Lost bookmarks

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This article deals with lost or missing bookmarks, recovery methods and prevention.

  • If you got a message that your profile was already in use, created a new profile and now your bookmarks and other data are missing, see Profile in use.
  • If changes you make to your bookmarks are not saved after restarting the browser, see Bookmarks not saved.
  • If you are having other issues (browser opens to a blank page, you can't edit or delete certain bookmarks, you can't add new bookmarks, your history is missing, the back/forward toolbar buttons are disabled) see Locked or damaged places.sqlite.

Step-by-step bookmark recovery

Note: At the top of the Firefox window there should be a menu bar with a Bookmarks item, along with other menu items (File, Edit, View, etc.). On Windows, starting in Firefox 3.6, the menu bar can be hidden. If the menu bar is missing, press and release the "Alt" key to temporarily restore it. If you always want to show the menu bar, click "View -> Toolbars" and select "Menu Bar".

If you open Firefox or SeaMonkey and don't see your bookmarks, as a first step you should close the browser and end any browser processes (or restart the computer) and then reopen the browser. [1] [2]

If your bookmarks are still missing, even after restarting the computer, the bookmarks file may have been damaged or the contents deleted. Firefox and current versions of SeaMonkey (2.1 and above) automatically create bookmark backup files every day you use it (up to 10 backups total), with newer backups replacing the older copies. If you use the profile, you must act quickly, before they are all overwritten.

However, there are other reasons why your bookmarks may be missing, so it is important that you follow all of these steps:

  1. Mozilla browsers store user data in a separate place for each user account on your computer. Make sure you are logged on to your computer with your usual logon name.
  2. Mozilla browsers allow you to store different sets of bookmarks and other user data in separate profiles. You may have created a new profile in the past for troubleshooting or other reasons. Make sure you are using the correct profile (see Multiple profiles and profile in use, below).
  3. If the Bookmarks Toolbar is completely missing from Firefox, make sure that "Bookmarks Toolbar" has a checkmark in the "View -> Toolbars" menu and that the "Bookmarks Toolbar Items" icon appears on the toolbar when you open the Customize Toolbar window (see below).
  4. If bookmarks appear in the Bookmarks Manager but not in the main menu, and they can't be edited, try the fix for a corrupt localstore.rdf file, given below.
  5. Check for problematic extensions.
  6. If your problem is still not solved after doing the above, see Finding your bookmarks and Restoring bookmarks from backup (below).
  7. Other methods of recovery

Preventing future problems

  • You can minimize the likelihood of future problems by following these suggestions (below).
  • If your Web browser is not properly shut down, your bookmarks may be lost after restarting..
  • Do not switch back and forth between Firefox 2 and Firefox 3 using the same profile as this will cause what appears to be bookmark data loss, since the bookmarks.html file used in Firefox 2 will not be automatically imported into Firefox 3 a second time. [3].

Multiple profiles and profile in use

Mozilla browsers allow different users to have different settings and bookmarks. You may have inadvertently switched to another profile. Start the Profile Manager (If SeaMonkey is running, click "Tools -> Switch Profile") and, if multiple profiles are listed, select the other profile. If you receive a message that the profile is "in use" or if you are unable to start the original profile, read this article.

Bookmarks Toolbar is completely missing from Firefox

If your bookmarks are missing from the Toolbar but can be found in the Bookmarks sidebar (Ctrl/Cmd+B):

  • Make sure that the Bookmarks Toolbar is displayed. Go to "View -> Toolbars" and, if "Bookmarks Toolbar" does not have a check mark, click on it to select the toolbar. Note Firefox 4 (and above) users may use the "Alt" key to first make the Menu bar temporarily visible in order to see the View menu.
  • Go to "View -> Toolbars -> Customize" and make sure that the "Bookmarks Toolbar Items" icon appears on the Firefox toolbar, as shown here. If the "Bookmarks Toolbar Items" icon is missing from the toolbar, drag the "Bookmarks" icon without a star from the "Customize Toolbar" window to the Bookmarks toolbar. Note: a Bookmark icon with a Star was introduced in Firefox 3 for the Bookmarks sidebar (same as using Ctrl/Cmd+B), and the other with a star and a drop-down indicator was introduced in Firefox 4 as a Bookmarks menu replacement.

