A guide for installing and using multiple Channels of Firefox - Release, ESR, Beta, Aurora, Nightly together, and using them simultaneously. ( v5 )
For Windows O/S's
Links to applicable MozillaZine KB articles for reference.
http://kb.mozillazine.org/Command_line_arguments - see: List of command line arguments for -no-remote
http://kb.mozillazine.org/Moving_your_profile_folder- if you use any of the content in that KB article, please backup your App Data\Mozilla\Firefox\ folder that contains your Profiles folder and the profiles.ini file before youn change anything - justin case
Very Important Note: The last "official" installer version of Firefox that you install is seen by Windows (in the Windows Registry) as the "default" version of firefox.exe. If you install a pre-release version of Firefox using an installer build, it will become the "default" for Windows OS purposes and could result in a b0rked Profile as a result of your non-default build being launched with the default=1 Profile, as shown in the profiles.ini file. Been there, done that - more times than I care to remember.
A.The least complicated method for working with pre-release versions is to use the Portable Edition of Firefox for any version beyond your default or primary Firefox Release (aka stable) installation.
To install Firefox Portable to your hard disk drive see the bottom of the page - Installing an App Manually.
Suggested location for installation is /Program Files/Firefox Portable/
Mozilla Firefox® ESR, Portable Edition is available here: http://portableapps.com/apps/internet/firefox-portable-esr
Portable Edition, Beta, Aurora, and Nightly versions are available here: http://portableapps.com/apps/internet/firefox_portable/test
Mozilla Firefox, Portable Edition - Release / stable is available here: http://portableapps.com/apps/internet/firefox_portable
Advantages to using Firefox Portable Edition:
* You can launch the "Portable" versions from the desktop shortcut, no need to edit the Target: line.
* No need to mess around with "Profiles" (where Firefox user data and user preferences are stored - Application Data\Mozilla\Firefox\Profiles) or the built-in Profile Manager. Portable Edition creates its' own Profile in its' own Program Files folderset.
* Installs similar to a Zip-archive build, where nothing written to the Windows Registry as with "official" builds. Therefore, won't "take over" as the Default Browser if you're using Firefox as your Default Browser.
* Easier to remove, just delete it. Make a copy your Portable Profile [/Program Files/FirefoxPortable/Data/profile] if you want to save that data for use later, then delete the entire Program Files folder; no Registry cleanup needed.
* No chance of accidentally deleting all Firefox Profiles as has happened to some users when they uninstalled Firefox and used the option to "remove Firefox date and customizations", without realizing that all data, for all their installed versions of Firefox would be deleted.
Disadvantage to using Firefox Portable Edition, Beta, Aurora, and Nightly versions:
* They may not be the latest versions in comparison to what the official Mozilla "builds" server has available, but you can update Portable after installing it. It will be updated from the Mozilla servers.
* On the official builds server, Beta is typically updated weekly, and the Aurora and Nightly Alpha builds are usually updated daily (hence the name Nightly), Aurora is a 6 weeks of development beyond the Nightly labeled version - both are considered Alpha builds. Nightly is alpha 1 and Aurora is alpha 2.
Misc comments about working with Portable Firefox.
* To get a Firefox Portable version to launch when any other version of Firefox is already running (simultaneous versions / Profiles), you need to edit this line in the FirefoxPortable.ini file: AllowMultipleInstances=falseto true.
That provides a similar capability to what the -no-remote provides in the official versions; namely allowing Firefox Portable to launch when there are firefox.exe processes already running.
* BTW, there is a way to run multiple Profiles with each Portable Firefox installation, if you are interested, by using this application:
Launch the "Portable" versions from the desktop shortcut, no need to edit the Target line by adding command line switches.
B.Where do I get a Zip-build of Firefox Beta, ESR, Aurora, and/or Nightly versions, to install along side my Firefox Release which is already installed, so I don't change the Windows Registry?
1. Aurora and Nightly builds are available as Zip-archive builds from the Mozilla builds servers.
Aurora - http://ftp.mozilla.org/pub/mozilla.org/firefox/nightly/latest-mozilla-aurora/
Nightly - http://ftp.mozilla.org/pub/mozilla.org/firefox/nightly/latest-trunk/
Just un-Zip the contents into a new Program Files folder that you create. Then right-click the firefox.exe file and select Send To > Desktop(create shortcut)
Beta, ESR, and Release versions of Firefox are only available as installer builds that will add keys to the Windows Registry.
