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On FF Portable 63, the Prompt to Update Cannot Be Disabled

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md95z
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On FF Portable 63, the Prompt to Update Cannot Be Disabled

For years, I have used FF Portable (on Windows 7). However, I ALWAYS disable the auto-update feature. This is because the update process always tries to create another copy of my user profile, bookmarks, and add-ons under these locations:

C:\Users\[logon name]\AppData\Local\Mozilla
C:\Users\[logon name]\AppData\Roaming\Mozilla

Note: The same thing happens if you set FF Portable as the Default Browser and Windows tries to start FF Port like a normal application. A second set of application files are created.

The existence of a duplicate location for these files fouls up Firefox Portable; eventually, you must delete and re-install it.

Unfortunately, in version 63, Firefox has no menu-based option to disable the update prompts. You can stop the application from automatically downloading updates, but you cannot stop the application from constantly nagging you about the update.

In an effort to stop this prompt, I have gone into about:config and have made the following changes:
app.update.auto = false
app.update.service.enabled = false
app.update.download.promptMaxAttempts = 0
app.update.elevation.promptMaxAttempts = 0

None of these changes have worked. Does anybody have a better idea to stop this prompt?

AlexMail
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Option to disable auto updates in Firefox 63 is removed

Mozilla removes the option to disable auto updates in Firefox 63. To block auto updates, create a directory called distribution inside the Firefox 63 portable directory. Then create a file called policies.json with the following texts using a text editor:

{
"policies": {
"DisableAppUpdate": true
}
}

and put that file inside the distribution directory.

See below for references:
https://support.mozilla.org/en-US/kb/customizing-firefox-using-policiesjson
https://github.com/mozilla/policy-templates/blob/master/README.md

There could be other alternatives, perhaps John T. Haller or Gord Caswell could chime in. I understand that auto updates are good for security reasons. I really hope that PortableApps.com Platform offers a feature to block auto/forced updates for any apps for those advanced users who prefer to manually update their apps.

Gord Caswell
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Conscious change by Mozilla

This was a conscious change made by Mozilla. See here for the bug report: https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=1420514

In that bug report, there are now a couple people looking to get it reversed, or for the option to be added back.

For how we package, and then distribute Firefox, Portable Edition, I suspect we may need to put out a revision including the above-noted policy method for disabling app updates until this gets sorted out. That decision, however, will be up to John.

Abraxian
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Couple of Questions on "policies"

If a user sets the policy "DisableAppUpdate": true does this still allow Firefox to check if any updates are available and inform the user that an update is available (i.e. the policy only disallows auto-updating)? I would prefer Firefox to check for updates and inform me but never to auto-update.

Other question:

If I want to set several policies what is the correct format to do this in. For example (code block "A"):
{
"policies": {
"DisableAppUpdate": true
}
}
{
"policies": {
"DisableTelemetry": true
}
}
{
"policies": {
"SanitizeOnShutdown": true
}
}

Or is it done in this way (code block "B"):
{
"policies": {
"DisableAppUpdate": true
"DisableTelemetry": true
"SanitizeOnShutdown": true
}
}

Use Portable Apps on both Flash Drive and HDD/SSD.

Gord Caswell
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Github Readme

Based on the Github Readme, it looks like the correct way to use in the manner of code block B.

Abraxian
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Maybe a Disappearing "distribution" Directory on Manual Update.

Just read a comment on mozillaZine where the poster states that if you create a "distribution" folder it will get deleted on any subsequent manual update of Firefox. Comment is first post by "lasardo" here: http://forums.mozillazine.org/viewtopic.php?f=23&t=3041932

Can anyone here confirm/refute this information? Would it apply to Firefox Portable?

Use Portable Apps on both Flash Drive and HDD/SSD.

Gord Caswell
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Probable

That is likely, as the use of the distribution folder is not intended to be used in consumer distributions - it is intended for enterprises.
With that said, if we end up implementing this method of controlling updates, we would preserve that folder ourselves.

OsakaWebbie
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Yup, I can confirm that

I just now manually upgraded from 63.0.3 to 64.0 - I needed to use the manual procedure because I had previously messed up PA's normal update by not closing FF first. Yup, the distribution folders disappeared.

But this might be true for even the normal way that PA does updates, not just what PA calls "manual". (I think Mozilla's non-manual procedure is yet different.) On this comment to me, John Haller wrote: "You can manually install a new copy of Firefox Portable 64.0 over your current one to upgrade it. That's what the platform is doing when it updates an app."
So if the normal PA update uses the same mechanism, I would assume the distribution folder would be lost in that case, too. Can someone who did a normal update confirm/refute?

md95z
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Thanks. Sounds pretty simple.

Thanks. Sounds pretty simple.

