How to import Bookmarks, Passwords and other data to Firefox
When you run the Firefox web browser on a desktop system for the first time, you are prompted to import browsing data from other browsers.
You may import bookmarks, passwords, and other data from browsers such as Google Chrome or Internet Explorer, and it makes sense to do so if you used one of these browsers before, or are still using them but want to use Firefox as well.
While you get the option to import data during first run, it gets a little bit complicated if you want to import data after you ran Firefox for a while.
The Firefox options, and the menu bar, don't list an option to import data, and you may spend some time searching for a way to import browsing data from other browsers.
This guide walks you through the process of importing bookmarks, passwords and other browsing data from web browsers after installation and first run of Firefox.
How to import Bookmarks, Passwords and other data to Firefox
Launch the Firefox web browser if you have not done so already. You have two main options now. Either use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl-Shift-B on Windows and Linux, or Command-Shift-B on Mac OS X to open the Bookmarks Manager, or tap on the Alt-key on the keyboard to display the menu bar, and select Bookmarks > Show All Bookmarks this way.
This opens the Bookmarks Manager of the Firefox library. Mozilla added import and export options to the library. While you open the bookmarks management interface, you get options to import other browsing data in the library as well.
Firefox opens the bookmarks by default. The browser displays bookmarks, the browsing history and downloads in the library.
Locate the import and backup link at the top of the interface (check the screenshot above if you have difficulties locating it), and there the "import data from another browser" option.
Note: The option is grayed out if you are in private browsing mode currently.
This opens the import wizard in a new window. Firefox lists browsers that you can import data from on the next screen. It supports Microsoft Edge, Microsoft Internet Explorer, Google Chrome and Chromium.
You may import the following data from supported web browsers:
- Cookies -- Browser cookies set by websites and services during browser use.
- Browsing History -- The history of sites and services that you accessed in the selected browser.
- Saved Passwords -- Any authentication information saved in the browser.
- Bookmarks (Favorites) -- All saved bookmarked.
Firefox displays all items that you may import on the next screen, and may hide an item if it cannot find it or if it does not exist (e.g. no bookmarks option).
You can select some or all of them. Once you have made the choice select next to continue with the process.
The browser displays a success (or failure) message afterwards. The only option you have on the screen is to click on finish to close the window.
You should see the imported items afterwards in the browser. Bookmarks are listed in the bookmarks manager, the browsing history is there, and both will be suggested when you type in the address bar.
Passwords are automatically filled out or suggested if you have imported those as well. Cookies finally sign you in automatically on sites, and may also provide you with other functionality.
Tip: You can use the Backup and Import option of Firefox to backup and restore Firefox bookmarks, and to import and export HTML bookmarks independently of the import option.
The following options are provided:
- Backup -- This backs up all Firefox bookmarks as a json file. You may use this primarily to import the bookmarks to another Firefox installation or profile.
- Restore -- This restores a json bookmarks file in the Firefox browser.
- Import Bookmarks from HTML -- Imports a bookmarks file that is stored in a HTML document. Most web browser support the exporting of bookmarks to HTML files.
- Export Bookmarks from HTML -- This exports the current set of bookmarks of Firefox to a HTML file.
An important point : unless this was changed since I last checked, there’s a tremendously significant difference between importing bookmarks from a .json file (when using the Restore command), and importing them from an .html file (when using the command Import bookmarks from .html).
Importing a .json file replaces the existing bookmarks. Importing an .html file adds the imported bookmarks to the existing ones, which most often will result in an unholy mess. There’s no option to avoid duplicates (which any importing function worth its salt would offer), and the ridiculously poor sort & search capabilites of Firefox don’t allow mopping up the damage manually after the fact.
This is quite unfortunate, since .html is the standard exchange format for bookmarks, which is (more or less) guaranteed to work whatever the transfer. So it’s also very handy for backup purposes, for instance by setting up browser.bookmarks.autoExportHTML = True in about:config.
Also, because it wouldn’t be funny otherwise, no message warns you of that behaviour, because Firefox is for geeks, not sissies.
So, before importing from .html, it’s very important you don’t forget to a) backup your existing bookmarks, just in case, b) delete them completely, c) only then import the bookmark file ; at least if you want to replace one set of bookmarks by another, which is the case in a restore operation.
Another fun fact (again, unless it has been corrected since) is that nothing tells you the import/restore is in progress (and it can be quite long). Even “better”, nothing warns you that the import is finished, nor that it has been successful. The only way to check Firefox is doing something is to fire up Task Manager.
