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How to fix preferences that won't save

Sometimes, your Firefox preference settings may not be saved after you change them. For example, you may change a setting in your Firefox OptionsPreferences, only to have it set back to its previous value the next time you open the OptionsPreferences panel.

The possible causes and solutions vary depending on whether you are unable to save a few specific preferences or if no preferences are saved at all. This article may also apply if, after updating Firefox, a Firefox Updated tab opens to a page stating You’ve been updated to the latest version of Firefox every time you start Firefox.

Refresh Firefox to fix the problem

The easiest way to solve this problem is to restore Firefox to its default state while saving your essential information. Besides resetting all preferences to default values, a Firefox refresh will also fix many other issues, including problems caused by extensions or with data and settings that are stored in other files in your Firefox profile. If you'd like to try a more precise fix, skip this section and try the solutions below.

Note: When using the refresh feature, your bookmarks, browsing history, open tabs, windows, passwords, cookies and web form auto-fill information will be saved. However, your extensions and themes will be removed and your preferences will be reset. Learn more.

  1. Click the menu button New Fx Menu and then click help Help-29 .
  2. From the Help menu choose Troubleshooting Information.
    If you're unable to access the Help menu, type about:support in your address bar to bring up the Troubleshooting Information page.
  3. Click the Refresh Firefox button in the upper-right corner of the Troubleshooting Information page.
    Refresh 35 Win Refresh 35 Mac Refresh 35 Lin
  4. To continue, click Refresh Firefox in the confirmation window that opens.
  5. Firefox will close to refresh itself. When finished, a window will list your imported information. Click Finish and Firefox will open.
Note: There's also a Refresh Firefox button in the Firefox Safe Mode window, if you can't start Firefox normally. If you are unable to find the Refresh Firefox button on your version of Firefox, you can also do a manual refresh by creating a new profile. See instructions on how to create a new profile.

Specific preferences are not saving

If a specific setting in Firefox keeps resetting or you are unable to change a single setting but other settings save correctly, you may have one of the following issues.

Third-party programs changing Firefox settings

Some programs force Firefox to use certain settings. Below is a list of programs known to do this and actions you can take to make them stop forcing Firefox settings:

  • Creative ZenCast changes Firefox's user agent, interfering with Java.
    • Uninstall the program.
  • McAfee Privacy Service turns Firefox's pop-up blocker off.
  • Norton 360 includes a "Firefox Privacy Cleanup" feature that, if enabled, overrides your Firefox Privacy settings and prevents you from keeping your Browsing History, Cookies or other private data between sessions.

Some third-party toolbars and add-ons change Firefox's home page and search settings. You can quickly reset these with the SearchReset add-on.

User.js file overriding Firefox settings

If you don't have any of the above programs installed, or ifIf you followed the suggestions and certain settings change back each time you start Firefox, you may have to edit Firefox's configuration files yourself. Don't panic, it's pretty easy. Here's how to do it.

  1. Open your profile folder:

    Click the menu button New Fx Menu , click help Help-29 and select Troubleshooting Information. The Troubleshooting Information tab will open.

  2. Under the Application Basics section, click on Show FolderOpen FolderShow in FinderOpen Directory. A window with your profile filesfolder will open.
  3. Note: If you are unable to open or use Firefox, follow the instructions in Finding your profile without opening Firefox.

  4. Click the menu button New Fx Menu and then click ExitQuit Close 29 .
  5. Open the file user.js with a text editor (like NotepadGedit, Leafpad, or KateTextEdit).
    • If there is no user.js file, these steps won't help you.
  6. Remove the lines for the user preferences you want to be able to change. You can delete all the lines if you want to be able to change everything.
  7. Save the file and close the text editor.

You should now be able to change your Firefox settings.

Firefox program file locks or prevents changes to certain settings

Your installation of Firefox may have been customized to add a program configuration file that locks certain settings or prevents certain changes from being saved. Follow the Reinstall Firefox step in the Troubleshoot and diagnose Firefox problems article to remove the Firefox program from your computer and then reinstall a new copy of Firefox. (Reinstalling Firefox this way will not remove your user data and settings, since those are saved in a separate location from the program files.)

