Web browsers store your personal data – bookmarks, history, settings, extensions, and more – in a profile. You can create separate profiles to split things up – for example, you could have one profile for work and one for play.
Each user account normally has a single profile for each browser, but most web browsers allow you to create separate profiles. You can even use multiple profiles at the same time, being logged into different accounts in each of them.
Chrome makes using multiple browser profiles easy. We’ve previously covered how to use multiple browser profiles in Chrome, and the process is still fairly similar. To create additional browser profiles, open the Settings page (click the menu button and select Settings), and then click Add new user under Users.
Select a user icon and provide a name. In addition to their own bookmarks, history, and other settings, each user has their own Google Sync settings and can be logged into their own Google accounts.
You can then switch between profiles by clicking the icon at the top-left corner of your browser window.
Firefox has built-in support for multiple profiles, but this feature is a bit hidden. To access the Firefox Profile Manager, you’ll first need to close all Firefox windows.
With Firefox closed, press the Windows key to open the Start menu (or Start screen on Windows 8), type the following line, and press Enter:
(If this doesn’t work, you may need to enter the full path to Firefox instead. On 64-bit Windows systems, use the following line:
“C:\Program Files (x86)\Mozilla Firefox\firefox.exe” -p
On 32-bit Windows systems, enter this line instead:
“C:\Program Files\Mozilla Firefox\firefox.exe” -p
The Profile Manager will open. Use the Create Profile button to create new browser profiles. If you would like to be prompted to choose a profile every time you start Firefox, uncheck the Don’t ask at startup option.
Firefox only allows you to run a single browser profile at a time by default. To have multiple Firefox profiles running at the same time, you’ll need to launch Firefox with the -no-remote switch. For example, to launch Firefox’s Profile Manager with the -no-remote switch, use the following command:
firefox.exe –p -no-remote
You’ll need to use the -no-remote option to launch each Firefox instance. (If Firefox is already running, close it completely and launch it with -no-remote.) You can add the -no-remote option to your Firefox shortcuts to make this easier.
To easily switch between multiple Firefox profiles, you may want to install the ProfileSwitcher extension.
Internet Explorer doesn’t allow you to use separate browser profiles. However, it does have a feature that can be used to create browser windows with their own separate cookies.
To use this feature, press the Alt key to reveal the hidden menu bar, click File, and select New Session.
The new browser window will share your favorites, history, and other settings, but it will have its own separate cookies. This means you can use this feature to log into multiple accounts on the same website, just as the profile features allow you to in Chrome and Firefox.
Internet Explorer doesn’t appear to like the “Runas” tool built into Windows, which allows you to run a program as another Windows user account and see it on your desktop. If completely separate IE profiles are important to you, you could create a new Windows user account and switch between them.
Opera has support for multiple profiles. You can have multiple Opera instances running at the same time, each with their own profile. Unfortunately, this must be achieved by editing Opera’s .ini files by hand and launching opera with a /settings command-line switch. (If you’re interested in doing this manually, see the Opera Browser Wiki for instructions.)
Instead of doing all the work by hand, you can download the user-created Opera Profile Creator. It will do the tedious work for you, creating new shortcuts that will open Opera with separate profiles.
Safari doesn’t appear to support multiple profiles. The closest you can get is having several user accounts and using fast user switching to switch between them, as each user has their own Safari profile.
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 03/7/13