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So confused about backing up bookmarks

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  • 2 have this problem
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  • Last reply by PattiChati

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I lost all my bookmarks when my computer crashed. I thought they would have been on my backup drive, but they were not. Some people say export to a htlm file, then put in documents, then when you backup, they will be there. 'Then I have heard about backing them up to a json file. i tried that and it wouldn't open up from my desktop. So i don't know what to do. I cannot afford to lose them again. I am slowly building them back up, but had a lot of medical sites on there. What is the best way and safest way. I have windows 8. Thanks.

Chosen solution

Hi PattiChati, it depends on how your backup software is configured -- what folders it backs up. Make sure you export to one of those folders.

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What kind of backup did you create?

Make sure that the backup file with the bookmarks has the correct file extension:

  • .html for a HTML backup
  • .json for a JSON backup

You can check the type via the right-click context menu of that file and open the Properties.
If you are not sure about the file type then you can open the file in Firefox via "File > Open File"
A JSON backup will show as one long text line without line breaks and a HTML backup as a web page with clickable links.

A JSON backup starts with: {"title":"","id":1,"dateAdded":
An HTML backup starts with: <!DOCTYPE NETSCAPE-Bookmark-file-1>

Note that you can open an HTML backup in a Firefox tab (Firefox > New Tab > Open File) to inspect the file and links (bookmarks) in the file should be clickable.

Modified by cor-el

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IMO, it is best to have a bookmarks.html backup. That is the universal bookmark interchange format for web browsers, which allows a person to import their bookmarks into almost any browser. Every browser I have ever seen had the ability to both export and import favorites / bookmarks in bookmarks.html format. This file type can also be viewed in any browser, just like viewing a web page. This file format was initiated by Netscape back in 1995, which used it for "exporting & importing" and for bookmarks storage, too. Firefox followed suit and used this format for the same purpose up thru the Firefox 2.0 versions, along with using bookmarks.html for bookmarks backups from the 1.5 thru the 2.0 versions. In Firefox 3.0 and later versions Firefox used a more modern format - sqlite for storage and json for backups, but they left the option available for a backup to be saved in the old bookmarks.html format, too. (there's a hidden preference of - browser.bookmarks.autoExportHTML - which the user needs to turn on for Firefox to save in that format, in addition to the json format)

As far as the .json format goes, that is what Firefox uses now for automatic bookmarks backups into a similarly named folder in the Profile folder. If you use the Tags feature in Firefox bookmarks, this is the format that you want your bookmark backups saved in - the older html format predates the Tags feature and doesn't support Tags data.

The json file format is widely used for different purposes unrelated to just Firefox bookmarks. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Json Which might be why you couldn't open that file from the WIndows 8 desktop. You should be able to open and view that file type in a text program like Wordpad or Notepad, as it is a text based file type - but Firefox incarnation has no carriage returns so it is one super long line of text and characters. It is made to "work", not to be easily "read".


My recommendation is to turn on that browser.bookmarks.autoExportHTML preference in about:config to give you an automatic HTML file backup of your bookmarks, and then create a new preference ("browser.bookmarks.file", "path:\\to-Firefox\\bookmarks\\"); to point that file to a drive location where your backup program will find that backup to save it with all your other backup files.
http://kb.mozillazine.org/About:config


You are probably overwhelmed by now with my explanation, but it isn't really that hard to setup. If that's what you decide to do one of us can walk you thru setting it up in the manner that I recommended (or explain it bit more succinctly). And chances are that another support helper may come up with something that might be easier to use. I tend to do things related to Firefox with what is already built into Firefox, and without the use of external programs or extensions, where available, so that I am not dependent upon an extension which might be abandoned and not available any longer.

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My recommendation is to turn on that browser.bookmarks.autoExportHTML preference in about:config to give you an automatic HTML file backup of your bookmarks, and then create a new preference ("browser.bookmarks.file", "path:\\to-Firefox\\bookmarks\\"); to point that file to a drive location where your backup program will find that backup to save it with all your other backup files. http://kb.mozillazine.org/About:config

You are probably overwhelmed by now with my explanation, but it isn't really that hard to setup. If that's what you decide to do one of us can walk you thru setting it up in the manner that I recommended (or explain it bit more succinctly).