That being said, the previous ESR release version is sometimes available in Zip-archive format after each new ESR security release, in a folder within this folder: http://ftp.mozilla.org/pub/mozilla.org/firefox/nightly/. You'll need to poke around a bit to find it as a Zip-archive build, and then update it once you have it running.
2.Make your own "Zip-build" from a Firefox Setup installer package. Works for all channels. Release, ESR, Beta, Aurora, and Nightly; doesn't affect the Registry.
With all Firefox 4.0 -plus versions,
1. you can open the Firefox Setup ##.#.exe installer package with 7-Zip using Open Archive,
2. then open the \code\ folder and hi-light one file,
3. then hit Edit and Select All (or Ctrl + A},
4. and then hit the Extract Button to extract the contents \code\ folder into a new program files folder you created ahead of time.
5. Then right-click the firefox.exe file and use Send To > Desktop(create shortcut).
Advantage with either:
* No changes or additions to the Windows Registry with either type of "Zip-build".
Whichever type of Zip-build you decide to use, don't launch Firefox until you deal with creating a new Profile for the new version and also determining how you're going to launch it with the correct Profile consistently.
C. You have two choices about which Profile Manager you are going to use; or to not use a Profile Manager at all, by creating the new Profile and launching Firefox by command line switches.
1. Using the standalone external Profile Manager XUL utility application, which was created to (some day) replace the built-in Profile Manager for advanced users and developers. "Removing" the existing Profile Manager is something that one developer has been threatening to do for 8 years or more in numerous Bug reports that request enhancing the existing, built-in Profile Manager. Those Bugs typically are classified as WONT FIX and closed to further consideration for action.
Upon installation the Profile Manager utility application will locate the profiles.ini file, the profiles folder & Profiles, will populate the Profile Manager application window with the Profiles that are listed in the profiles.ini file, and will locate the default Firefox application & others.
Advantages to using the Profile Manager XUL application:
* Profile Name and "matching" Firefox version appear together in a "table" for selection of what is to be launched, when clicked on (which is then hi-lighted).
* There is a Manage Firefox versions ... button which allows you to Add additional Firefox versions thru Windows Explorer using the "Open File" dialog, by selecting a firefox.exe file in the Program Files folder for Zip-archive builds or self-extracted "Zip-builds".
* Among the Launch Options are Start new instance [-no-remote] for launching that version / Profile when another instance of Firefox is already running. Along with Start in Safe Mode, Run with a Console, and Run in offline mode.
* There is an option to both Backup and Restore a Profile from within the application.
You will using the desktop shortcut for this Profile Manager application to open the application and then to launch your various versions and the related Profile.
2. Or by using the built-in Profile Manager applet.
I haven't used it very much for a number of years now; that KB article explains it better than I can.
Advantage to using the built-in Profile Manager applet is:
* Nothing extra to install.
* You need to be very careful when selecting the Profile that you want open when you are running multiple versions and multiple Profiles; hence the recommendation of using a desktop shortcut for each Profile / installation.
* And there's no indicator to remind you of which version of Firefox you just "clicked on" to open.
It is advisable to use a desktop shortcut to launch each version and Profile that you are using.
Example Target line:
"C:\Program Files\Mozilla\Nightly\firefox.exe" -p -no-remote "Nightly"
3. There's a 3rd option that some advanced Firefox user's employ, which doesn't directly use either Profile Manager. Firefox is launched from a desktop shortcut that includes a command line switch for a Profile in the default location for Profiles.
The Profile (and Program) can be in a folder on a different fixed logical drive or placed in a "Profile" folder in a Program Files with the rest of the Firefox files, to keep "Firefox" all together.
When you use the -Profile command, you can create a Profile in location that you specify, which greatly simplifies using this "option". My advice is to create a new, empty folder ahead of time before launching the new installation and create a Profile at the same time. And once Firefox is up & running with the newly created Profile, you may keep using the -Profile command line switch to launch Firefox.
a. "Remote" Profile on a different partition/logical fixed drive.
