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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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125 Comments

  1. Yumi
    Posted 29/10/2014 at 4:36 AM | Permalink

    Thank you very much!!!

    I really knew the “sessionstore.js and sessionstore.bak” thing, but I have been searching an addon to do that and no one liked me so much. So, thanks for the addon :D the first time Firefox opens empty I searched everywhere and I didn’t know how the change worked, so I open the file and copy the likns one by one x_x then, the next time I learned how easy was all the thing…

    But I want to say something:
    1. this time (the 7th that I can remember) I tryed to change “sessionstore.js” to “sessionstore.bak” but this time it didn’t worked;
    2. so I searched changed every file named “sessionwhatever” from inside (I could destroyed the whole Firefox but it survive and auto-replace the files XD), coping the text from sessionstore.js to the other files, but again it didn’t worked;
    3. then, I copy the “sessionstore.bak” file and renamed the copy “sessionstore.js” so there were both, but it didn’t work neither…
    4. I done the same things over and over again, so the last time I get tired and tryed to delete the “sessionstore.bak” and keep the “sessionstore.js”… And IT WORKED!!!

    So, not always changing “sessionstore.js” to “sessionstore.bak” work, sometimes is the opposite :/ at least for me…

    Anyway, thanks again for the post you writted, I really like the addon :D and I should try Recuva someday…

  2. Posted 29/10/2014 at 10:47 PM | Permalink

    It’s going to be ending of mine day, but before ending I am reading this great post to
    improve my experience.

  3. Gary
    Posted 05/11/2014 at 2:13 AM | Permalink

    Ok.. Im digging around for info and came across this page.
    I just did a scan with an anti-malware program.. which decided it would replace my current profile on Firefox with an older version.. ok sounds weird.. but I had Firefox session manager set to save sessions in my designated folder ie D:/firefox sessions.

    Now.. session manager sees the standard folder in the Profile.
    Yeeks.. how can I reset it to save in my preferred location?
    Having my old sessions in MY folder has prevented them from being deleted several times.. and is an invaluable store of info.
    Hope you can advise.

    thanks
    Gary

  4. Posted 10/11/2014 at 8:10 PM | Permalink

    I’d like to thank you for the efforts you’ve put in penning this blog.
    I am hoping to check out the same high-grade content from you later
    on as well. In truth, your creative writing abilities has encouraged me to get my own, personal site now
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  5. virtue
    Posted 11/11/2014 at 8:31 PM | Permalink

    i have lost hope, but enjoyed this article and comments. my private session is “Not Responding”. before i close it, can i save the several lifegiving tabs i have there?
    thankyou 4 ur words of hope n
    virtue

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