'Yes, I would like to go this way and would truly appreciate it if you could walk me through it. I take it is not as simple as going to bookmarks and export to html? 'bold text'

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If you use the above mentioned method and set the browser.bookmarks.autoExportHTML to true then Firefox will create an automatic HTML backup each time you close Firefox in addition to the JSON backup that is created once each day when you start Firefox.

So this HTML back up always has the latest changes and you do not need to create one yourself.
This HTML backup is created by default in the Firefox profile folder as bookmarks.html, but you can specify its name and location via the browser.bookmarks.file pref.

This browser.bookmarks.file pref doesn't exist by default and thus needs to be created as a new Boolean pref via the right-click context menu of the about:config page (right-click: New > String).

You can enter a normal file path like C:\<backup directory>\bookmarks.html and Firefox will automatically escape (double the backslashes) for you when saving the pref to prefs.js.

If you are OK with leaving the file in the Firefox profile folder then you can omit this step.

See also:

You can use this button to go to the Firefox profile folder:

  • Help > Troubleshooting Information > Profile Directory: Show Folder (Linux: Open Directory; Mac: Show in Finder)

Modified by cor-el

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I am sorry, but still don't understand. If I set up the Boolean pref, it backs up bookmarks automatically? Can't i just do it manually by exporting file to html? I have windows 8 and am not familiar with it yet. When I type in about:config it says I can't open it and it says get the app that supports it. I don't know what i am doing there. Thanks.

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Yes, you can backup the bookmarks manually in the Bookmarks Manager (Library) if you prefer this.

  • Bookmarks > Show All Bookmarks > Import & Backup > Export Bookmarks to HTML

But of course you need to remember doing this regularly and with an automatic backup.
You need to remember to copy the backup to a safe place to prevent it from getting overwritten with a copy that is missing bookmarks or is otherwise corrupted.

Modified by cor-el

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OK, thanks. So when I export manually don't have it overwrite the same file? Give it a different name? Thanks.

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Yes, you can add the date to the file name, just like Firefox does with the JSON backups in the bookmarkbackups folder (bookmarks-yyyy-mm-dd.html). Then you can easily see when each backup has been created.

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Thank you. How come when it saves to a json file you cannot open it? Would it be able to be restored so you could see it? I don't see what difference it would make to do it the htlm way. I plan on saving them in the documents file then they should backup and be restored like the other files, right? Thank you so much for all your help. One problem down, about 4 to go. Thanks.

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A JSON file is in a special object format consisting of record names and their value and is not very human readable as is essential one long line without line breaks (those would only add to the file size).

This page would look like this with the URL and Title:

[{"url":"https://support.mozilla.org/en-US/questions/968414#answer-469552","title":"So confused about backing up bookmarks | Firefox Support Forum | Mozilla Support","ID":4896,"referrer":"https://support.mozilla.org/en-US/questions?page=1"}]

The HTML format is the same as used to code web pages and can thus can be opened in a tab via Firefox > New Tab > Open File or by simply dragging the file on empty space on the tab bar or in the browsing area and gives you links that can be clicked to open a bookmark.
The JSON format can only be read properly by a program that can interpret this specific object structure and that means restoring the file in the Firefox Bookmarks Manager (Library).
Other programs can only beautify the print by adding line breaks and a possible indent.

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Thank you so much for your help. mission accomplished. Have a great day!

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You're welcome Patti.

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Do not use the Restore and Backup feature in Firefox that is in the Show all Bookmarks window as it is defective. It creates a file as a backup then it is unable to open its own created file. This has happened to me on every operating system on multiple computers. I have lost all my book marks plenty of time does that.

Seems to be a bug in Mozilla.
I am a 20 year computer tech with my own business so I have some insight on this.
Export it as a HTML if you do not want to loose your bookmark backup.

Modified by ARREB

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You only get that problem if you save the file with the wrong or missing file extension.

Make sure that the backup file with the bookmarks has the correct file extension:

  • .html for a HTML backup (Export Bookmarks to HTML)
  • .json for a JSON backup (Backup)
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I saved it as firefox default backup extension, so that means by default it picks the wrong one

Modified by ARREB

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Ok, so I just export them and they will save in a file and then when I do my weekly backup to my external hard drive - they will all be there, right?

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Chosen Solution

Hi PattiChati, it depends on how your backup software is configured -- what folders it backs up. Make sure you export to one of those folders.

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Hi - when I look at what is on the backup it has documents and the file for bookmarks is in documents. I should try to open it up and see if it is there and if it looks correct. Thanks so much.