I keep all my data on the D:/ logical drive for easy backup for transferring to an new PC, or if I should need to reinstall Windows and can't open Windows to grab files from the C:/ drive.
Example Target line:
"C:\Program Files\Mozilla\Nightly\firefox.exe" -no-remote -Profile D:\Firefox_Profiles\Nightly_2014
Once launched a new Profile named Nightly_2014 is created in the D:\Firefox_Profiles folder that you created for your "remote" Profiles.
b.Profile in the Program Files folder for the related Firefox installation.
It is acceptable to put a \Profiles\ folder in the Nightly application folder, to keep all files that are related to that installation in one place - for easy deletion in one fell swoop by deleting that Program Files folder.
Example Target line:
"C:\Program Files\Mozilla\Nightly\firefox.exe" -no-remote -Profile C:\Program Files\Mozilla\Nightly\Profiles\Nightly_2014
Assuming that you created a Profile named Nightly_2014 in the \Program Files\Mozilla\Nightly\Profiles folder that you created prior to launching Firefox the first time with the -Profile command.
D. Misc comments.
* -ProfileManager or -profilemanager launches the built-in Profile Manager applet.
* -p or -P or -Profile are used to launch Firefox with a specified Profile. YMMV, all work for me on WinXP. Other users have reported one or another working, or not working for them. -Profile works for me to both create a new Profile and to launch that Profile, when I use it to create a new Profile in the location that I specify.
* When creating a command line script to launch Firefox, there needs to be a space between each command; such as between the path to firefox.exe and the -p; and between the -p and the -no-remote command; and between -no-remote and the profile_name.
* Use the full path to the Profile folder when "isn't Relative" to the default \Profiles\ folder; double quote marks are necessary with a full "path-to" if there are any spaces in the path.
* -no-remote = Forces a new Firefox being launched to ignore the "parent.lock" file in the running Profile or Profiles.
* Never use -no-remote to start the "default" profile (the one that is set to open Firefox from an external application, such as your email client), or if you have Firefox set as as your Default Browser in Windows.
* When using a remote Profile (a Profile that isn't located in the default location), all \Local Settings\Application Data\Mozilla\Firefox\Profiles\profile files will be located in the actual Profile folder, instead of the \Local Settings\ files path.
* Profile names don't need the randomly created "salt" (slt) 8 digit alpha/numeric prefix, but if you edit the Profile name don't have spaces in the new name; use an underscore where you might be inclined to have a space. I haven't found any limit to the number of characters in the Profile name, but haven't gone beyond 30 characters. I typically use the Profile name to identify which Channel the Profile was created to be used with, the version it was created for, and include the date of creation.
** And if you are using either of the Profile Managers, make sure you edit both the Profile name and the related entry in the profiles.ini file; they have to be identical.
* Profile names will sort alpha/numeric in "remote" folders (if that's what you choose to do), making it harder to locate a specific Profile if you have accumulated a lot of Profiles in that folder. Using a convention like R for Release, B for Beta, A for Aurora, and N for Nightly Profiles to start the Profile name will make it easier to find a specific Profile when you need to find it. Sure helps me with ~ 70 Profiles; for every version and channel from 18.104.22.168 to the current versions.
* If you routinely using about:config to modify Firefox, you should consider creating a user.js file to make it easier to set those preferences quicker in a new Profile.
* Also to consider is userChrome and userContent files.
http://webdesigns.ms11.net/chromeditp.html - makes it a breeze to create and edit the 3 User files in Firefox.
Four previous threads about this subject in the MozillaZine Builds forum:
v4 - 10 Jul 2011 - viewtopic.php?f=23&t=2249039
v3 - 26 Jan 2009 - viewtopic.php?f=23&t=1062975
v2 - 20 Dec 2007 - viewtopic.php?t=613873
v1 - 11 Sep 2006 - viewtopic.php?t=462431
v1 & v2 have information that was provided by or posted by other Firefox user members of the MozillaZine fora, specifically Frank Lion, Vectorspace, and urichter. My thanks to them and others for all their help with Firefox support over the past 12 years
Ed - please send me a PM about errors or omissions that you may see in this guide