Unable to save any preferences or settings

If none of your settings will save, if you get the Firefox Updated tab every time you start Firefox, or if you have tried the steps above with no effect, the file which Firefox uses to save your preferences may be locked or corrupted.

Locked preferences file

Firefox may be unable to save your settings if the prefs.js file (or the prefs.js.moztmp file, if it exists) is write-protected or there are other prefs backup files.

  1. Open your profile folder:

    Click the menu button New Fx Menu , click help Help-29 and select Troubleshooting Information. The Troubleshooting Information tab will open.

  2. Under the Application Basics section, click on Show FolderOpen FolderShow in FinderOpen Directory. A window with your profile filesfolder will open.
  3. Note: If you are unable to open or use Firefox, follow the instructions in Finding your profile without opening Firefox.

  4. Click the menu button New Fx Menu and then click ExitQuit Close 29 .
  5. Locate the prefs.js file (and, if present, the prefs.js.moztmp file).
  6. Right click on each file in turn and select Properties from the context menu. Check that under Attributes, there is no check in the box next to Read Only for either file.
    • If RealPlayer is open, that may be locking the prefs.js file. Closing RealPlayer should unlock it.
  7. Delete any prefs-n.js files where n is a number (e.g. prefs-2.js).
  8. Delete Invalidprefs.js if it exists.
  9. Restart Firefox. You should now be able to save preferences.
  1. Open your profile folder:

    Click the menu button New Fx Menu , click help Help-29 and select Troubleshooting Information. The Troubleshooting Information tab will open.

  2. Under the Application Basics section, click on Show FolderOpen FolderShow in FinderOpen Directory. A window with your profile filesfolder will open.
  3. Note: If you are unable to open or use Firefox, follow the instructions in Finding your profile without opening Firefox.

  4. Click the menu button New Fx Menu and then click ExitQuit Close 29 .
  5. Locate the prefs.js file (and, if present, the prefs.js.moztmp file).
  6. For each file, make sure that your user has write permissions to the file.
  7. Delete any prefs-n.js files where n is a number (e.g. prefs-2.js).
  8. Delete Invalidprefs.js if it exists.
  9. Restart Firefox. You should now be able to save preferences.
  1. Open your profile folder:

    Click the menu button New Fx Menu , click help Help-29 and select Troubleshooting Information. The Troubleshooting Information tab will open.

  2. Under the Application Basics section, click on Show FolderOpen FolderShow in FinderOpen Directory. A window with your profile filesfolder will open.
  3. Note: If you are unable to open or use Firefox, follow the instructions in Finding your profile without opening Firefox.

  4. Click the menu button New Fx Menu and then click ExitQuit Close 29 .
  5. Locate the prefs.js file (and, if present, the prefs.js.moztmp file).
  6. For each file, hold down the Ctrl key as you click on the file then select Get Info.
  7. Make sure that the Locked option is unchecked.
  8. Delete any prefs-n.js files where n is a number (e.g. prefs-2.js).
  9. Delete Invalidprefs.js if it exists.
  10. Restart Firefox. You should now be able to save preferences.

Corrupt preferences file

The preferences file may be corrupt, preventing Firefox from writing to it. If you delete this file, Firefox will automatically create another one when it needs to. Here's how to delete the prefs.js file.

This will remove all your custom settings and settings for many extensions.
  1. Open your profile folder:

    Click the menu button New Fx Menu , click help Help-29 and select Troubleshooting Information. The Troubleshooting Information tab will open.

  2. Under the Application Basics section, click on Show FolderOpen FolderShow in FinderOpen Directory. A window with your profile filesfolder will open.
  3. Note: If you are unable to open or use Firefox, follow the instructions in Finding your profile without opening Firefox.

  4. Click the menu button New Fx Menu and then click ExitQuit Close 29 .
  5. Locate the prefs.js file (and, if present, the prefs.js.moztmp file).
  6. Delete those files and any prefs-n.js files where n is a number (e.g. prefs-2.js).
  7. Delete Invalidprefs.js if it exists.
  8. Restart Firefox. You should now have all your preferences reset.

