listed in the user.js file, you have found the source for the automatic update failure.

The easiest way to resolve the issue os the delete the four lines in the user.js file. If those are the only lines in the file, you may delete the entire file instead.

firefox update

You may create a new profile alternatively which corrects the issue as well.

Note: If you have not added the preferences to the user.js file, you may want to scan your system with advanced virus scanners to make sure that it is not infected. We suggest you use Malwarebytes Anti-Malware for this.

3. The browser or some of its files are corrupt which prevent automatic updates

This happens in rare cases, and the best option then is to download the latest version of the web browser manually from Mozilla to update it manually and resolve any corruption issues.

  1. Firefox Stable download
  2. Firefox Beta download
  3. Firefox Developer download
  4. Nightly download

Closing Words

You are probably asking yourself why a third-party would block Firefox from updating itself automatically. This is done to keep the browser from patching certain vulnerabilities, likely to keep the system vulnerable to attacks or exploits. (via Sören)

Now You: Have you configured your browser to update automatically?

What you need to do if Firefox is not automatically updating anymore
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What you need to do if Firefox is not automatically updating anymore
Find out why Firefox is not updating itself automatically anymore, and how to fix the issue.

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  1. Greatfon said on March 12, 2020 at 11:42 pm

    Either set When Firefox starts to Show a blank page or set it to Show my home page and click Restore to Default. Close the about:preferences page.

  2. exCorbac said on September 24, 2016 at 3:41 pm

    Hello everyone,

    There’s a trick I found that could prevent Firefox to update itself, in spite of all the modifications in the config file as described here. It’s a Windows service called “Mozilla Maintenance Service”, that might be disabled. To check this on, go in the search bar in the start menu of Windows. Type in “services.msc” and hit enter.
    In the services list that shows, scroll down to “Mozilla Maintenance Service” then right-click on it. Choose “Properties”. Check that start type is set to automatic, otherwise set it so. Don’t worry if the service is stopped, it’s normal : it only starts when needed. Click ok and restart Windows.
    If you don’t find “Mozilla Maintenance Service” in the services list, you have to uninstall Firefox and reinstall it properly.
    I hope this helps :)

  3. Kumar Menon said on May 21, 2016 at 7:06 am

    Dear Pals,

    It’s true that FF browser does not automatically update itself due to some security watch over potential issues.
    I wonder how long this “watching” will go on.
    In the case of Google Chrome and many other browsers, big guns and small ones, updating is non-automatic.
    Just click on “About Chrome” for Google Chrome and updates,if any, are downloaded and very neaty installed.
    If there’re no updates the message returned is “Google Chrome is up-to-date”.

    I suggest FF should work along this line.
    I’d also like to suggest that the text clarity of FF browser is still far inferior to that of Google Chrome.
    In fact, FF looks deprecated when compared to Google’s text clarity.
    Perhaps it’s time to change – for the better!
    Don’t just harp on privacy when basic things are still not in order!

    Looking forward to seeing a major breakthrough.

    Thank you.

  4. Tommy said on April 28, 2016 at 9:29 am

    Missing the ‘Use a background service to install updates’ box. How to get it?

    1. exCorbac said on September 24, 2016 at 2:56 pm

      I’ll try to help you with this matter.

      Type about:config in the adress bar and hit enter. Pass the warning. In the search bar, type in ‘app.update.staging.enabled’ (without the quote marks of course).
      – If you see this key, verify it’s set to enabled (value=true). Otherwise, set it to enabled by right-clicking it and choosing ‘invert’.
      – If you don’t see this key, then right-click anywhere on the window and select ‘new’ then ‘boolean value’. Type in for the name of this option : ‘app.update.staging.enabled’ and set it to true.

      Quit and restart Firefox, then check if the option box ‘Use a background service to install updates’ is now available.

  5. jdh said on April 27, 2016 at 1:23 pm

    Firefox is not checking for updates often enough. Can I change this?

    1. exCorbac said on September 24, 2016 at 3:13 pm


      Type ‘about:config’ in Firefox’s adress bar and hit enter. Pass the warning. Type in ‘app.udate’ in this window’s search field. I guess there are at least two options in config that rule the time between updates. Try to modify the following values (not all at the same time).
      Locate the value named ‘app.update.interval’ (default value = 43200) and right-click on it. Select ‘modify’ and decrease the value (it’s in milliseconds I guess).
      Locate the value named ‘app.update.promptWaitTime’ (default value = 691200) and right-click on it. Select ‘modify’ and decrease the value (also in milliseconds).
      Each time you modify something, quit and restart Firefox and see if the situation improves.

      I hope this helps.

  6. boo9 said on March 27, 2016 at 3:41 pm

    In my case the C:\program files\mozilla firefox\ permissions were changed so non-admin user could write a new file but not delete/change existing files, This messed up firefox updater.exe logic and it would not use Moz Maint service to update the firefox – even though the FF config was set to use background update service.

  7. Anton said on July 13, 2015 at 10:05 pm

    My Firefox is up to date, sorry I can’t remember what comes up when it isn’t.

  8. Anton said on July 13, 2015 at 8:50 pm

    Periodically Firefox will check for updates, and inform me that it couldn’t determine whether one was available.

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on July 13, 2015 at 9:17 pm

      What happens if you run a manual check for updates? Tap on Alt-key, then Help > About Firefox.

  9. Anton said on July 13, 2015 at 8:00 pm

    I’ve had no choice but to update Firefox manually for a couple of years now and have had to rely on this site to find out when a new version was available.

    I’ve no user.js file, might this be the problem? I always have Firefox set to inform me of updates rather than installing automatically.

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on July 13, 2015 at 8:45 pm

      Are the prompts displayed? Can you describe the issue?

  10. Marcin said on July 13, 2015 at 11:18 am

    My Firefox is configured to update manually, as ALL the softwares that I have on my computer. I decide when the soft upgrade.
    A simple rule.

  11. Nebulus said on July 13, 2015 at 11:14 am

    “What you need to do if Firefox is not updating anymore automatically”

    Rejoice! :)

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