The latest issue of Scott’s Newsletter (and if you don’t read it, why don’t you?) has an interesting segment about cleaning up Firefox profiles and solving some problems that seem recently to have been plaguing the Foxmarks extension.  Foxmarks, if you’re not already using it, stores your bookmarks online so that they can be automatically transferred to any other computer using Fx, just by installing the extension on that machine and signing in.  Once both machines are set up, the synchronization occurs automatically from then on.  It’s cross-platform too, because the bookmarks are html files. (Foxmarks will also encrypt and store passwords, but I prefer LastPass — which also works in Internet Explorer — for that purpose.)

Well, I’d been having some trouble getting Foxmarks to synchronize between my home PC and the one at work.  To be precise, home would, and work wouldn’t.  Do.  Anything.  So, I decided to follow Scott’s advice.  Among other things, he suggested that Firefox should be clean-installed after each major version upgrade, leaving the automatic system to handle the intermediate updates.  Since I hadn’t done that, ever, I decided to give it a try.

First thing, I backed up all my settings from the various Firefox extensions.  In my case, that included Better Gmail, Foxclocks, Gmail Manager and Tab Mix Plus.  If you decide to do this (and you may), check into the settings of any extensions that you’ve made changes to, and see if you can export them as a text or html file.  It saves a lot of hassel when you set things back up.

Then I downloaded a fresh copy of Firefox.  Don’t forget to do this.  You’ll need it.

Also, make a list of all the extensions, because you’ll have to download and install them again.  It’s really annoying to discover that you forgot an important one right when you’d like to use it.

When I was sure I had all the backups safely on the desktop, I used Revo Uninstaller to remove all vestiges of Firefox from the PC, by running it at its deepest setting.  You can do this safely, IF you dig down and check ONLY the stuff in boldface.  Then check on the last page where you have to do the deadly deed to make sure all the file names shown have the word “Firefox” in them someplace.  I suggest spending a bit of time getting used to how Revo works before doing the dirty, as it alters the registry.  At that, it’s much safer to use than going into the works and removing the stuff manually — and it does a better job.

With the old Fx dead and gone, there was nothing to do but use the installer to reinstall it from scratch.  Then I reinstalled all the extensions — simple, because I had my list — and imported the settings from the desktop as needed. Then I restarted Fx.  If you download all the extensions at once, you only need one restart.  From start to finish, the whole thing took about half an hour.  My last chore was to open Foxmarks and set it to replace the bookmarks in the new installation of Firefox with those from the server.  It worked without a hitch.  After reinstalling LastPass from the PC’s start menu, I was finished.

Here’s the kicker.  You wouldn’t believe how fast Firefox runs now!  I’d forgotten how fast it could be.  With all the accumulated garbage cleaned out of the registry and wherever else it hides its goodies, you could easily convince yourself it’s an entirely different browser.  A couple of other extensions that were problematic now work beautifully again.  It opens much faster. Pages snap open.  Stuff happens right now.

Although a bit time-consuming, this is a worthwhile project for part of a rainy Sunday afternoon.  You can bet I’ll be clean-installing after every major revision, and I might do it occasionally in between.