If you want to check restore has occurred, when importing from .json (as opposed to the operation failing and leaving the old bookmarks in place), you need to save a token, extra bookmark at the top of your existing tree before importing. If, after import, it has disappeared, it means that the old set has been replaced by the new set, and that presumably (important word) the restore has been successful.
See what I mean when I say that Firefox is a very bad browser, despite being maybe the best one ? This sort of stupidity does not exist in Microsoft Office, for instance. Open source has its strong points, but it can also be an excuse for very sloppy design.
Duplicated bookmarks can be removed using this extension: https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/bookmark-deduplicator/?src=api
Wow. Ok, you’re upset, I get it, but…
I’m not sure I agree that it really makes sense to compare Firefox to Microsoft Office. A better
approach might be to compare Firefox with Microsoft’s current Internet Explorer browser–and
fwiw I suspect many folks reading this post would be able to contribute to a “dumb things I really
dislike about IE” list.
In my case, for example, I prefer to have my bookmarks organized _IN WHATEVER ORDER
I CHOOSE_. But with IE I’ve never been able to figure out a straightforward way to export an
ordered list (i.e., MY ORDER, not alphabetized against my wishes) of my IE bookmarks.
Sounds simple enough, pretty basic, right? Try it, good luck… (hint: iirc last time I tried to do this,
admittedly some time ago, Microsoft was storing IE bookmark order in the &*$&^%^! registry!)
Also, since you brought up Microsoft Office, let me say that I’ve never really liked the ribbon
interface (some do, I don’t)–I much preferred the more traditional menu interface they had back
in Office 2003 (some agree, some don’t). And when you consider the bloat, and the far-too-frequent
bad Office patches coming out of Redmond these days…
I guess my point is this:
In my experience, there’s proprietary/closed software and there’s open source software.
And there’s software that’s well designed and well coded, and there’s software that’s not.
But from what I’ve seen there appears to be little correlation between these largely-independent
categories/ranges. As I’ve mentioned on this site before, in my experience there is good and bad
software, good and bad code, good and bad choices made, on both sides of the proprietary/FOSS fence.
I absolutely agree with you : there’s good software and bad software, and open source / commercial is an entirely different distinction, which does not match the former. What’s important is the quality of the program.
Incidentally, there are plenty of reasons to be cross at Microsoft because of its software. It’s just that I don’t think you’ll find in, say, Office such basic flaws as I have pointed at in Firefox.
It’s not the first time I come across users who prefer arranging their bookmarks manually instead of alphabetically. I’ll argue that a program should first be able to arrange them alphabetically, and then, as an added feature, if it can offer manual sorting on top of that, it’s even better.
Beyond a certain number of bookmarks, the lack of automatic alphabetical sorting cannot be mitigated by manual sorting. If you have, say, 50 bookmarks in a folder, you might like to bring the four or five you use most on top of the list, and draw a separator underneath ; but if you cannot have the rest already alphabetically sorted for you, this is next to useless.
By the way, my preferred solution for this would be to highlight preferred bookmarks in red. This was provided in Maxthon ten years ago (maybe more). The geniuses at Mozilla still haven’t figured this one out.
Windows Explorer in Windows 7 has been criticized for not providing manual sorting. However, if it did not provide alphabetical sorting by default across all folders, everybody would be crying bloody murder. A bookmark manager is just a file explorer, for bookmarks. Such ingrained metaphors as are available in Windows Explorer should be the bare minimum in a browser bookmark manager, and then other specific, innovative features could (should…) be added to that.
I disagree with the sissy talk it takes a few seconds to import & very easy to sort/move bookmarks. MS Office is an expensive program why bring that into this post?
It might take a few seconds if you don’t really use bookmarks to a significant extent. It’s quite long if you have a lot of them. I have 15 000.
It’s certainly not easy to sort and move bookmarks. In fact, it’s impossible to sort them. Firefox does not sort bookmarks alphabetically by default, and there’s no way to sort them recursively across folders, even manually. You can only sort one folder at a time. I have hundreds of them, nested into each other.
And before you say “there’s an extension for that”, I’ve tried a few, and none is working properly (plus, it remains to see which will survive November’s add-o-calypse). Also, saying you need an extension to sort bookmarks is saying you’re putting a word processor out there without a native capability to copy and paste. You shouldn’t need an extension for that. Extensions should be for extra features, not needed by everybody, pushing the envelope and doing even better. Not for supplying basic features.