So, on my PC, the FirefoxPortable.exe executable file is located directly under the following path:
C:\Portable Apps\FirefoxPort63

I would create the new distribution folder in the exact same place, right?

gmbudwrench
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It goes

in FirefoxPortable>App>Firefox or Firefox64 depending on which you use. I have the ini set on mine to run the 32 bit version, but I put this in both folders. My copy picked it right up and disabled auto updates

duttyend
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Thank you very much!

Thank you very much!

John T. Haller
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Launcher Waits For Updater

The FirefoxPortable.exe is configured to specifically wait for the updater to complete its run. There is a bug where it may not if you have about 300 or more processes running on your system, due to a bug in the FindProcDLL NSIS plugin. It also won't occur if you have the launcher configured not to wait for Firefox or set to allow multiple instances (aka all bets are off).

We can't distribute Firefox Portable with the updater fully disabled due to licensing. I could make an addition to disable it when run in conjunction with the PA.c Platform since it will handle your updates for you.

Sometimes, the impossible can become possible, if you're awesome!

md95z
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I'm still getting prompts to update.

I created the distribution folder and the .json file, placing one copy under the following paths:
FirefoxPortable\App\Firefox\distribution\policies.json
FirefoxPortable\App\Firefox64\distribution\policies.json

This is the contents of the .json file:

{
"policies": {
"DisableAppUpdate": true
}
}
{
"policies": {
"DisableTelemetry": true
}
}
{
"policies": {
"SanitizeOnShutdown": true
}
}

The Policies file is not working. I'm still being prompted to update. What else can I do?

Bummelzug
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Automatic Update can not disable

In 63 still available the not automatic update button...

...just me...

MikeSG
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If there's still some

If there's still some confusion with using the policies.json file here's what I did, with success. You can confirm the policies are in place and working, see below. Most of the help has been offered already, I'm only hoping to clarify some details.

I used Notepad++ to create policies.json (save-as .json), mostly because I'm familiar with NPP, but the syntax highlighting is nice to have, this will help with the json code.

The details below worked on the PortableApps version of Firefox, I'm running 63.0.3. There's a policies_json_readme_zip at github with help for various versions of firefox - search Google.

OK:

The Folder/File Location:
``````````````````````````````````
This is the location for the new \distribution folder (notice firefox.exe), drop the policies.json file in each folder.

...\PortableApps\FirefoxPortable\App\Firefox\distribution\
...\PortableApps\FirefoxPortable\App\Firefox64\distribution\

The Code:
```````````````
I paid attention to spacing (indentation), this may not matter but I noticed it in the readme. I believe the trick with multiple lines is the use of the comma (,) after each policy when there's multiple lines, not needed if you only want to disable app.update...

Note: The forum seems to remove indentation, again, it may not matter (I don't know), but in case.
-2- spaces -> "policies": {
--4-- spaces -> "DisableAppUpdate": true

*Simple Example:
````````````````````````

{
"policies": {
"DisableAppUpdate": true
}
}

**Complex Example:
````````````````````````````

{
"policies": {
"DisableAppUpdate": true,
"DontCheckDefaultBrowser": true,
"DisableBuiltinPDFViewer": true,
"DisableFirefoxStudies": true,
"DisablePocket": true,
"DisableTelemetry": true,
"DisableFirefoxScreenshots": true
}
}

