How to Make Mozilla Firefox and Thunderbird Completely Portable

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I like Mozilla’s two flagship products — Firefox and Thunderbird. I use them both extensively because they are free and open source. The only thing where they fall short is that they are not portable.

Thankfully, PortableApps.com has created portable versions for both these great programs.

Why Go Portable

Why uninstall your perfectly good non-portable software and replace them with their own portable versions? Why go through this process at all?

Well, once in a few years we all upgrade to a new computer. That’s when copying all your software and data becomes a real hassle.

However, in case you use only (or mostly) portable software and store all your portable programs in one folder, then your job is super easy. You only need to insert a USB stick to your computer and copy your portable folder to the USB stick.

Then insert that same USB stick to your new computer, copy the portable folder there and you are ready to keep working as usual.

Using as much portable software as possible is a very efficient and organized way to work. It increases your productivity as well as your security — portable software is usually free and open source. Open source software is much more secure than proprietary commercial software, because a great many people can look for bugs and glitches in them.

The only people who really look for bugs in proprietary commercial software are hackers who then try to benefit from abusing those bugs. Sure, there are a few good guys looking for bugs, too, but they are the exceptions that prove the rule.

Making Firefox and Thunderbird Completely Portable

Making Mozilla Firefox and Mozilla Thunderbird completely portable consists of eight easy steps.

Step One

Backup everything:

  • your %appdata%\Firefox folder
  • the names of your Firefox add-ons, if any
  • the settings of your Firefox add-ons, if any
  • the about:config settings you changed in Firefox, if any
  • the names of your Firefox search engines, if you added any manually
  • your %appdata%\Thunderbird folder
  • your Thunderbird address books
  • the names of your Thunderbird add-ons, if any
  • the settings of your Thunderbird add-ons, if any
  • the settings of your email accounts

Important Note

%appdata% refers to a standard Windows location at C:\Users\UserName\AppData\Roaming.
 
To open it on your computer, launch Windows Explorer, then type and enter %appdata% into Windows Explorer’s address bar.

It’s best to open up a text editor and copy/paste all these information there.

It’s also extremely useful to make screenshots of settings pages and windows, because typing them all up might lead to mistyping important information.

Step Two

Uninstall the non-portable versions of both Firefox and Thunderbird.

To do so, go to Control Panel > Programs > Programs and Features, select Mozilla Firefox and click on the Uninstall button. Then go through the uninstall process.

Next, do the same for Mozilla Thunderbird.

Step Three

Manually remove what’s left behind, namely the following four folders:

Important Note

%localappdata% refers to a standard Windows location at C:\Users\UserName\AppData\Local.
 
To open it on your computer, launch Windows Explorer, then type and enter %localappdata% into Windows Explorer’s address bar.

Step Four

Click to download portable Firefox and portable Thunderbird.

Create a folder for each in your main portable folder. Then set them both up by double-clicking on their downloaded executable files.

Finally, launch both programs and close them after a few seconds.

Do not start them up again until after you are done with Step Eight of this tutorial.

Step Five

Although PortableApps.com did an excellent job making Firefox and Thunderbird portable, there are still a few places that need patching to make their portability absolute.

Move the following folder and file:

to C:\Portable\Mozilla Firefox or any other location where your portable Firefox resides.

Tip

I decided to place all my portable software to one folder to further simplify matters should I need to move all of them to another computer in the future.
 
The simplest folder name I was able to come up with was C:\Portable.

You have to move the whole Profiles folder, as well as the profiles.ini file, even if there’s just one profile listed within the folder.

Step Six

Open the following two files in Notepad++:

Edit the Crash Reporter section of the files, so that the results look like this:

This way you disabled the Crash Reporter feature in both Firefox and Thunderbird.

Step Seven

Create a shortcut for your portable Mozilla Firefox and add the – profile "C:\Portable\Mozilla Firefox" parameter to it.

mozilla-firefox-profile

Mozilla Firefox Properties

This way you made sure that Firefox reads your profile information from the portable location and will not create a new %appdata% profile instead of the one you removed in Step Five.

Firefox will still create a folder structure in %appdata% like this:

Note

The InstallTimeYYYYMMDDHHMMSS file is a shorthand. The actual filename will be something like InstallTime20150802143041, where the numbers specify the year, month, day, hour, minute and second of the Mozilla product’s local installation.

It also creates an empty folder structure at %localappdata%\Mozilla\Firefox.

But all of that gets removed as you close Firefox. Then it gets regenerated when you launch Firefox the next time. And so on.

Step Eight

Create a shortcut for your portable Mozilla Thunderbird and add the – profile "C:\Portable\Mozilla Thunderbird" parameter to it.

mozilla-thunderbird-profile

Mozilla Thunderbird Properties

Again, this is to make Thunderbird read your profile information from the portable folder, so that it doesn’t create a new %appdata% profile instead of the one you removed in Step Five.

Thunderbird will still create a folder structure in %appdata% like this:

It also creates an empty folder called Thunderbird in C:\Users\UserName\AppData\Local.

But all of that gets removed as you close Firefox. Then it gets regenerated when you launch Firefox the next time. And so on.

Conclusion

Now you can launch your portable Firefox and portable Thunderbird, both of which are totally under your control as far as their location is concerned.

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