Other solutions

  • Your problem might also be due to malware. See Troubleshoot Firefox issues caused by malware for details.
  • Some software, like Advanced SystemCare with Surfing Protection, can protect files in the Firefox profile folder against changes. If you have such software then check the settings or uninstall this software.




Based on information from Preferences not saved (mozillaZine KB)

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Comments
Graslave

RealPlayer could be locking prefs.js:

I found RealPlayer strangely locking my prefs.js file.

Even though prefs.js did not have the read-only bit set when following the unlock instructions, Windows reported RealPlayer was locking the prefs.js file when following the delete instructions.

Instead of deleting the prefs.js file, simply closing RealPlayer resolved the situation.

Software versions:

  • Windows 7 professional
  • RealPlayer 14.0.2.633 Distribution R61RR2
  • Firefox 3.6.14 (just updated)
  • Firefox 4.0 Beta 12 (installed after uninstalling 3.x)
chlump

This happened to me too. Used "Process Explorer" to find this out. Run it and click "find" then type prefs.js. This will show any processes locking the file, if you find that it isn't a permissions problem.

starlite383

My problem is that it's reverting back to locked, and deleting it doesn't work. NOTHING IS WORKING!!! Thanks for the help, but I've seriously tried everything.

greasemonkey

It is possible that the user's problem might be malware-related. I think we should link to that KB article. I can see some users winding up here in a search for answers. I just think that we should direct people to the Malware KB article before we tell them how to mess with stuff they probably shouldn't be messing with. I'll incorporate the changes.

greasemonkey

I added closing RealPlayer as a possible solution, thanks for identifying that.

Can you give links to support questions that confirm it's a symptom caused by malware? If yes, you should also update the article about malware.

For keywords, no dupe, no stopword. See this thread for the rules. A how-to-contribute doc must be updated or created as asked in this post but it may take time.

Is it about one of the numerous RealPlayer plugins, the RealPlayer Browser Record Plugin extension, or the Real player application? What does open means for an add-on?

Graslave

I was just trying to rename prefs.js to accomplish a delete with backup and windows told me what was locking it.

In my case, the RealPlayer application was the culprit.

Also note, no file flags like read-only were set to indicate a lock.

greasemonkey

Sorry about the keywords, I changed them.

I wasn't able to find any specific instances of malware causing browser preferences to not save. I was thinking, when I wrote it, that it would be more of a distributed denial-of-service attack that might cause this. I'm not a IT guy, but it makes sense that if somebody was executing a denial-of-service attack, that the person might have to get browsers to change their settings. I'm thinking like a BHO, does to hijack search results and page navigation. I can't find anything specifically stating that malware causes this though. I understand if you think I should take it out.

Some pieces of malware need to have a functional browser and change only some preferences, e.g. the home page (already described in How to set the home page), the default search engine or searches from the location bar (already described in What to do when searches take you to the wrong search website). I don't know any other preferences changed. You need to add a link to the malware article at the end of the "Third-party programs changing Firefox settings" section instead of the introduction. This part of the section mustn't be specific to Windows.

Other changes that need to be done:

The Mozillazine article mentions this fix, so we might want to add it to the article as well. I think it seems less "intimidating" to users.

Any negative impacts to mentioning this? I know it resets all prefs, but we can be sure to call that out.

Matt

The Mozillazine article mentions this fix, I checked http://kb.mozillazine.org/Preferences_not_saved and it says this:


Corrupt or damaged prefs.js file

If the prefs.js file is corrupt or damaged to the exent that it is no longer writable, it can prevent preference changes from being saved. In such cases you will need to replace the corrupt or damaged file. Close your Mozilla application (if open) and,

  • If you have a current profile backup , replace the prefs.js file in your profile folder with the backup copy.
  • If you have no backup, open the profile folder and rename prefs.js to prefs.jsOLD. A new prefs.js file will be generated when you next open your Mozilla application. (You can alternately use the Firefox Safe Mode option, "Reset all user preferences to Firefox defaults" to rebuild the prefs.js file from program defaults, the same as if you manually deleted the file. All preferences will be reset to default values but future changes will be saved.

