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Why has my history just disappeared randomly - but not completely?

  • 22 replies
  • 1 has this problem
  • Last reply by cor-el

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Something very annoying and very surprising has occurred: over 3 months worth of browsing history has disappeared. Kind of. I'll start from the beginning. At about 10 o'clock Monday evening, I finished my day's worth of browsing and went to bed. Right before I closed Firefox, however, I checked my history to see how much I'd done that day. There was a lot, more than average for me; same thing with Sunday. So I leave the computer for the day, knowing that even though my history was steadily being deleted as I viewed more pages, as it was set to, it was all safe and there to be backed up when necessary. However, upon logging in at around 4 o'clock the next day (Tuesday) I noticed something peculiar: my location bar wasn't showing anything when I typed things in. Apart from the homepages for Google, Facebook, Youtube, etc., it would not take anything else. I typed in letters, words, and links, and nothing showed up. I pulled up my history, and saw that everything seemed to be in order; "December" was still available, as was January and this month. It was all there as far as I could see. I went away for about 4 hours as my dad came in to fix the faltering video card. Upon returning at 8 o'clock, I tried the location bar again, and still nothing. This time when I checked my history, I actually clicked on the months. What I saw shocked me. Today's history was still complete, obviously, as I hadn't done much to begin with. Clicking on Yesterday, however, I was very surprised to discover that it wasn't complete; over half was missing. Worried, I clicked on Last 7 days; then This month; then January and December. Staring at the screen, I simply couldn't believe that pretty much all my history had just vanished, and I hadn't even done anything. But then I realized something. The history was NOT gone, just missing (if that makes any sense). I went back to the location bar, and tried more letters and words; this time, I got some results. Checking to see if they were in my history, I found they weren't. Surprised at this, I went further and looked up a news article I read back in December, which no longer showed up in the history or location bar. Looking back into the history, I found that, as I suspected, it registered in the history in December as well as now. Another thing that strikes me as weird, is that, in both December and January, the only bits of history that show up are pages that I've revisited today. Because of this, there is no feasible way that these sections could have existed unless I didn't visit these pages again. But if that's true, then how were those sections still there? Today, I tried more pages, and again they pop up in their proper places despite not appearing before in the history. Various websites also pop up with different letters now in the location bar, despite the fact that if they were deleted they shouldn't be able to. I have read up on the places.sqlite file, which in my case, according to my computer, was created in February 2007. If my suspicions are correct, if I'm able to open that, I should be able to recover the history... right? Sorry for rambling, but this is very important to me in that the lengthy history assisted me in daily browsing because I was able to get to videos and links just by typing in a letter or a word. I have not deleted anything yet, just in case anything can be recovered. Or, even if recovery is impossible, if it's possible to VIEW the history, i.e. in a list of websites, I would be able to take them out and save them elsewhere and backup/add back at my leisure. I hope someone can help.

All Replies (20)

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I suggest as a first step you preserve as much info as possible. As you are interested in retaining bookmarks as well as history I suggest you copy the whole of the profile folder including sub folders and files. The quickest method of finding the profile location is

  • Firefox Button -> Help -> troubleshooting information
    Profile Directory [open containing folder]
    • or even quicker go direct to to about:support instead of using the menu

Once located make a copy and put it somwhere safe, outside of Firefox program or profile paths (on the Windows desktop would be suitable).

You may be getting file corruption, you may have some utility such as a temp file cleaner that is affecting this. If you are desperate there is always the possibility of trying to recover information with a sqlite editor. If you delete places.sqlite firefox will rebuild it but you will loose information. The same with bookmarks, if you restore bookmarks from an earlier date or from an external backup you will overwrite and therfore destroy the current bookmark set.

As long as you have the spare backup copies you have on the Windows desktop; or wherever; they may be useful in restoring bookmarks &/or history.


IIRC there are limits on the total size of the places.sqlite, and algorithms for what it should keep when it is full, I suppose there is a possibility that is affecting you.

