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How To Sync Your Browser Data with Firefox Sync

Firefox Sync allows you to access your open tabs, bookmarks, history, passwords and preferences everywhere, whether you’re using a laptop, desktop or smartphone. Firefox Sync also works as a backup for your browser data.

Firefox Sync’s local encryption keeps your synced data private, but complicates the setup process. Setting up sync isn’t just a matter of logging in with the same password everywhere.

Enable Sync

Start by selecting “Set Up Sync” in the Firefox menu. You can also open Firefox’s Options window, click over to the Sync pane and click the “Set Up Firefox Sync” link.

If you’re a new user, you’ll have to create a Firefox sync account.

One interesting option you’ll find here is the server selection box — organizations can set up their own Firefox Sync servers instead of using Mozilla’s.

Firefox will encrypt your browser data and store it on the Firefox Sync servers. No one can view your data without knowing your key.

Sync Options

Customize the types of data Firefox syncs by clicking the Sync Options button while setting up Sync, or opening Firefox’s options window and clicking over to the Sync pane. From here, you can also set a name to identify your computer.

Adding a Device

Add another device by selecting “Set Up Sync” in its the Firefox menu and clicking “I Have an Account.” You’ll see a code.

Go back to your first device, open Firefox’s options window, click over to the Sync pane and select “Pair a Device.”

You’ll be asked to enter the code from the other device.

Once you have, the two devices will be paired.

Firefox on Your Smartphone

Use Firefox Mobile for Android or Firefox Home for iPhone to access your bookmarks, open tabs and other synchronized data on the go.

Tap the “Pair a Device” link on the home screen and enter the code it provides one one of your paired computers.

Once it’s paired, you can tap the “Tabs From Your Other Computers” option to see open tabs, bookmarks and history entries.

Sync Recovery Key

Firefox Sync encrypts your data with a local key, which is stored on your devices and not uploaded to Firefox Sync’s servers. If you lose your key on all devices — for example, by reformatting all paired devices at once — you can’t access your stored data without your recovery key. You’ll have to click the “I Don’t Have the Device With Me” link after clicking “I Have an Account” in the setup process. If you lose your key, you’ll have to reset your data and lose all data stored on the server.

To do this, you’ll want to open the options window, click over to the Sync pane, click the Manage Account menu and select the “My Recovery Key” option.

Save the recovery key to a safe place or print it out for safe keeping.

Troubleshooting Sync

If you encounter problems with Sync, you can use the Reset Sync option in the Manage Account menu.

Use the options here to replace the data on the server with data from specific computers. You could also change your recovery key from the My Recovery Key screen to erase data stored on the server.


Now you’re ready to go — you’ve got your Firefox data with you everywhere. No more recreating the same bookmarks on all your computers or struggling to remember what web pages you were reading on your other computer.

Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Google+.

  • Published 02/13/12

Comments (12)

  1. Vivek

    I wonder when they will incorporate addons saving as in chrome

  2. YB

    I prefer xmarks

  3. Eugene

    Everyone seems to be obsessed with Chrome lately. So thank for mentioning Firefox, still the best browser for Windows, in my opinion.

  4. hotnikkelz

    Not once Have I been successful at syncing open tabs. My tabs are NEVER synced…ever

  5. mikmik

    Looks like a decent way to keep FireFox portable on a usb drive up to date from anywhere you happen to plug in.Thanks

  6. Mushaf

    Firefox sync is not as good as Chrome sync. Also enabling sync on other devices is just a pain as mentioned in the article. Couldn’t they simply use the password to encrypt the data? I only sync my passwords and ABP preferences with Firefox sync. Bookmarks are synced with Xmarks.

  7. Alin

    @Vivek
    Firefox 11 beta has Add-ons Sync.

  8. Chris Hoffman

    @YB

    It’s definitely better if you use multiple browsers. Thanks for reminding me; I might even do a post about it.

    @Eugene

    No problem! Chrome gets a lot of play because that’s what we writers seem to use, but I know there are a lot of Firefox users out there. I can tell from the comments and page views, so I’m trying to ramp up the Firefox content here.

    @hotnikkelz

    Worked for me, but it took a few minutes. You might try clicking Firefox -> Sync Now to speed it up.

    @Mushaf

    I agree. Enabling Firefox sync is rather complicated. It shouldn’t be this hard.

  9. Omar Hafiz

    If you save a copy of the encryption key, you can add new devices without the need to enter the code on another device. Best thing to do is to save the encryption key on the harddrive or the cloud (e.g. Dropbox) and whenver you want to add a new device, click the “I don’t have the device with me” and it’ll prompt you to enter the encryption key.

  10. Chris Hoffman

    Yup, I mentioned that in the Recovery Key section. Still, for most users, the code is the easiest way to go.

    Saving the encryption key in Dropbox puts you a bit more at risk — this probably only matters if you’re syncing your passwords or other private data, though.

  11. JG

    @Omar Hafiz
    Nice! Will try that when I get home, that’s a great tip I hate Firefox’s setup.

  12. lilsting10

    After un-pairing a device the ‘Mobile Bookmarks’ folder remained, even after I deleted the bookmarks inside it.

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