Our Reset Firefox preferences to troubleshoot and fix problems article has the Troubleshoot Firefox issues using Safe Mode reset fix but this article doesn't. I have no problem with including that fix in this article (or link to Reset Firefox preferences to troubleshoot and fix problems) since some users might be more comfortable using Safe Mode compared to deleting or renaming files.

I think we should at least mention it in this article. We could still link to the Resetting preferences article for detailed steps if you like though :) Thanks Alice!

So, Matt, go to the "Edit article" link and make a revision :-)

Haha, will do. Just got home from work so haven't had a chance. Do you prefer linking to full steps or putting full steps in the article?

I see Michael Verdi approved your edit. I approved a second revision by Tonnes (fixed link, other nits).

I made a small addition to the new Resetting preferences file section to mention that this will not restore the default preferences for any settings stored in a user.js file, if one exists.

P.S. For some reason, I didn't get a notice of your Feb 3 reply here (or maybe I did, but missed it... sorry!). I also noticed a missing e-mail for a reply to a support forum thread I was watching. I'll have to check the "Article Discussions" listing and my "Contributions" list on the support forum, to see what else I might have missed.

noixdarec

I installed AVG Anti-Virus Free Edition 2012 few days ago, and start experiencing this problem: parts of preferences in my FF 10.0.1 are not saved (in my case, tool bars show/hide setting, theme, plugin ScrapBook, FoxClocks, Tab Mix Plus settings... etc.) between Windows (XP sp3) sections, that means if I set up those preferences then close and reopen FF, it's ok settings are still there, but a Windows reboot will clean all these setting.

While deleting user.js did not help, I then use Windows' Add/Remove Programs to launch AVG installer and chose remove items. I removed LinkScanner® Search-Shield and LinkScanner® Surf-Shield and the issue seems to be solved.

Thanks for telling us that your installation of AVG Anti-Virus Free Edition 2012 included the LinkScanner® Search-Shield and LinkScanner® Surf-Shield components, which prevented you from saving certain settings in Firefox (tool bars show/hide setting, theme, plugin ScrapBook, FoxClocks, Tab Mix Plus settings... etc.) between Windows XP sessions. You also said, deleting user.js did not help and that you had to relaunch the AVG installer via Windows Control Panel Add/Remove Programs to remove these two components. (the Controlling AVG Firefox add-ons article, currently archived, mentions these components, but doesn't specify a problem with preference settings).

Did you happen to save a backup copy of user.js or can you get it out of the Recycle Bin? I would be curious to see which Firefox settings were included in that file (you can open it in Notepad). If you no longer have that file, maybe you could explain better exactly what Firefox preferences were not being saved ... in other words, was there a specific toolbar that you could not show or hide? Could you be more specific about the other settings, which seem like add-on settings (theme, plugin ScrapBook, FoxClocks, Tab Mix Plus settings... etc.) ?

In any case, thanks for the information, which other users reading this forum might find helpful.

noixdarec

Thank you for this quick reply, I searched to see if AVG 2012 is related to this problem but got no exact answer, that's why I decided to share my experience here, though it may be my personal unique case.

I forgot to mention that before removing the AVG Anti-Virus Free Edition 2012 components - LinkScanner® Search-Shield and Surf-Shield, I tried to disable the related plug-ins appeared in FF 10.0.1, I also tried to switch off LinkScanner from within AVG but these procedures made no difference, so I removed these two components from AVG and it works.

Here are details of the problems I encountered:

  • Set Web Developer toolbar to hide, it shows again after reboot.
  • Entire settings of some plug-ins such as ScrapBook, FoxClocks, Tab Mix Plus and Web2PDF Converter are set to default after reboot. Every time I launch FF after reboot, some plug-ins like Web2PDF Converter and ConvertMyCurrency show even the welcome page and/or first setting window.
  • Other plug-ins such as All-in-One Sidebar and Zotero... etc. keep on remember their settings.