Corrupt localstore.rdf

(Firefox) If your bookmarks appear in the Bookmarks Manager (Ctrl/Cmd+Shift+B) but not in the main menu and can't be edited, this can be caused by a corrupt localstore.rdf file [4]. You can fix this by either deleting the localstore.rdf file from the profile folder or, in Firefox 1.5 and later, by starting in Firefox Safe Mode and selecting the option to reset toolbars and controls, then clicking the "Make changes and restart" button, as explained in this article.

Finding your bookmarks

Important: Windows users should make sure they can view and search hidden files and folders as the profile folder containing your stored bookmarks is hidden by default. To locate bookmarks files anywhere on your computer, you can use your operating system’s file and folder search feature to find bookmarks* (be sure to include the asterisk, with no space). You can open any bookmarks file in HTML format from within your Mozilla browser, by using "File -> Open File" from the menu to check its contents; links in a bookmarks file opened in this way will be clickable (see this article for details).

  • Starting in Firefox 1.5 and SeaMonkey 2.1, a limited number of daily bookmark backup files are saved in the bookmarkbackups folder, located in the profile folder (ten backups starting in SeaMonkey 2.1 and Firefox 5; five backups in Firefox 1.5 through Firefox 4). You must recover one of these backups before they are overwritten by newer versions.
  • In Firefox 2 and below and in SeaMonkey 2.0 and below, bookmarks are stored in the file "bookmarks.html", located in the profile folder. There is also a "bookmarks.html" file in the program folder, but this one is only a template and does not hold your bookmarks. To make sure you have the right file, you can open the bookmarks.html file or any bookmark backup file using "File -> Open File" from the menu (see above).
  • Starting in Firefox 3 and SeaMonkey 2.1, bookmarks are stored in the places.sqlite file and bookmarks*.html files are only used for importing and exporting. As of Firefox 3 Beta 5 bookmarkbackup files are stored in JSON format. [5])
    Restoring from one of the ten (default was five in Firefox 3) JSON backup files is the safest restoration you can make, and is preferable to messing with places.sqlite and losing the history that makes makes the awesome features of Firefox work. See #Restoring bookmarks in Firefox 3 and above (below)

Restoring bookmarks from backup

Importing a bookmark backup file

The "Import from file" feature of the Bookmarks Manager will add the contents of any bookmarks file in HTML format to your current bookmarks.

  • Note: In Firefox, and in SeaMonkey 2.1 and above, users who wish to replace their current bookmarks instead of adding to them can restart Firefox or SeaMonkey in Safe Mode and select the option,Delete all bookmarks except for backups (SeaMonkey or Firefox 3.6 and above [6]) or Reset bookmarks to Firefox defaults (Firefox 3.5 and below) before importing the bookmarks file.

You can import a bookmarks file from within your Mozilla browser as follows. (When the file picker appears, navigate to the folder that contains the bookmarks HTML file you wish to use and select that file.)

  • SeaMonkey: "Bookmarks -> Manage Bookmarks... -> Tools -> Import..."
  • Firefox 2: "Bookmarks -> Organize (or Manage) Bookmarks... -> File -> Import... -> from File". Windows 2000/XP/Vista users can navigate to the Firefox profile folder by typing "%APPDATA%" in the file field and pressing Enter, going into Mozilla, then Firefox, then Profiles, then xxxxxxxx.default (where xxxxxxx is any sequence of numbers and characters) and then going into the bookmarkbackups folder and selecting the bookmarks-(date).html file you wish to import [7].
  • Firefox 3 and above: "Bookmarks -> Organize Bookmarks (or Show All Bookmarks) -> Import and Backup -> Import HTML... -> from an HTML File". Only files in HTML format can be imported. To replace your current bookmarks with a bookmark backup file stored in JSON format, you should use the "Import and Backup -> Restore" feature in the Firefox Bookmarks Manager (see below).


