Upgrading to Firefox 1.0.1

The Mozilla Foundation, the group responsible for developing the Firefox browser and many other applications, released Firefox 1.0.1, a security upgrade for Firefox 1.0, on Feb. 24. Firefox’s "check for updates" feature was then enabled by the foundation several days later on Mar. 1.

Since the 1.0.1 upgrade eliminates 17 bugs, some of which are potential security holes, I issued a short, plain-text newsletter update on Mar. 3 recommending that all Windows users install it.

At that time, one known issue with the upgrade affected people who’d obtained Firefox 1.0 via a special .zip file instead of an auto-installing .exe file. Running the .exe version over the .zip version makes Firefox prone to crashing when pressing Enter in the address bar. So I urged people in this situation to uninstall Firefox before running the 1.0.1 setup file. Other people had reported good results running the 1.0.1 upgrade without uninstalling 1.0 first.

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Since that time, several readers have reported to me some incompatibilities when 1.0.1 is installed over 1.0. For this reason, I now feel that uninstalling 1.0 first is the safest choice. Using Firefox’s "check for updates" feature and upgrading to 1.0.1 in place will go smoothly for most people — we’ve upgraded half a dozen machines in my office this way with no problems — but uninstalling 1.0 first avoids any complications.

Be sure to read the Firefox release notes page for possible issues before upgrading. And read my upgrade recommendations in the Mar. 3 newsletter update, if you haven’t already.

If upgrading to 1.0.1 caused any problems for you, uninstalling 1.0.1 and then installing it from the setup .exe again fixes these problems, according to many reports.

Backing up your Firefox profiles

Although there are few reports of irreversible problems with the upgrade, you should always make a full backup of your PC before installing any major application. At least make a copy of Firefox’s "profiles" folder, which holds your bookmarks and other configuration preferences. This folder is located in different places in different versions of Windows, as explained on Firefox’s release notes page.

Reader Les Barnes uses a third-party backup application to ensure his profiles remain intact. He also describes an incompatibility that he discovered and cured:
  • "First, I want to say that there is an excellent, free backup program for FireFox’s profile at mozbackup.jasnapaka.com. Even though the author has discontinued it, I use it constantly.

    "I upgraded by installing 1.0.1 over 1.0. FireFox worked OK, but Spoofstick and Roboform did not. When I installed the latest version of SpoofStick, it would ‘install’ all right, but I could see no icons in View, Toolbars, Customize. Since the new version of SpoofStick is an icon to drag onto a toolbar, instead of a toolbar itself, it was worthless. Then I read that the FF people recommend uninstalling 1.0 first.

    "Anyway, I ended up uninstalling everything, then reinstalling SpoofStick. Everything worked fine, with my icons reappearing in Customize.

    "I used the paid version of Roboform, so I was rather upset when the Roboform people said that they don’t make Netscape adapters for small browser changes. But I did find that I could ‘force’ the installation by showing the Roboform program where the browser was located (since it couldn’t find 1.0.1) and it installed beautifully.

    "I would recommend using the profile backup program, uninstalling 1.0. and then installing 1.0.1. Just my humble opinion."
It’s my hope that other developers will step forward to replace Pavel Cvrcek’s backup program with an updated version. Many useful extensions to Firefox, of course, are available at the Mozilla Firefox Update site, and new ones appear almost every day. Perhaps our reader’s preferred backup program will spawn a successor.

Nope, upgrading from 0.9 to 1.0.1 doesn’t work

Mike Rose has a different perspective on the Firefox upgrade. The foundation always warned that beta versions of Firefox (such as 0.9.x, the last generation of betas) had to be uninstalled before a new version could be put in, just like most beta software. Our intrepid reader learned this the hard way:
  • "I attempted to follow your upgrade scenario, but soon discovered that if one does not have Firefox 1.0 but instead had 0.9.x, that it did not work! When searching for updates, you get a ‘no updates found’ message. Hmmmm, I thought.

    "So I ‘Ghosted’ my drive to another and tested the copy’s bootability, something I always do before installing any software on my machine. I then turned off the Ghosted drive and re-booted with the original. Went to the Mozilla site, downloaded the install.exe, copied my user data to a ‘save’ directory, un-installed the 0.9.x version (just in case), and did the 1.01 install.

    "It went flawlessly, even to the point that, when it came up again, ALL my settings were perfectly preserved. In fact, it was so exact that the first thing I did was to check the version info, to make sure I was now using the new one!

    I’d have to say that this upgrade was considerably less painful than most Microsoft software upgrades by a long shot. Now I guess I should upgrade to the latest and greatest Thunderbird [the foundation's e-mailprogram]."
Force extensions to work with 1.0.1

One issue you may run into is that updated versions of Firefox won’t run any installed extension that hasn’t been "marked" for that version by the extension’s developer. Most 1.0-registered extensions should work with no problem under 1.0.1. But some developers may take their time or just forget to re-register their extensions when a new edition of Firefox is released.

If you have a crucial extension that won’t work under 1.0.1, but you’re sure it actually would work fine if given a chance, the procedure described below will trick Firefox into running it.

Let me be clear that you need to use caution and common sense when attempting this. There’s a reason why extensions are required to specify a valid range of Firefox versions they’ll work with. In most cases, a minor upgrade won’t change anything enough to break any extensions. But the chance of a mismatch that could crash Firefox increases with every subsequent release.

For this reason, you shouldn’t use this trick across major revisions. And be sure to test the effects when you do make such a change, so you can remove the tweaked extension if it causes problems.

Having said all that, it’s a fairly simple process. Here it is, as promised in my Mar. 3 newsletter update:

Step 1: Uninstall any previous versions of the extension.

Step 2: Download the latest version and save the file in an empty folder.

Step 3: Rename the file from Extension.xpi to Extension.xpi.zip (replace Extension with the actual filename).

Step 4: From this file, unzip Install.rdf into the same folder as the .zip file.

Step 5: Open the file Install.rdf in your favorite plain-text editor.

Step 6: Find the line containing the word maxVersion. Change the number between the angle brackets to a number equal to or larger than your current Firefox version.

Step 7: Save the file, then add it back into your Extension.xpi.zip file, overwriting the original Install.rdf.

Step 8: Rename the extension file from Extension.xpi.zip back to Extension.xpi.

Step 9: Drag and drop the file into an open Firefox window. Hold your breath, and if it works, enjoy it!

For details on maxVersion, see "Packaging Firefox/Thunderbird Extensions," an article by Ben Goodger (who is in no way responsible for me revealing this hack!).

Readers Barnes and Rose will receive gift certificates for a book, CD, or DVD of their choice for submitting comments that we printed.

To send us more information about Firefox 1.0.1, or to send us a tip on any other subject, visit WindowsSecrets.com/contact. Thanks in advance.

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