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See if you can fix any errors in the places.sqlite data file with this extension:

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Thanks you two, history is my priority as I don't have that many bookmarks. John - I've already backed up the bookmarks as well as the history from the last couple days, plus everything else that still pops up, on my Google account. As I said, I have not deleted or cleared anything, and don't plan to unless at a last resort. I experienced today for the second time Firefox froze and ended up crashing while in use. I think this may be part of what is causing my problems. For now I'll look into this add-on, and wait for more replies.

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Did you actually copy the profile files and folders?

Those files contain information, and that will change as you use the computer. Inevitably some of that info will be lost, as it is renewed on a daily basis.

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Uh... no, I didn't. But I have done now. Does it matter? As I said, I already knew that my history was replaced as I visited pages, because I had it set to do that.

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What are you meaning by saying your history is replaced

knew that my history was replaced as I visited pages, because I had it set to do that. 

and in the Original Post

my history was steadily being deleted as I viewed more pages, as it was set to

I am not sure I understand that,
are you for instance not saving history and relying on the Back and Forward buttons and the tabs that you keep open ! Or have you for instance restricted deliberately the number days of auto backups of bookmarks that are saved. Are you sometime using private browsing and therefore not saving history.

Can you please explain what you have set or adjusted in regards to this and the steps you took to do that. Also are we just talking about Firefox here or have you other utilities that clean out history of Firefox or other temporary files etc, if so what is it that you are using please.

Does it matter ?

The History is not backed up other than what is in places.sqlite so preserving that is important.
You were also mentioning lists of sites, and I was thinking there of the bookmarks, if you used bookmarking that may be an important resource. A number of auto bookmark backups are created and available to restore and overwrite your current bookmarks these are in a sub folder with names formatted like bookmarks-yyyy-mm-yy.json this is a rolling list with new backup dates added as old backup dates are deleted, so what you have here will be a different set of dated file to the ones you had a couple of weeks ago, assuming you use Firefox each day. The bookmarks point is moot if you do not add or delete bookmarks.

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Oh, sorry. As to what I meant by history being replaced/deleted as I viewed pages, that's just what it did because I had it set to "Firefox will: Remember history" and the number of pages was set at about 50,000 or whatever. No big deal. I do save history, yes; I have it set to come up to a single home page, rather than previously closed tabs when I open the browser. As said, I don't use bookmarks. And yes, sometimes I do use private browsing but only for very little things, majority of my browsing ends up in my browsing history. I only use Firefox, and try NOT to clean out my history though will occasionally clear the cache if necessary. As of now, the only thing that gets regularly deleted are third party cookies. By lists of sites, I meant simply the browsing history 'archive' of sorts just in a different area off of the browser. I have seen the bookmarks backups, and as far as I know, have absolutely nothing different between them because as I said I don't use them very often. Yes, I do use Firefox every day. No new problems have arisen that I've detected over the past day, other than the fact that my location bar still does not work properly, which is a bit annoying when searching for things in my (currently limited) history.

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Can you look at the file places.sqlite and find what size it is currently, at present I do not know what size it is limited to but seem to recall it is designed to grow in 10MB steps.

May I ask why you do not use bookmarks, they are designed for keeping and organising lists of visited websites, and are probably better in many cases than trying to rely on the History.


I have also just discovered a tip (from ) that works for easily counting bookmarks and history entries,

Whilst searching History use use a colon ":" in the search bar and then click on the track at the side and the number of entries is listed.

Modified by John99

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At the moment the file places.sqlite is 40 MB. I use bookmarks most often temporarily when at all, because the sites I most visit are obviously in the 'most visited' section, or show up in the location bar with the typing of a letter or word. I simply don't need to. By counting entries, do you mean the number of sites that show up in the browsing history? At the moment that is 2,439, which, again, is nowhere near the 'maximum' level.

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There is nothing that can be done to restore lost history ( other than using backups of places.sqlite previously manually created and kept). Presumably everything is working as expected at present.

Advantages of using bookmarks include

  • they are easy to export, backup and restore
  • Firefox does create some autobackups
  • they do not have time expiry rules
  • in addition to the awseome bar letter search there are tags and keywords that may be used
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Is there no way to access the 'lost' history then?