The user.js (which seems been created at the same day I installed AVG 2012) that I deleted has only two lines in it:

user_pref("network.proxy.type", 0); user_pref("browser.shell.checkDefaultBrowser", false);

In fact there is another user.js.BAK in the same folder which was created at the same day, same second as user.js, and the contents of these two files are exactly the same. I don't get it, anyway I didn't remove it.

Ps. For AVG 8.0 (that seems cause some other issues in FF), some said that they had to completely uninstall the software and reinstall it without checking the LinkScanner components. As I said in AVG 2012 this can be simply done by relaunching the AVG installer and remove unwanted components.

Sorry for my English.

Best regards,

C. Y. PAN

Thanks for reporting the contents of the user.js file that was created at the same day you installed AVG 2012. The two settings that your user.js file previously locked, and which you are now free to modify, were:

  1. user_pref("network.proxy.type", 0); (the default setting is 5 - Use system proxy settings.) This locks Firefox connection settings at "direct connection to the Internet" and prevents manual proxy configuration settings from sticking.
  2. user_pref("browser.shell.checkDefaultBrowser", false); (default is "true") This setting prevents Firefox from checking to see if it is the default browser automatically when you start it up.

Note: Even though you have deleted the user.js, those modified settings are still set in your Firefox options (which are reflected in about:config and in prefs.js) but it's not a problem if you connect directly to the Internet or if you don't care if Firefox checks if it is the default browser or not.

Thanks for explaining that simply disabling the AVG components or associated Firefox extensions didn't work, that you actually had to remove them by relaunching the AVG installer. Also, thanks for clearing up that the changes you couldn't make in Firefox before removing those AVG components (e.g., not being able to hide the Web Developer toolbar or change preferences in Firefox extensions like Web2PDF Converter) were actually for Firefox add-on preferences (to be precise, these are extensions, not plugins) and not Firefox program preferences. For some reason, those AVG components were resetting some of your Firefox extension preferences to the default settings, something you might want to bring up on the AVG forum or as support feedback.

Thanks again.

noixdarec

Hmm... OK I don't use proxy but why stop Firefox from checking to see if it is the default browser ? Weird. Thank you very much Alice, I'll find some time to report the issue to AVG.

noixdarec said

Hmm... OK I don't use proxy but why stop Firefox from checking to see if it is the default browser ? Weird. Thank you very much Alice, I'll find some time to report the issue to AVG.

I'm not sure why AVG 2012 would want to stop Firefox from checking to see if it's the default browser and offering to make it the default if it isn't, each time you restart Firefox. AVG might consider this to be an "annoyance" or "hijacking" the default, for people who have another default browser. That doesn't make too much sense, though, since the prompt that pops up asking if you want to make Firefox the default browser has a Yes/No option and a check box that lets you change the setting to not ask you again. EDIT: It's also possible that AVG has its own "proxy" or "default browser" options that changes them for the system as a whole and locks those Firefox settings.

There's something else you might want to check out that I just thought about: You said before that there is another user.js.BAK in the same folder which was created at the same day, same second as user.js, and the contents of these two files are exactly the same. I don't get it, anyway I didn't remove it.

It's possible that AVG 2012 will automatically restore the user.js file you removed, the next time you restart Windows - see these two references as an example of that happening: ref. #1 - ref. #2. In that case I would either contact AVG support or I would consider removing AVG 2012 and use another antivirus. I can recommend Microsoft Security Essentials, which I use myself.

noixdarec

Thank you again Alice for your care and advice, after read your reply I double checked that user.js (reboot twice), it seems, with luck, that the file is not coming back. I'll consider switching to Microsoft Security Essentials though, since I'm actually looking for a security solution and am not sure to use AVG (I didn't even know the existence of Microsoft Security Essentials! Thanks).

Have a good day !

C. Y. PAN

You're welcome and good luck.

By the way, I edited my previous post to add:
EDIT: It's also possible that AVG has its own "proxy" or "default browser" options that changes them for the system as a whole and locks those Firefox settings.

