Recovering a missing profile

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These instructions were written for Firefox and Thunderbird but also apply to SeaMonkey 2.0 and above. This article does not apply to Mozilla Suite/SeaMonkey 1.x.

These instructions will help you recover a missing profile in cases where a profile folder containing your missing data still exists but you can no longer access it from the Profile Manager.

Important: If only certain profile data or settings are missing but not other data, then this article does not apply. For example:

Missing profiles

Mozilla applications store your user data and settings such as bookmarks, passwords, cookies, mail, and address books in a profile folder. In some cases, you may start your Mozilla application and all of your data and settings are missing. This is usually caused by switching to a different profile without realizing it and you can simply start the Profile Manager and select another profile to get back the missing data. Profile names are case-sensitive. (You can have two profiles named "MyProfile" and "myprofile", each with different data and settings.)

If you use the Profile Manager to delete a profile and choose the Don't Delete Files option, the deleted profile is removed from the list of available profiles but the associated profile folder containing your user data files will remain in place, although no longer used. For example, if you deleted a profile named "firefox" and you used the "Don't Delete Files" option, your user profile data would still be inside the "xxxxxxxx.firefox" profile folder (where "xxxxxxxx" represents a random series of eight characters), although that profile no longer appears in the Profile Manager. You recover that profile as explained below, so that it again appears in the Profile Manager list.

Note: Firefox, Thunderbird, and SeaMonkey 2 use the profiles.ini file to keep track of profiles. When you use the Profile Manager to create, rename, or delete a profile, the profiles.ini file is updated with the new information. If you manually delete, rename, or move the profile folder, you'll see a ... profile cannot be loaded. It may be missing or inaccessible error or an ... already running, but is not responding (profile in use) error, when the profile can no longer be found in the expected location (see bug 278860 for the background). You can resolve this by returning the profile folder to its original name and location or by editing the profiles.ini file, as explained here.

Your Mozilla application may also lose track of an existing profile, in rare cases. This can happen if the profiles.ini file is missing or damaged because the information stored in that file keeps track of profile names and folder locations. If the profiles.ini file is deleted, a new profiles.ini file and a new, empty "default" profile will be created when you next start your Mozilla application. Any additional profiles you may have created will no longer be listed in the Profile Manager and the new "default" profile will be missing your original user profile data. For example, you may only see a single "default" profile listed in the Profile Manager but your profile data is missing and the profile folder location now includes two "xxxxxxxx.default" profile folders.

Profile recovery

Using the Profile Manager to recover a profile

If another profile folder exists with data you want to recover, you can use the Profile Manager to create a new profile that will use the profile folder containing your missing data. You do this by using the "Choose Folder..." option in the "Create Profile Wizard" and then browsing to and selecting that folder. If the folder that contains your missing profile data is in the default location, it will have a name similar to "xxxxxxxx.profilename"; for example, your original profile folder might be named "abcdefgh.default". If you have more than one profile folder named ".default" you will need to find out which one contains your missing profile data; for example, by checking the folder contents. You can also start your Mozilla application with the profile, using the -profile "<path>" command line argument, as explained here.

To recover the missing profile using the Profile Manager, follow these instructions:

  1. Completely close your Mozilla application if necessary, then start the Profile Manager (see the linked article for details). A "Choose User Profile" or "Select User Profile" dialog will open.
    • Note: In SeaMonkey 2, you can start the Profile Manager from within SeaMonkey, from the "Tools -> Switch Profile..." menu option.
  2. Click on "Create Profile..." (in SeaMonkey 2, click "Manage Profiles", then click "Create Profile...") and, in the dialog that opens, enter a descriptive name for the profile you are recovering.
  3. Click on the "Choose Folder..." button. A "Browse for Folder" dialog will open.
  4. Select the profile folder that contains the user data you wish to recover and click OK.
  5. Review the path shown in the "Create Profile Wizard" dialog to make sure it is correct, then click "Finish" (or "Done" on Mac OS) to create the new profile.
  6. The new profile containing your recovered data will now appear in the Choose User Profile list.

Select the new profile and start Firefox or Thunderbird to verify that your profile data was successfully recovered.

Editing the profiles.ini file - Advanced

Instead of using the above instructions to recover a missing profile, advanced users can edit the profiles.ini file to show the path to the profile folder that contains the missing profile data. Caution: Incorrect editing of the "profiles.ini" file can cause a "already running but is not responding" error if the profile cannot be found (bug 278860).

Transferring your profile data

Instead of using either of the above instructions, you may prefer to manually copy your missing profile data to your current profile or to a new profile. See Transferring data to a new profile.

See also