Mozilla makes it more difficult to block Firefox updates
Previous versions of the Firefox web browser supported three states when it came to checking for updates and installing new updates in the web browser.
The default setting checked for updates automatically and installed them immediately when found. The second state checked for updates but required user interaction to start the installation of the update, and the third state disabled update checking entirely in the browser.
Firefox users can openÂ about:preferences#general in the browser and scroll down to the Firefox Updates section to manage update settings in the Firefox browser.
Firefox users could also set the preferenceÂ app.update.enabled on about:config to false to disable update checks in the browser.
Mozilla changed the updating logic of Firefox by removing the third option from the browser's user interface and from about:config.
The organization does not mention explicitly how it plans to deal with Firefox installations that are set to never check for updates. It seems likely that the setting will be switched to "check but don't install" automatically, but that is not mentioned explicitly anywhere.
Firefox users who have set the browser to never check for updates should verify which setting is enabled after upgrading to version 63. Firefox 63 is scheduled to release in October 2018.
Why is Mozilla making the change?
The bug listing on Bugzilla@Mozilla highlights that the option is "easy to enable and forget about", and that it "contributes to orphaned users" and "exposes users to severe security issues".
The new method
The feature won't be removed entirely, however. The recently introduced policy engine provides an option to block updates in Firefox entirely.
Firefox users and system administrators have two options to use policies. They can create a policies.json file manually and fill it with appropriate policies, or use the excellent Enterprise Policy Generator instead.
Just install the extension in the Firefox web browser and open its settings with a click on the icon. Locate Updates & Data Collection and check the policy "Prevent Firefox from updating". The policy requires Firefox ESR 60 or higher, or Firefox 62 or higher.
The add-on creates a policy file that you need to place in the distribution folder of the Firefox installation.
Additional information about policy support is available here.
The Registry option
Firefox users may also make changes to the Windows Registry if they use Windows to disable automatic updates.
- Open the Start menu.
- Type regedit.exe and select the result.
- Confirm the UAC prompt that may be displayed.
- Go to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Policies\Mozilla\Firefox.
- If any of the keys do not exist create them with a right-click on the previous key and the selection of New > Key.
- Right-click on Firefox and select New > Dword (32-bit) Value.
- Name it DisableAppUpdate.
- Set its value to 1.
The process disables updates in Firefox. You need to update Firefox manually after making the change, or revert the change by disabling the new value in the Registry.
While it is generally not recommended to disable the installation of updates, it should be up to the user to make that decision in my opinion. Yes, it would be great if all users would run the latest version of Firefox but users have multiple reasons for not wanting to update.
While it is more difficult to block update checking entirely in Firefox, an option to do so still exists even in Firefox 63 and future versions released after Firefox 63.