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How to Recover Your Firefox Session When All Hope is Lost

Last week my house had some electrical issues, and our landlord came round to take a look at things. During this time, my computer got turned off without warning when a fuse was removed. It recovered fine, but next time I went to shut down in a hurry, Firefox was hanging around, and I wanted it dead. I chose to kill it and shut down—a mistake I would soon regret.

When the fuse and power were restored and my machine booted up again, I opened Firefox. It asked to do a session restore, as it had closed down with an error. That’s fine, no problem; I did force quit and the restore has always worked. Not this time. It DID load all my open tabs, probably about 100-130 or so… every single one of them… blank, with no URL. I don’t have all those tabs open at once, but in one session—most of which is stored in Firefox’s grouped tabs feature.

Many hours had gone into collecting those tabs. Several of them were tabs of projects put on pause, a few article resources, plans for future projects, random research and reading I wanted to finish at some time. All lost. I was under the false impression that Firefox by default stored several sessions, but sadly it does not. This can be achieved with a plugin which I’ll get to later.

I had a frantic panic and it took about half an hour to sink in that I’d probably never see those tabs again. Because I’d spent so many hours gathering them, however, I decided I’d try and get them back, somehow. I figured the data must be stored somewhere, and maybe Firefox just wasn’t loading the URLs because the file was corrupt.

After a bit of poking around and Googling, I found the profile data is stored in the appdata folder (%APPDATA%\Roaming\Mozilla\Firefox\Profiles\[RandomNumber]) on Windows (you may or may not have the “Roaming” folder). If you’re a Mac user, you should find the profile data at ~/Library/Mozilla/Firefox/Profiles/ or ~/Library/Application Support/Firefox/Profiles/. The files you’ll be looking for is sessionstore.js and sessionstore.bak. Firefox automatically creates a backup encase of crashes, but if like me, you opened and closed Firefox several times before realising this, you will have overwritten both these files several times.

At this point, I almost gave up. I figured the chances of recovering the session data file was pretty low. Having successfully used file-recovery software before, I decided to give it a shot. On Windows I use Recuva, made by the same people as CCleaner, and it’s free. If you’re on a Mac and you don’t have Time Machine or (for whatever reason) don’t have any form of backup enabled, you can have a look at some Mac-based alternatives.

Now I knew what file I was looking for, where it was, and how to recover it. Because of the way the NTFS file system works on Windows, when you delete a file (from the recycle bin), you actually just delete the index to the file, allowing that space to be reused. Recuva knows this, and searches for un-indexed files on the drive. It sometimes only recovers partial files, but I was lucky enough to find a completely untouched version of my sessions file.

After the file was recovered, I moved it to the correct location and re-opened Firefox. JOY! After the huge worry, I decided to installed Session Manager, a Firefox plugin which allows some clever session management features, like backing up x number of previous sessions, something I thought was already in place.

If you have had a similar horrible Firefox (or other browser-related) experience, let us know in the comments below.

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108 Comments

  1. Posted 11/06/2014 at 8:50 PM | Permalink

    Why visitors still make use of to read news papers when in this technological world everything
    is presented on web?

  2. John
    Posted 15/06/2014 at 1:24 AM | Permalink

    Yes, I had the same horrible and frustrating experience, and I still don’t know why Mozilla, after almost 30 versions, didn’t fix this bug yet. It has to be one of the biggest and most embarrasing issues of Firefox, how can it fail so bad with such a basic feature like restoring last session. And the sad part is that you can go to options > general > and see the option “when Firefox starts > show my windows and tabs from last time” enabled, however, this option is so frustratingly useless, because you know it’s a lie, it will fail eventually. The question is “when?”, the answer “sooner than you think”.

  3. Posted 17/06/2014 at 12:23 AM | Permalink

    Right here is the right website for anybody who would like to find out about this topic.
    You understand a whole lot its almost hard to argue with you (not that I personally will need
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  4. Tirza
    Posted 19/06/2014 at 10:15 PM | Permalink

    THANK YOU VERY MUCH!

    You saved my life. I had 124 tabs open. About 10 tabs i could find in the hitsory, so it was fucked up……thank you again :)

  5. Anthony
    Posted 20/06/2014 at 6:03 PM | Permalink

    Thank you so much – what a lifesaver!

  6. Posted 26/06/2014 at 2:55 AM | Permalink

    C’est un véritable plaisir de lire ce site internet

  7. Hank
    Posted 29/06/2014 at 5:53 PM | Permalink

    You are my hero!

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  9. mauro
    Posted 03/08/2014 at 10:55 AM | Permalink

    perfect job.
    However there is a little difference when using the mac (10.6.8). If you just go to
    library/mozilla/profile/default/xxx.sit
    you will not see any sessionstore.bak (or .js). I just ckecked in another mac that didn’t crashed and whose session restore option was perfectly working.
    However, trying to find out where the hidden files were (also “toggle visibility” couldn’t show these hidden files) I decided to use “Data Rescue 3″. The hidden files (.js and .bak) were recovered. In particular three versions were available: the last session; the two previous ones.

  10. Will
    Posted 07/08/2014 at 4:02 PM | Permalink

    I actually tried the technique from the article and it didn’t work. This was after hours of combing the deleted files using recuva. BUT I was able to end up using the files I found to make it work.

    I had found a good sessionstore.js but not sessionstore.bak. I did find a good sessionstore.bak-20140716183446, whatever that means. I decided to try to extract the tabs from the files rather than trying to load them in Firefox.

    I opened up sessionstore.js (good) and sessionstore.bak (half corrupted) in a text editor but got nothing useful, but the sessionstore.bak-20140716183446 (also good) file showed me all the tabbed URLs, which I was able to extract. I did a search for “entries” to find the tabbed URLs and skip everything else.

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