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Sorry, No unless you have some other backup,
for instance if you use automated backups that make full disk images, or at least Firefox profiles, available from previous dates.

(Even then it may only have been a older copy missing recent information, or a corrupt file with a possibility of manually extracting partial information using a sqlite editor)

That is why I have been mentioning the bookmarks so much, and why I suggested immediately making a copy of your profile.

Remember you may visit a site many thousands of times, and have a history entry for each visit, but you only need one bookmark to be able to find that site again, such a site is likely to remain available from History. What about something you use once a year or less maybe a seasonal site, or important information relating to a new purchase, if not bookmarked you need to do a web search or find the site address from some other record.

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Alright... thanks for your help. If it's corrupt, which seems likely, should I leave it as it is (keeping in mind the location bar doesn't work) and rebuild; or delete the file and start completely anew?

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  • Did you try the add-on suggested earlier by cor-el
  • Does the bookmarks library work, and show both bookmarks and History ?
  • Does the History library work and display and allow you to search your History ?

It may be worth you dragging some of the History entries over into the bookmarks to create bookmarks, that way at least you are using some of the information in your History library. You could then back up those bookmarks so they could be used again.

Remember to keep the places.sqlite it could be useful

  • maybe you do want to go to the effort of learning how yo use a sqlite editor and trying to recover more info.
  • you could always temporarily re-load it into Firefox atsome future date and use it to generate more batches of bookmarks, those could then be exported as HTML and appended onto your existing bookmarks once those in turn are restored by reloading the correct places.sqlite.
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Oh, completely forgot about the add-on! That I shall try as soon as I get some spare time. The bookmarks work fine, as far as I can see, but I don't quite understand what you mean by "show both bookmarks and history." Do you mean in the Library, the search, and whether or not it searches both bookmarks and history successfully? That it does. The history works too, in its limited state, and as I just said yes I can search in it. Only thing that doesn't quite work is the location bar. I still have the entire copy of the profile from February 24, including the places.sqlite from that date. Again, if I have time, I might just look into an editor and actually get inside the file and see what's visible. Again thanks for your continuing help.

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Try the add-on it may solve part of your problem. In future it may make more sense to rely on bookmarks not history as the primary method of remembering a site.

If you useshow all bookmarks to open the bookmarks library and look in the left hand pane you will see an option to open History, and its subfolders. With history items displaying not individual items will drag and copy to bookmarks folders, or you may make lists by control clicking and then copy the lists to somewhere in the bookmarks folder tree.

The above method is rather cumbersome, but I am just thinking of a relatively painless method of salvaging some of your remaining data.

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Oh, I understand what you mean now. I'll take your ideas into consideration. To be honest, thinking about it, the only thing I'm really looking to get back is not the actual sites, but things inside of the sites, like Youtube videos or news articles. Doesn't matter too badly though.

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Individual news articles or individual videos will have individual web addresses in the history. They may even be identifiable by words in that address so that may allow you to identify the important ones and bookmark them so may be for instance

  • Folders News -> Computing
  • tag Privacy, tag Law

And place Googles privacy policy announcements, and Legal discussions there.

The point I am trying to make is that the bookmarks are expected to be used like that, for permanent or long term records, the History is not.

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I used to use bookmarks a lot more frequently, but since I got my own computer I've been a bit lax to say the least. I understand your point though, and ASAP I will look into the add-on. Any ideas on how to fix the location bar?

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Any ideas on how to fix the location bar?

  • I suppose the first question is what is it precisely that appears to be wrong with the location bar?
  • The second question is does it work ok with a new places.sqlite that has accessible history and bookmark content?

I suggest creating a new profile may be the easiest way to proceed with testing your problems.

Make sure your new profile contains suitable entries to look for!

I would NOT suggest copying a possibly corrupt places.sqlite to the new profile, if that profile is to be used long term. It should not be a problem populating the new profile by importing bookmarks.

Take care with any profiles yo create. It is usually a bad idea to rename any profile because the profile name and profile folder name will then not match. You should also always use an empty folder for a profile. Until you are absolutely familiar with use of profiles do not delete any profiles, if you stop using a profile just remove the links to it. The article above also links to

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