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Rich's EXTREME uninstallation/reinstallation process of Firefox

Recently I installed Firefox 4 beta 6 for research purposes. Prior to doing that I uninstalled Firefox 3.6. I backed up what I needed to, then whacked that browser.

My uninstallation is way more thorough than what most people do because uninstalling Firefox, put simply, does not uninstall it. FF leaves a ton of crap behind.

Here's how my EXTREME uninstallation goes:

  1. Uninstall Firefox via Add/Remove.
  2. Launch Windows Explorer. If Program Files\Mozilla Firefox exists (and it probably will,) delete it.
  3. Stay in Windows Explorer, go to address %appdata%. In XP there's a Mozilla folder that needs to be whacked. In Win7 there's AppData/Local/Mozilla and AppData/Roaming/Mozilla that needs to be whacked.
  4. Close everything, run CCleaner. Cleaner and Registry must be run in that order, one after the other, to get rid of the Firefox crap.
  5. Reboot so the Windows registry is reloaded. Logging out isn't enough. You gotta reboot.

There has never been any browser that uninstalls clean. Browsers have been polluting home computers ever since they came into existence. Unfortunately we have to deal with them because they are, y'know, required to browse the web.

The only way to properly uninstall a third-party browser from Windows is to follow the steps above. Doesn't matter which browser it is, save for IE because you can't uninstall that. If you're on Mac or Linux, it's more or less the same b.s. because third-party browsers will drop crap in user folders, hook into other stuff that you have to unhook (or at least try to,) and so on.

It is possible to use a browser in a way that doesn't fill your computer full of crap. You could use a browser portable-style, such as off a USB stick. Unfortunately, running a browser that way is slow as molasses because of the slow USB 2.0 transfer speeds, but if you're determined enough to run a browser clean, that's the way to do it.

Why Firefox runs like crap over time, and why EXTREME uninstall/reinstall fixes it

After I reinstalled 3.6 and the two add-ons I use for it (this and this,) FF runs smooth as silk and doesn't chew up a bunch of memory like it did before - but why it doesn't do that is the interesting part.

The reason Firefox turns into a slow lethargic mess over time is a two-step process. You install/uninstall add-ons and that leaves junk behind; that's the first part. The second part is the SQLite databases FF keeps. There is absolutely no way to clean these up when they get full of junk. And you can't just go arbitrarily deleting them either. Even if you use this to manage and 'smooth out' databases, you'll still get screwed eventually.

Yes, this does mean it's the small SQLite db's and lack of add-on junk that makes a fresh Firefox run like a champ, assuming you followed the uninstall steps above.

I call my uninstall/reinstall process EXTREME because it does take a good 15 minutes to finish it all - and that's before you reinstall the add-ons you use. I've done it several times over the years and at best I can shim it down to just over 5 minutes, as in uninstall, whack-a-folder, clean the reg, reboot, reinstall. I can get it done in so short a time because I'm used to the process.

If you decide to use my method however, don't be surprised if it takes you 20+ minutes the first time around. Just remember to backup your stuff first - including bookmarks.

For those in the know, yes you could simply create a new FF profile by running "firefox -p" off start/run. This essentially makes FF act 'like new', but in my experience it's not enough. You have to go through the uninstall/whack-a-folder/reg-clean/etc. process to get it done right so your reinstalled Firefox runs like it's supposed to.

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