Replacing bookmarks with a backup file

SeaMonkey (2.0 and below) or Firefox 2: If your current bookmarks.html file is corrupt, it is better to completely close the browser, find a bookmark backup file, rename it "bookmarks.html" if necessary, and then replace the bookmarks.html file in the Firefox or SeaMonkey profile folder with the bookmark backup. [8] In Firefox 2, you can rename one of the bookmarks-(date).html files from the bookmarkbackups folder to "bookmarks.html" and use it to replace the existing bookmarks.html file in the Firefox profile folder.

Firefox 3 and above, SeaMonkey 2.1 and above: Starting in Firefox 3 and SeaMonkey 2.1, the "bookmarks.html" file is no longer used to store bookmarks (although you can still import from and export your bookmarks to a bookmarks HTML file). Both bookmarks and browsing history are stored in the places.sqlite file. Bookmark backups are automatically stored as dated .JSON files in the bookmarkbackups folder. You can either replace the "places.sqlite" file with a saved places.sqlite backup (if you have one) or, to restore your bookmarks from a bookmark backup file, follow the below instructions for restoring bookmarks.

Restoring bookmarks in Firefox 3 and above

Starting in Firefox 3, you can replace your current bookmarks with a backup copy by opening the Firefox Library window and using the "Restore" feature ("Bookmarks -> Organize Bookmarks (or Show All Bookmarks) -> Import and Backup -> Restore..." ). You can select one of the ten (default was five in Firefox 3) dated backups that Firefox automatically creates or you can use the "Choose File..." option to select another bookmark backup file. See Backing up and restoring bookmarks - Firefox for more information. (If you see the error, Unable to process the backup file, read this.)

The automatic bookmark backups that Firefox creates are located under the Firefox profile folder, inside the bookmarkbackups folder. You can also create your own bookmark backups, by using the "Import and Backup -> Backup..." feature. All Firefox 3 and above bookmark backup files are stored in in JSON format. Any bookmarks saved in HTML format (such as exported bookmarks) must be imported (see above) rather than restored. [9]

You can restore the latest JSON backup to see if that works for you and if it doesn't you can still try any of the others. Before working within a profile it is a good idea to backup your entire profile to an external device, but internal backups of bookmark files has made fixing bookmarks a lot easier and safer. Restoring a JSON backup is always preferable to messing with places.sqlite and losing the saved history, which is what make the awesome features of Firefox work. You might create your own bookmarks backup with your current updates and restore that first to see if any corruption of bookmarks or places.sqlite gets fixed, if not you have the others to try.

Note: You can also restore your bookmarks by exiting Firefox and removing the places.sqlite file from the Firefox profile folder. Firefox will rebuild the Places database from the latest JSON backup or, if no JSON file is found, from a bookmarks.html file, as detailed here; however, you will lose your browsing history.

Note: You can set Firefox to automatically export your bookmarks at exit to the Firefox profile folder "bookmarks.html" file by setting browser.bookmarks.autoExportHTML to true but this may delay browser shutdown if you have a large number of bookmarks. [10]

Restoring bookmarks in SeaMonkey 2.1 and above

In SeaMonkey 2.1 and above, SeaMonkey now uses the same Places framework for saving bookmarks introduced in Firefox 3. [11] Bookmarks can be restored from automatic backups using the Restore feature in the Bookmarks menu and selecting one of the dated bookmark backup files, as follows: [12]

  • "Bookmarks -> Manage Bookmarks... -> Tools -> Restore"

Restoring bookmarks from external media

If you are restoring bookmarks (or an entire profile) from CD-Rom or other storage media that creates write-protected files, make sure that you remove the read-only attributes from any copied files. Otherwise, read-only bookmarks or other profile files can result in multiple numbered copies of the read-only files. See Multiple profile files created for details.

Other methods of recovery

  • Check the Recycle Bin/Trash for a file called "bookmarks.html".
  • (Windows) Run the error-checking tool Chkdsk (Windows 2000, XP) or ScanDisk (Windows 95, 98, ME) to see if you can recover any file fragments that contain your lost bookmarks. Look for files with names like FILE0001.chk or FILE0002.chk on the root directory (the files may be inside folders named FOUND.000 or similar). Open each file in Wordpad or Notepad and, if it contains bookmark data, rename it with an .html extension (for example, rename FILE0001.chk to bookmarks1.html). Finally, import the file using the SeaMonkey or Firefox Bookmarks Manager [13].
  • Use a file undelete utility to see if you can recover the file [14] [15]

Bookmarks missing after restarting

This may occur on Windows systems if your Web browser is not properly shut down before you power down or restart the computer. Make sure you always close the browser before shutting down or restarting the computer.

