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Recover Firefox password without losing bookmarks and saved logins

  • 28 replies
  • 3 have this problem
  • Last reply by jscher2000

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I've been using Firefox to store logins and passwords and manage bookmarks on one computer for 10 years+. I always just opened a browser, clicked "tools" then went to my saved passwords. Today I got a new computer and wanted to sync with my Firefox from the old computer. The old computer is asking for a Firefox password, which I don't have (I've tried everything I can think of but I set it 10 years ago). I searched for help online and tried setting a "Master Password." Now, despite entering the EXACT password I selected, it is saying it's wrong and I'm locked out of all of my saved logins on the original computer as well.

I have a secondary email but nothing seems to generate a recovery email (yes, I am stupid and didn't enable recovery key and now I cannot do it because I don't have the password). Is there any way for me to get back into my saved logins? I am using the old computer to work from home and cannot complete any work now. The company sent me a brand new laptop, but all of my logins and passwords are on the old computer tha now wants a master password.

Modified by rl.witter

All Replies (20)

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    • Should be without LOSING logins and bookmarks**
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Hmm, let's slow this down and distinguish different credentials:

(1) Master Password

This is a purely local password that is not Sync'd. It is used to encrypt your saved logins on disk, so it's critical that if you really do have a Master Password set, you are able to enter it the way Firefox expects.

(2) Firefox Account password

This is a global password for your Firefox Account. It is not used to encrypt logins locally, but only in transit to, while stored on, and in transit from the Sync servers.

(3) OS password

Firefox 76 briefly asked for your Windows login to access saved logins if you had never set a Master Password. The following article has more info on that feature: Lockwise asks for authentication (password, voice, face or fingerprint) when accessing passwords. If you are getting THAT prompt, you can disable it as follows:

(A) In a new tab, type or paste about:config in the address bar and press Enter/Return. Click the button accepting the risk.

(B) In the search box in the page, type or paste os-auth and pause while the list is filtered

(C) If the has a value of true, double-click it to switch the value to false

But if it's really a Master Password, then that isn't going to do anything helpful. You may need to find a backup.

Do you have hands on your old computer at this point?

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Thank you for replying! Yes, I am on the old computer now.

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I have my OS password and Firefox said it was incorrect, yet it's what I use to log into the computer. I tried the email password for the associated account, but that didn't work either, so I set the Master Password thinking it would allow me to change the account password (which, of course, it didn't) and now it's saying the Master Password ir wrong.

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When you set the Master Password, I think it should have repeated the request for your Windows login at that point. Did it accept it that time?

In case it is still on, please go ahead and turn off the os-auth preference as mentioned.

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It didn't ask for a password to add the Master Password; I just checked the box, typed in a password and I think I stupidly might have copied and pasted it to the second box. So if I fat-fingered the password I'm screwed.

Modified by rl.witter

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Do you think you have any backups of your Firefox profile folder from recent months?

As a fallback, you can check for "shadow copies" that Windows may have made when doing updates. You can use a utility program to search inside restore points to try to locate an old file that's usable. (Please do NOT try to use the built-in Windows System Restore for this because you probably would lose data.)

Download and run one of these two programs:

Within the most recent restore point shown in the program, you can explore along this path to see whether you can find a shadow copy of your profile:


You can export both of these files to a convenient location such as your currently live desktop:

  • logins.json
  • key4.db

Any luck so far?

Modified by jscher2000

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I'm sorry, I am old and not very computer savvy... "shadow profiles" seems intimidating but I guess I can try this?

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There's probably a Wikipedia article on the shadow copy service. It's a Windows technology that allows the system to make copies of files even while you're using them. Not as exciting as it sounds.

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I was able to export the files to my desktop but now it's asking what app to use to open them. When I used Firefox it gave me this: SyntaxError: JSON.parse: bad control character in string literal at line 1 column 16389 of the JSON data

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Is there a program you would recommend to open this?

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Oh, hold on. Normally Firefox reads these. What we can do is "swap" those for your current files. There are quite a few steps but the general principle is simply closing Firefox and switching the files behind its back.

Open your current Firefox settings (AKA Firefox profile) folder using either

  • "3-bar" menu button > "?" Help > Troubleshooting Information
  • (menu bar) Help > Troubleshooting Information
  • type or paste about:support in the address bar and press Enter/Return

In the first table on the page, on the Profile Folder row, click the "Open Folder" button. This should launch a new window listing various files and folders in File Explorer.

Leaving that window open, switch back to Firefox and Exit, either:

  • "3-bar" menu button > Exit
  • (menu bar) File > Exit

So now you're back in that File Explorer window. Pause 15 seconds while Firefox finishes its cleanup, then:

  • right-click logins.json, click Rename, and change it to something like loginsOLD.json
  • right-click key4.db, click Rename, and change it to something like key4OLD.db

Next, copy/paste the logins.json file you exported from the restore point into this folder. Repeat with key4.db.

After refreshing the list (F5), assuming it's alphabetical you should see the "OLD" and new files together. All good?

When you start up Firefox, it should realize that no Master Password is needed to read out the passwords in the logins.json file.


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rl.witter said

When I used Firefox it gave me this: SyntaxError: JSON.parse: bad control character in string literal at line 1 column 16389 of the JSON data

That's not good. If Firefox can't use the file, you might need to try an older one in that case.

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I followed all of your instructions and copy & pasted the json & key4 files to that window then restarted, but the Master Password box is checked and is still asking for it

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Can you find another copy in an older restore point?

Also, did you already have a Firefox Account and Sync set up before, or are you just doing that for the first time today?

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I already had the account and sync set up prior to today. I'm sorry, but how do I find an older restore point? I truly appreciate your help but I just don't know how to do that.

Modified by rl.witter

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The restore point was from 5/29/20 if that helps

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If I sync my phone, from the sync tab, will it require the Master Password or might that allow me access to my saved logins and also to change the password?

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Could you try this:

New Profile Test

This takes about 3 minutes, plus the time to test your problem site(s).

Inside Firefox, type or paste about:profiles in the address bar and press Enter/Return to load it.

Click the "Create a New Profile" button, then click Next. Assign a name like June2020, ignore the option to relocate the profile folder, and click the Finish button.

After creating the profile, scroll down to it and click the Launch profile in new browser button.

Firefox should open a new window that looks like a brand new, uncustomized installation. (Your existing Firefox window(s) should not be affected.)

Connect to your Firefox Account and allow Firefox to Sync. I have no idea how long this is going to take, so you could just minimize that window and check the Logins and Passwords page every half hour.

Meanwhile, check about:config to make sure the os-auth preference is set to false in this profile, too.

Does this profile get the saved logins? If so, we can steal its organs, I mean, its logins.json and key4.db files for your regular profile. Or just as a backup.

IMPORTANT: Creating a new profile may change your default. If your regular profile gets a Set as Default Profile button after this test, click that to make sure your next startup doesn't yield a surprise.

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