As for the comparison with Microsoft Office, yes, it’s expensive and that’s precisely the point. Open source fanboys tell us that open source is better regardless of price. It’s not. You can’t say, at times, open source is philosophically better because, and at other times, OK, it’s more or less rotten but at least it’s free, so you’re not allowed to complain.
Besides, I’m not even taking the price into account. I want good software. Price is a separate consideration. When I lose time, data or both, that’s not mitigated by the fact that the software is free. Also, it’s not free for everybody. Some people at the helm of Mozilla make a nice heap of money running this “not-for-profit” corporation. A lot of money is changing hands in the process of developing Firefox. The fact that none of it is leaving the users’ pockets (unless they donate, which some of them do) is a moot point.
And finally, those defects are so huge and glaring that any mainstream software did not have them twenty or thirty years ago. Plenty of MS-DOS programs were more intelligent and caring of the user than that. In fact, I know people who have resurrected long-forgotten DOS programs which have only ever been sold on 5 1/4 inches floppy disks, because they are way more powerful than anything that exists in the same field today — even for a price.
I still use Bookmarks, and yes I have a shit-load of them. But …. I just type in keywords in the address bar (as if to search for it), and the “bookmark” pops up. That seems the easiest way to use them for me, instead of scrambling through menus.
A very timely post! It is very disappointing that Mozilla has not added important capability to the Bookmark Manager, as Clairvaux points out.
I would like to continue ‘automatic’ bookmark backups after v57 kills the ‘FEBE’ add-on. Does anyone know of a programmatic way or a WebExtensions compatible add-on that will do this?
If it’s only the backup of bookmarks you’re after (FEBE backs up pretty much of what’s interesting in your profile, I believe), there are several ways to do it :
1. Firefox natively and automatically backs up your bookmarks everyday. It keeps the last 15 backups in a folder named bookmarkbackups in your profile. That’s where you can restore from with the Restore command (and you can chose the date). Those files are in the .json format. They have long names with the date and time in it, a series of random characters, and ==.jsonlz4 at the end.
2. For added peace of mind, you could go to about:config and toggle the browser.bookmarks.autoExportHTML setting to True. This will save an extra backup of your bookmarks each time you close Firefox. This file will be in the .html format. It’s called bookmarks.html, and is also in your profile (but not in a sub-folder). It overwrites itself each time it’s saved, so there’s no versioning as in the bookmarkbackups folder.
3. Now it would be wise to backup either of those (or both) to a place, and even a disk, outside of your profile ; otherwise it would not really be a backup. You can program any file backup software to that effect. I use Sync Back Free.
It’s set to backup my bookmarks.html file and my bookmarkbackups folder everyday to an external disk. You can do that while Firefox is running, since those files are already offline backups, not the places.sqlite file from which Firefox reads your bookmarks (and a bunch of other things) while you’re using it.
There are probably Firefox extensions able to do that, but I don’t know any apart from FEBE, which I used for a while.
After digging into my profile, I have just realised that it also has a bunch of 60 files called bookmarks-[serial number].html, spanning a whole year, at irregular intervals. I suppose those are backups, but for the life of me, I can’t remember where they came from. If anybody has any idea…
Some relevant Mozilla links :
I agree with your comments (and frustrations) about bookmarks in Firefox; I feel the same about it.
Will FEBE be a victim of WebExtensions? Sure?
I think that a backup process and data storage should be fully separated from the application itself. In other words, use a SEPARATE application program to bu and restore.
I use a program from HeKaSoft (free) and MozBackup (free). Easy to use and I am in full control in all aspects. I can keep ALL backup data as long as i want
@jan, click on ‘More…’ for the FEBE add-on and you see the developers statement:
“Firefox v57 notice:
FEBE is considered a ‘legacy’ extension and will no longer work with Firefox v57 and above. FEBE cannot be written with the WebExtensions platform that Mozilla has adopted for all extensions. FEBE will still be maintained, but only for Firefox clones (like Pale Moon).”
Thanks for reply
For me, at least, the process fails because Firefox won’t offer me the option to import passwords, which is what I’m after: just browsing history and bookmarks. Have they just stopped this? Or is it an Australian thing?
in my case I followed the steps and the options that i got are bookmarks, history and cookies but the option about passwords is not even shown!?
You can export from chrome a csv or xml containging the passwords and use this extension https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/password-exporter/ in firefox to import
as pointed out by https://www.makeuseof.com/tag/sick-chrome-quickest-way-completely-migrate-firefox/
My bad. That addon is not compatible with Firefox Quantum.
Thank you! This was driving me crazy, because I couldnt find this in settings.
Not having an option to import passwords from a usb device = not very bright in the forethought dept.