Verifying Policies:
````````````````````````
about:policies
If you know how to find about:config, you'll also want to start using about:policies. This is a non-editable check, you only want to check your policy Name & Value are Active and without error. My window was simple, a more complex policy might show more details. If there's errors supposedly there's links to follow to get help.

about:config
I noticed after getting the policy file to work there were some Preferences with a Status of locked - here's a few I noticed, I'm sure there's more:

* toolkit.telemetry.enabled -- locked -- false
* pdfjs.disabled -- locked -- true
* extensions.pocket.enabled -- locked -- false
* extensions.screenshots.disabled -- locked -- false

Firefox Options
Some options will be grayed-out. Also, you'll see a message that "the ability to change some options has been disabled". See Firefox Updates, Data Collection & Use, etc.

Done!

Sorry for the length, I wanted to be somewhat thorough. I used the Complex file so the settings I found in Options, about:config, and about:policies might differ for you.

HTH Smile

OsakaWebbie
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Spacing doesn't matter

I can confirm that indents don't matter, nor spaces or even line breaks. They are only used for human readability. It has to be proper JSON format, so the point about commas is critical (Abraxian's "Code Block B" example needs commas after all but the last one), but it can be spaced any way you like, even like this (albeit harder to read):
{"policies":{"DisableAppUpdate":true,"DisableBuiltinPDFViewer":true}}

But "policies" should be declared only once. That's why md95z's attempt (based on Abraxian's "Code Block A") didn't work - repeated declarations will overwrite previous ones, so only "SanitizeOnShutdown" would be set.

Thanks for the tip about about:policies - that's a nice way to check.

John T. Haller
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distribution folder preservation

I've added the installer preserving this folder in both Firefox and Firefox64 for the upcoming releases built from today forward.

Sometimes, the impossible can become possible, if you're awesome!

OsakaWebbie
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Awesome

John, you're our hero!

duttyend
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You're awesome!

You're awesome!

OsakaWebbie
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Does it actually work for you?

@duttyend: Your two notes of appreciation seems to indicate that this solved the problem for you. Did it? If you read my comment at the bottom of the thread (https://portableapps.com/comment/240586#comment-240586) you'll see that in my case it stopped working sometime in early 2019. The distribution folder and the policies.json file is still there, but the policy set there is ignored by FF.

We need a new solution. What's the latest, John?

OsakaWebbie
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Policy not honored anymore?

I haven't looked at this in several months, and I don't remember what behavior it has been doing/not-doing, but after having to click "Not Now" many times recently, I decided to take a look at my situation again. The Firefox and Firefox64 folders have the requisite distribution folder, and the policies.json file within it is as follows:
{
 "policies": {
  "DisableAppUpdate": true
 }
}

But about:policies only says this (which I don't set and have never even heard of):
Certificates  ImportEnterpriseRoots  true

Has Mozilla done something new to prevent what we're trying to do? I'm currently on version 67.0.4.

MikeSG
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I sure hope they aren't

I sure hope they aren't forcing updates on us, kinda like MS is doing with Windows 10.

Anyway, have you checked to see if the policy name has changed? I would look at about:policies and check the documentation link... you should see the certificate policy listed as well.

IIRC the new policy is AppAutoUpdate - but cannot confirm, I'm still using FF 73. You might need to remove the outdated DisableAppUpdate from policies. Also, IIRC I needed to use a tool that saves as .json rather than simply renaming an otherwise .txt file - just to be safe Smile

Please report anything you discover.

OsakaWebbie
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Not the policy we're trying to control

Thanks for your suggestion (the first response to this thread in a long time). But AppAutoUpdate isn't what we're struggling with. According to the docs:

AppAutoUpdate
Enable or disable automatic application update.
If set to true, application updates are installed without user approval.
If set to false, application updates are downloaded but the user can choose when to install the update.
If you have disabled updates via DisableAppUpdate, this policy has no effect.

Nothing is being updated automatically - we're just sick of seeing an alert about an update and having to click "Not now". If DisableAppUpdate was working, it would be disabling those alerts. Unlike you, I do like to keep my apps at the most current version - I'm on FF 80 and TB 68.11 right now. But because it's the PortableApps flavor, I want the PortableApps platform to do the update, not the mechanism inside Firefox/Thunderbird, which means that the pesky alert appears frequently for several days until the PortableApps folks can do what they do. Right now Firefox is happy, but Thunderbird is squawking that it wants to update to 68.12, even though PortableApps says all my apps are up to date.

Regarding JSON, it's still just a text file (not binary), so you don't need a tool. Just use proper JSON syntax (see examples earlier in this thread) and save with the .json file extension.

OsakaWebbie
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Now Thunderbird is doing it!

Argh! While we can't seem to stop Firefox Portable from giving that update prompt (the policies.json trick gave us short-lived relief but hasn't worked for over a year), now Thunderbird Portable has started doing the same thing! Any solutions in 2020?

MikeSG
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I tested Firefox 78 & 80, the

I tested Firefox 78 & 80, the policies.json appears to be working, the policies are in place and active. The About dialog states "the system administrator has disabled updates".

As expected, Mozilla changed or removed a few of my about:config tweaks, I had to add one of em, the rest I'm looking into.

Disabling Pocket was easier with 78 versus 80, FF 80 kinda disabled Pocket but I had to uncheck the feature from Options-Home (IIRC) - Pocket went away.

If I should be hounded to update either browser to the latest version I'll update the thread but it seems to me Firefox 78 & 80 are A-OK with abiding by the policies... time will tell.

OsakaWebbie
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Not working for me in 80

In case just DisableAppUpdate was being ignored, I added a second policy to each of the two policies.json files (I don't know whether the one in Firefox/distribution or Firefox64/distribution is relevant, so I keep testing both). But about:policies still only lists a policy I don't understand called Certificates | ImportEnterpriseRoots (which is NOT in my policies.json, so I don't know where it's coming from). Policies I put in policies.json do not appear. Yes, my syntax is correct - this worked initially for a few months but then stopped working without me touching the file at all.

OsakaWebbie
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Status on this?

Is there any further effort being made on this? It has been well over a year since the previous comment (which was also by me), but I still have to keep saying "Not now" over and over again in both Thunderbird and Firefox until PortableApps releases an update - am I the only one? Currently Thunderbird is in that limbo state - I have 78.14.0, which PortableApps thinks is current, but Thunderbird itself wants to update to 91.3.2 and hounds me about it. That's a huge difference in versions, but I don't want to risk updating outside of PortableApps. I just want Thunderbird (and Firefox) to stop hounding me.

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