Posted by: JanF | August 27, 2013

A Step Too Far: Undoing Firefox’s latest “Security and Stability Update”

Thank you, Firefox! You provide your wonderful browser to us, free of charge, and are constantly improving it with new features and releasing updates for both “security and stability”, as you put it.

That said, not all updates are created equal and some updates might need a wee bit more testing before you pass them on to your loyal users.

Case in point: version 22 and its demon spawn, version 23.

Firefox version 21 was working quite well for me on my old computer but when I got a new Windows 7 computer last month, I decided to install the latest Firefox, version 22 hot off the web.

Version 22 was nice but had one undesirable feature: the Adobe Flash plugin kept crashing. When it would crash, the system would stop responding for 5-10 seconds, my keystrokes rendered invisible. Then a message would pop-up saying that the plugin had crashed and asked if I would like to send a report to Adobe to share my experience. (Note to Adobe: You do not want to know how I felt about this … especially when it became a several times a day occurrence). When I would later go back to a tab with a page that had a video on it (usually an ad), I would see the crash image and instructions to reload the tab to recover. I have heard reports that with version 23 (I did not download the supposed “fix”), the videos simply stopped running for some users.

But enough about me. Here is how to revert to an older version of Firefox. This example shows how to go back to Firefox 21.0 for Windows 7.

First, no one wants to lose their settings. The process “should” keep your settings intact but after nearly 40 years working with computers, I have learned to never take anything for granted. So the first step is to backup.

Backup Firefox Settings
– Open Firefox.
– Click on History. Choose “Show All History”.
– Click on Import and Backup, then Backup. This will back up your settings to a .json file.
– Click again on Import and Backup and choose Backup again. Choose Export Bookmarks to HTML. Those will save bookmarks as an .html file

There, now I feel better (A has been CYed). Now on to the repair.

Uninstalling and reinstalling Firefox
1. Uninstall Firefox by going to the Control Panel. If you are in Category view, choose Uninstall Program. If you are in Small icon or Large icon view, locate Programs and Features. Find Firefox 22.0 or 23.0 in the list. Do a right click on it and choose Uninstall: when asked, choose to save your settings by leaving the box shown here unchecked.

2. Go to this link: Firefox Archive for version 21. You will see this:

3. Click on Firefox Setup 21.0.exe to install the 21.0 version. Your old plugins (the ones that work!) should still be on file and it will reconnect to them.
– Note: If you choose Custom, it will let you uncheck installing the automatic update service (which is what I do) as shown in the screen image below. “Silently in the background” means updates run without your permission, never a good idea.

When I ran the reinstallation, Firefox found all my settings and reconnected them, so I did not need the backup: all my bookmarks and toolbars were there and even my cookies from my last browsing session were intact.

One more thing: when Firefox thinks that you need a new update it will download it for you, even if you have opted out of updates. When this happens, the next time you open Firefox, you will get a Windows 7 security warning saying that Firefox Updater wants permission to update your computer.

Just say NO.

Firefox updates are sometimes for “security and stability” and at some point it is recommended that you get yourself to the latest stable version. But check with your friends and colleagues and see which version appears to be more bug free.

(No warranties are present or implied by the technical advice given here. Really. It worked for me, it should work for you but if it doesn’t blame Microsoft. That’s what I do!!)