How to Dropbox your Firefox/Thunderbird Profiles

DropboxI use Dropbox religiously. I own a laptop, two personal desktops, and an internet cafe full of computers, not to mention I’m constantly on the go with my phone. Since you can’t selectively sync folders on your computer with Dropbox, I’ve moved my entire My Documents folder to the Dropbox. You can move your My Documents folder by right-clicking on it and clicking “Move”.

Click "Move" to select a new location

Click "Move" to select a new location

Since I have my work and regular documents properly synced across all my machines it was time to sync the rest of my work flows. I run all my email through various Google App accounts and I check them on my main computers using Thunderbird. For web browsing I use Firefox exclusively unless I’m forced to use something else.

I have a basic set of add-ons  that I use, such as Minimize to Tray, Faviconize Tab, All-in-One Gestures, Delicious, and Copy Link Text. I had installed these separately but various settings like my bookmarks toolbar and icon arrangement get changed. The way to fix this was to move my Thunderbird and Firefox profiles to the Dropbox so they stay in sync.

It’s quite simple:

  1. Create two folders in your Dropbox for both profiles. I just called mine “Firefox” and “Thunderbird”.
  2. Locate your current default profiles and copy their contents to the respective ones you just made.
  3. Mozilla.org says to find them like this:
    • Firefox:
      • On Windows Vista/XP/2000 the path is usually %APPDATA%\Mozilla\Firefox\Profiles\xxxxxxxx.default\
      • On Linux the path is usually ~/.mozilla/firefox/xxxxxxxx.default/
      • On Mac OS X the path is usually ~/Library/Application Support/Firefox/Profiles/xxxxxxxx.default/
      • More details here
    • Thunderbird:
      • On Windows Vista/XP/2000 the path is usually %APPDATA%\Thunderbird\Profiles\xxxxxxxx.default\ or just browse to C:\Documents and Settings\[User Name]\Application Data\Thunderbird\Profiles\ on Windows XP/2000 or C:\users\[User Name]\AppData\Roaming\Thunderbird\Profiles\ on Windows Vista, and the rest should be obvious.
      • On Windows 95/98/Me the path is usually C:\WINDOWS\Application Data\Mozilla\Thunderbird\Profiles\xxxxxxxx.default\
      • On Linux the path is usually ~/.thunderbird/xxxxxxxx.default/
      • On Mac OS X the path is usually ~/Library/Thunderbird/Profiles/xxxxxxxx.default/
      • More details here
  4. Once you’ve copied the contents of your default folders over you need to delete them.
  5. Now run the profile manager for each program by running each one with the -p flag enabled. It’s easiest to type “firefox.exe -p” and “thunderbird.exe -p” from the run command in the Start menu.
  6. You now need to create new profiles for each
    Create a new profile

    Create a new profile

    Select the new destination folders in your Dropbox

    Select the new destination folders in your Dropbox

  7. Once you’ve create a new profile you can delete the old default one from the list. The new one will become the default option.

    The new folders with your profiles

    The new folders with your profiles

  8. That’s it! You’ve now moved your Firefox/Thunderbird profiles to your Dropbox. On subsequent computers simply create a new  profile and point it at your Dropbox profile folders, you shouldn’t copy the old profiles over. Make sure you delete the default profile and then start up Firefox/Thunderbird and your settings will be the same (once Dropbox syncs).

The only problem I’ve had is that some existing plugins needed to be reinstalled after the first copy, however, before you reinstall anything that claims to be incompatible you should simply try searching for updates and restarting Firefox/Thunderbird.

Leave a comment if you’ve managed to do this or something similar with success.

—-Update—-

Ok, so for the record the above “does work”. However, I quickly realized that all my email takes up a crapload of space in the Dropbox and Thunderbird doesn’t necessarily change for me that often, so I undid my profile changes.

Also, for the sake of speed, and proper caching, you should definitely move your Firefox cache by typing “about:config” in the address bar. Find (or create by right-click > New > String) the entry “browser.cache.disk.parent_directory”. Set it to the absolute location of when you want the cache to be. I set mine to “C:\Documents and Settings\Eric\Application Data\Mozilla\Firefox\Profiles\eric\cache” which is pretty much where it used to be, but you can put it anywhere. Then go back and delete your old cache out of the Dropbox for good measure.

Hope that help!

Eric is a jack of all trades. From running social networks to internet cafes, he’s been in the startup scene for almost a decade. Recently returned from a stint at Start-Up Chile, Eric spends his days focusing on his startups Backup Box and Surreal WiFi.

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  • Cherice

    Excellent tutorial. Worked perfectly for me. Thanks!

  • Paul Mason

    I followed this tutorial and it was working however when I had Thunderbird open with more than one computer at once it was getting conflicts and backing up my whole indexed database file “global-messages-db.sqlite” which is 400MB so quickly my dropbox ran out of space.

  • Mario Persona

    I turned off the options>advanced>global search on Thunderbird. You can still do some kind of searches, but the program will not creat and modify a huge data file that is about the size of all your emails.

  • 123

    this works great, as far as the cache needing to be moved if you set firefox to clear the cache everytime it closes then this shouldnt be a problem

  • Xirux-nefer69

    How can you do something similar to this when you want to keep syncronized two Thunderbird installations in different operating systems?

    The problem is that in Gmail you can not create folders in the email account (you have to use labels instead)  so if I create in my windows Thunderbird a new folder for my Gmail account  I want it to appear when I launch Thunderbird in Ubuntu.

    I was thinking in copying my Thunderbird profile to Dropbox and pointing
    Thunderbird to that folder as you have explained, so that the two
    thunderbirds can share the same profile folder.  However I dont think it will work because files like prefs.js have windows-like addresses, etc….

    is there a way to do this?

  • http://ericwarnke.com Eric Warnke

    I actually stopped using this posted method when I switched all my accounts to gmail/google apps. If you turn on IMAP you can keep all your emails in the cloud and labels will appear as folders wherever you add a Thunderbird install with that IMAP capable email address.  Pop3 downloads everything which causing syncing issues. IMAP is the way to go :)

  • Xirux-nefer69

    Thank you for the fast reply : )
    I changed to IMAP as you said and it’s great! Labels appear as folders and creation/deletion is syncronized. Google has a very extense documentation on how to configure Thunderbird for an IMAP gmail address.

    However, after playing a bit I’ve seen that when I create a filter in gmail it doesn’t appear in Thund. and if I create it in Thund. it doesn’t appear in gmail. How can I syncronize the filters?

  • http://ericwarnke.com Eric Warnke

    From what I understand, a filter in Gmail will be applied whether you are logged in to Gmail or not. So just create them in Gmail and it’ll do exactly what you want in Thunderbird… I think.

  • Jan Masek

    In case you want to sync Thunderbird in Ubuntu using Dropbox cloud service, you can simply move your profile folder from location “~/.thunderbird/profileID.profile/” into Dropbox folder and change following two lines in “~/.thunderbird/profiles.ini” file as follows:

    IsRelative=0
    Path=~/Dropbox/profileID.default

    I have found it in following thread:
    http://kb.mozillazine.org/Moving_your_profile_folder_-_Thunderbird