The problem can also be caused by a faulty or misconfigured plugin or extension, or even malware, causing Firefox to remain in memory. To see if this is your problem, perform the following steps:

  1. Use Firefox to browse the web for a while, then open the Windows Task Manager, select the Processes tab and find firefox.exe in the list.
  2. Use "File -> Exit" from the Firefox menu to close Firefox, then wait for firefox.exe to disappear from the Task Manager Processes list (this may take a few seconds if many tabs were open, or Firefox was using a lot of memory). If the firefox.exe process disappears and doesn't come back, this is normal, so if your bookmarks are always missing whenever you restart the computer, it could be related to bug 333907 which may cause .rdf file corruption. To avoid it, exit Firefox before shutting down your PC.
  3. If firefox.exe remains in the Processes list, end the firefox.exe process by selecting it in the Windows Task Manager and clicking "End Process".
    • If the process disappears and doesn't come back, you may have an extension or plugin issue causing Firefox to persist in memory (for example, firefox.exe may remain active after running a Java applet). You should make sure all plugins and extensions are up to date and seek support if the problem persists.
    • If the process disappears but comes back, you probably have a virus, or some other malware. Anti-virus software may not be able to detect it. If yours doesn't, seek support. See also Firefox.exe always open.

Not saving Bookmarks or History

Private Browsing, Ctrl+Shift+P, does not save any history or bookmarks

  • No history saved if you selected "Never remember history" in first drop-down of Tools -> Options -> Privacy , then all of the check marks disappear and no history is kept
  • No history saved If "Permanent private browsing mode" was check-marked under "Use custom settings for history" in the first drop-down of Tools > options > Privacy
  • No history saved for any check-marked item
  • (see illustration reference for this and next topic)

Deleting bookmarks or history

Check your settings for Tools > options > Privacy', to make sure you are not clearing more than just cache in "Settings for Clearing History"

  • Within clearing your history at end of session, cache is the only one you would want to clear at end of session, if you don't want to lose things
  • (see illustration in previous topic)


  • Do not power down your computer with Firefox or SeaMonkey running.[16]
  • Close Firefox properly from the File menu or from the "Firefox" button then choose Exit. Closing Firefox the "X" in upper right corner of the Window closes the Window not necessarily Firefox and in FF4 and up may make restoring session from History more complicated by also having to restore previously used Window.
  • Be careful when using Firefox Safe Mode. If you use the option to reset bookmarks to Firefox defaults, this will delete your bookmarks.
  • Be careful when organizing your bookmarks. You can lose your bookmarks by accidentally deleting them in the Bookmarks Manager or sidebar. In that case you can use "Edit -> Undo" or "Organize -> Undo" or the keyboard shortcut ("Ctrl+Z") to get them back.
  • Periodically export your bookmarks to the backup location of your choice (especially important in SeaMonkey 2.0 and below, which don't include automatic bookmarkbackups):
    • SeaMonkey: "Bookmarks -> Manage Bookmarks... -> Tools -> Export..."
    • Firefox 2 and earlier: "Bookmarks -> Organize (or Manage) Bookmarks... -> File -> Export..."
    • Firefox 3 and above: "Bookmarks -> Organize Bookmarks (or Show All Bookmarks) -> Import and Backup -> Export HTML... (or Backup...)". Note: Use "Export HTML..." to save a bookmarks file in HTML format that can be imported by any browser. Use "Backup..." to save an additional bookmark backup file in JSON format that can be restored in Firefox 3 and above.
  • You can increase the number of Firefox automatic bookmarkbackups by modifying the value of the browser.bookmarks.max_backups preference to the desired number, the default was increased to 10 in Firefox 4 (from 5 in Firefox 3).
  • Instead of backing up just your bookmarks, you can also back up your entire profile or better backup all your profiles by backing up the "Profiles" folder your profile folder is in.
  • Some "computer clean-up" programs like System Wiper may delete your bookmarks. Make sure you do profile backups before using such programs.

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