How to sync Firefox across multiple computers using Dropbox

I often work across several different computers. I have a desktop, a macbook, and a laptop that all get used for a variety of tasks pretty much everyday. This can be a huge pain to keep things synchronized – especially web browsing (which is the vast majority of what I do). I’ve used several plugins in the past to help synchronize my setup, including Xmarks (formerly FoxMarks), but FINALLY I’ve found a solution that will sync all of my bookmarks, extensions, session history, settings, greasemonkey scripts, etc in one solution. In short, I’m using Dropbox (a great service on its own) to synchronize my Firefox profile across all the computers using a symlinked directory. Detailed instructions to follow.

  1. First thing to do is head over to Dropbox, get an account, and install it on all the computers you’ll be syncing across. This is very straight forward and they have installation options for Windows, Mac, and Linux.
  2. Pick which computer has your “master” profile (the one that will be the starting profile replicated across all your machines) and start there.
  3. Close Firefox if it’s open.
  4. Next, you need to find your Firefox profile folder. Details for this on all major platforms can be found here.
  5. Once you have found your profile folder to sync, I STRONGLY recommend that you backup this folder somewhere.
  6. Find your Dropbox folder (defaults to /Users/[username]/Dropbox on a Mac and C:\Users\[username]\Documents\My DropBox on Windows), create a new directory to store your Firefox profile in (I used firefox-profile).
  7. Copy the contents of your Firefox profile folder (found in step 4) into the newly created Dropbox folder created in the previous step. It should start syncing immediately, I recommend waiting till it’s complete before continuing.
  8. Store the name of the Firefox profile folder somewhere, and delete this folder.
  9. Now we need to create a symbolic link between the Firefox profile folder (which you backed up, right?) and the Dropbox folder we just found in the last step. On Mac/Linux the command for a symlink uses the syntax ln -s target link_name – which you may need to run as root (On Windows, the command uses the syntax MKLINK /D link_name target – this should be run from the command prompt and you may need to run this as admin in order to complete this. You can run this as an admin by going to start, typing cmd, right click the command prompt option and choose “run as administrator”) where link_name is the original Firefox profile folder (found in step 4) and target should be the shared directory in Dropbox used to store the profile (I used firefox-profile in my Dropbox folder – be sure to use the full paths for simplicity).
  10. Repeat steps 8 & 9 for each computer, finding the Dropbox and Firefox profile folders on each system. Also, be sure to close Firefox completely before modifying the profile folder – and back up if you’d like to keep that profile info.

And that’s it! When you reopen Firefox it should open using the shared Dropbox directory and sync all your plugins, bookmarks, session history, etc across all of the machines. There are a few things I should mention as well though. First, you’ll probably want to turn off Dropbox notifications, as these files change often while browsing and will be resynchronized with each update. Notifications for this can get annoying quickly. You also might notice some weirdness if you browse on multiple computers at the same time…both keep trying to save their session history (and everything else) to each other and will continuously overwrite each other. Shouldn’t do any permanent damage, but worth thinking about.

Let me know if you have any other suggestions of if you get this working for yourself in the comments below.

This entry was posted in Great Stuff and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to How to sync Firefox across multiple computers using Dropbox

  1. Pingback: Internet Cafe Solution » Blog Archive » How to sync Firefox across multiple computers using Dropbox » Jon Fox

  2. Alex Taylor says:

    Hi everyone! toy can also sync data between multiple computers with SyncMate. SyncMate enables all users to sync data between Mac OS X computer and a list of devices, such as Windows Mobile devices, Nokia S40 phones and other Macs and Windows computers, PlayStation Portable and USB drives. SyncMate also supports Google account synchronization. With SyncMate you can back up data to Online Storage Account.

    Detailed information can be found here

  3. Darlyn says:

    This is something I’ve been looking to do easily for ages. Your post is really appreciated!

  4. Peter says:

    Really great help. However – its really slowing the browser down – USB 2.0 but still slow – any thoughts / advice?

  5. SonSinema.Com says:
  6. Stephen says:

    I didn't understand a thing from step 9, can you break it down for the mac please?

    • Scott says:

      Creating a symlink is much easier than he's describing here's what you do:

      Open two finder windows, the first should be ~/Library/Mozilla/Firefox/Profiles/ (this should be empty if you deleted it earlier)
      the other is /dropbox/ (you should see your goofy named profile folder and the firefox-profile like he made. now all you have to do is:

      1. open terminal
      2. copy paste this line into it (change your folder names appropriately)
      ln -s /Users/[your usernamehere]/Dropbox/firefox-profile /Users/[your usernamehere]/Library/Application Support/Firefox/Profiles/[nameofyourfirefoxprofile]

  7. 100janovic says:

    If you are using Windows XP, but on the NTFS partition, instead of MKLINK you would require the LINKD.EXE available from the resource kit for Windows Server (search for rktools on MS site).

  8. Pingback: links for 2010-02-22 « Kaigani’s Arbor Vitae