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Hack 8. Flush and Clear Absolutely Everything

Paranoid about Firefox's tendency to store things about web pages? Reset your browser back to zero.

You might be confident that Firefox can reset itself for you, or you might only be happy if you scrub the decks for yourself. You can do it either way. A further decision you're faced with is this: do you want to clear out just the data that Firefox has stored, or do you also want to clear out all modifications to the browser since it was first installed?

1.10.1. Dispose of Ordinary Web Surfing Information

To clear, flush, and reset everything from inside the browser, proceed as follows:

  1. Leave just one Firefox browser window open. Change the URL of the currently viewed page to the URL about:blank and display it.

  2. Display the Options dialog box using the ToolsOptions or EditPreferences menu items. Click on the Privacy icon. Click the Clear All button at the base of the window. That clears just about everything associated with web pages.

For web development activity, that's all you really need to do.

1.10.2. Dispose of Everything Else via the User Interface

If you want to hack further into the state of the browser, you certainly can. To go much, much further, proceed as follows:

  1. Click the General icon in the Options dialog box. Then click the Fonts and Colors button. Uncheck all checkboxes except Underline Links and click OK.

  2. Back at the previous dialog, click the Languages button. Remove all languages except [en] and possibly [en-us]. Click OK.

  3. Back at the main Options dialog box, click the Web Features icon. Three buttons appear at the top right, labeled Allowed Sites, Allowed Sites, and Exceptions. Click each of these buttons and delete any records that are shown.

  4. Return back to the main Options panel. Click the Downloads icon. In the box labeled File Types, delete all items by clicking on them in turn and then clicking Remove. Click the Plugins button. Disable all plug-ins by unchecking the column labeled Enabled. Click OK.

You can also flush out all your security records:

  1. Click the Advanced icon in the Options Dialog. Under Software Updates, click Check Now and update Firefox to the latest minor releases (this step takes time).

  2. When that's done, click the Certificates item to open it up. Click Manage Certificates, and in each of the tabs except Authorities, delete any shown records. Don't remove anything from the Authorities tab. Click OK.

  3. Click the Validation item to open it. Click the Manage CRLs button and remove any and all records.

If you're very keen, you can also clear out any user preferences that you've set. Type in the URL about:config. Context-click on any and all preferences that are bold and choose Reset.

Finally, if you want to remove all your bookmarks and customizations, open the Bookmark Manager from the Bookmarks menu. Click on all itemsexcept for the item labeled Bookmarks Toolbar Folder and its immediate parentand press Delete. Under the Tools menu, choose first Extensions and then Themes. In each resulting window, uninstall everything. Finally, under ViewToolbarsCustomize, click Restore Default Set, and then click Done.

Shut down Firefox and make sure no extra Firefox processes are still hanging around. Restart, and everything's as clean as you could hope for by using this method.

1.10.3. Dispose of Everything via the Filesystem

Perhaps you wonder if Firefox is doing everything right for you. The alternative is to clean up Firefox using the operating system only. Here's how.

First, shut down Firefox completely. Then, under Unix/Linux, delete the folder ~/.mozilla. Under Microsoft Windows, delete the Mozilla folder that appears in the path to the Firefox profile; that's the one under Application Data. Similarly, under Mac OS X, delete the Mozilla folder. That removes nearly everything the user ever created. When you restart Firefox, a new, clean Mozilla folder is created with all the necessary files.

For a less extreme solution, navigate to the profile directory (the one with the weird, jumbled name) and delete these files: everything in the Cache folder; prefs.js; user.js; bookmarks.*; cookies.txt; downloads.rdf; formhistory.dat; history.dat; localstore.rdf; mimeTypes;rdf; search.rdf; and XUL.*.

1.10.4. Strip the Firefox Install Area of Extras

While cleaning house, you can also remove a few items from the Firefox install area:

  • You can delete the extensions folder.

  • You can delete everything in the plugins folder except the file (Linux) or npnul32.dll (Windows).

  • You can remove whatever you want from the searchplugins folder.

1.10.5. See Also

There are a few small Registry files that we haven't covered in this hack. To go any further in chopping up the browser is to change its installation rather than just clean up. See Chapter 2 and Chapter 3 for deeper surgery on the Firefox installation.

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