Received in PM today from jbut711

hello i have information that may be helpful for other users. i had an issue with my home page setting not saving. it was actually saving but the setting was being replaced or "blocked" by an external windows program not already listed as problematic on the help page (http://support.mozilla.org/en-US/kb/Preferences%20are%20not%20saved#w_resetting-preferences-file). the program was called Windows searchqu Toolbar, it was automatically setting its own home page for fire fox. this might be useful for others to know.

I replied as follows:


Hi! Thanks for the information<snip>. We actually have a new article that links to a Firefox extension named SearchReset that will reset your search and home page preferences that various toolbars can change. The article is Remove a toolbar that has taken over your Firefox search or home page and it's the first link in the list of solutions in Fix problems with your home page or search (How do I remove a third-party toolbar that has taken over my Firefox search or home page?").


Looking over this article, the Third-party programs changing Firefox settings section needs updating and should probably link to Remove a toolbar that has taken over your Firefox search or home page.

The Resetting preferences file section should probably be removed for Firefox 15, since Troubleshoot Firefox issues using Safe Mode will no longer include the option, "Reset all user preferences to Firefox defaults" (or any other checkboxes).

Related discussion:

The Firefox program may have been customized to include a configuration file ("mozilla.cfg") that locks certain preferences or prevents changes from being saved beyond the current session.

The simplest solution is to do a "clean reinstall" by removing the Firefox program folder and then installing a fresh copy of Firefox. This can be done by following the directions in the Troubleshoot and diagnose Firefox problems article's ResetReinstall Firefox step (currently step 5, here) so I added it to this article.

I've already added this solution to MozillaZine's article which contains reference links:

Hi Alice, I'm trying to understand how pervasive this issue is. It seems like you'd either have to create this file yourself or you are in an enterprise situation. Are there common ways for people to end up in this situation without their knowledge? Thanks, Michael

Hi, Michael, I don't know how often this happens without the user's knowledge outside of installing a customized version of Firefox .... possibly malware/adware related? I thought it should be documented in the KB as another possible solution when certain preferences can't be reset, since a clean reinstall (Reinstall Firefox step) is part of the basic troubleshooting guide.

It is quite likely that malware is creating this mozilla.cfg file as it seems to be not obfuscated (ROT13) as is required by default (general.config.obscure_value = 13).


Goofy_BZ

last revision shows :

==Firefox program file locks or prevents changes to certain preferences== - |user data and settings]], since those are saved in a separate location from the program files.)

- Where Firefox stores your bookmarks, passwords and other user data|user data and settings]], since those are saved in a separate location from the program files.) 

Please explain or fix, thanks.

-- Goofy

Yes, I see that too when comparing the current and previous revisions: /en-US/kb/how-to-fix-preferences-wont.../compare?locale=en-US&to=88479&from=85850

It's a quirk in how the "Compare Revisions" feature works that I also noticed. I did a Bugzilla search and there are already bug reports filed (an oldie and a recent duplicate):

Here is the content for that section of the current revision, which is correct:

==Firefox program file locks or prevents changes to certain preferences==
Your installation of Firefox may have been customized to add a program configuration file that locks certain preferences or prevents certain changes from being saved.  Follow the '''Reinstall Firefox''' step in the [[Troubleshoot and diagnose Firefox problems]] article to remove the Firefox program from your computer and then reinstall a new copy of Firefox. (Reinstalling Firefox this way will not remove your [[Profiles - Where Firefox stores your bookmarks, passwords and other user data|user data and settings]], since those are saved in a separate location from the program files.)    

Goofy said

last revision shows : ==Firefox program file locks or prevents changes to certain preferences== - |user data and settings]], since those are saved in a separate location from the program files.) - Where Firefox stores your bookmarks, passwords and other user data|user data and settings]], since those are saved in a separate location from the program files.) Please explain or fix, thanks. -- Goofy
Goofy_BZ

Thank you Alice, now it is easier to know what is to translate :)

-- Goofy

You're welcome, and give bug 996700 your vote!