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me: [painstakingly copies entire .firefox folder from other machine]
Firefox: Hi, welcome to your new setup! Wanna import settings from somewhere?
me: Uh, you don't see the ones that are already there? Then ok, I guess so... import, plz.
Firefox: No programs that contain bookmarks, history or password data could be found.
Me: You didn't exactly ask me where to look for them. How about asking? Cuz all the data is literally in your profile folder right now.

This always happens. I think it's probably part of the scam to get everyone to sign up for Firefox Sync, which I refuse to use on principle since they now force you to connect to their server instead of allowing 3rd-party servers.

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@woozle It's not.
Firefox creates profile folders with unpredictable names (for some reason). You may be able to select your old profile though about:profiles, but I usually let it create a new one and copy the contents of the old one into it.

@solarkraft yeah, I'm familiar with Ffx's profile names. The profile manager even sees the profile I'm trying to load -- but when I select it, Ffx just loads up like a new install.

I also copied over all the extensions, but it ignored those as well. This suggests that it has a way of detecting when the .mozilla folder was copied rather than created locally -- which suggests deliberate effort to prevent easy migration via file-copying.

@solarkraft P.S. when I said .firefox in my original post, I meant .mozilla. This is confusing folder nomenclature because it seems like if it's called "Mozilla", then Thunderbird settings should go in there as well -- but no, they go in a separate folder.

@woozle I can't say this has ever happened to me and I have done it literally hundreds of times on Windows machines, and a few on MacOS and Linux. Maybe you're missing a step?

@bthylafh Afterthought: does it not like the folder being a link? I'd have been suspicious of that, except that's the way I have it set up on the source machine too, with no problems.

@woozle Could be. I don't ever make it a link. My process is (on Windows) copying %APPDATA%\Mozilla to the new user folder in the same position and Firefox finds it every time. This method preserves the random profile folder names as well.

@bthylafh I finally got it to load properly by manually editing installs.ini to point at my preferred profile.

I think my original gripes still apply.

@woozle My profiles.ini file includes IsRelative=1 and Path=xxxxxxx.name-xxxxzz lines. Did yours, before you edited it?

@bthylafh I edited installs.ini, not profiles.ini.

FWIW, profiles.ini looks like this on both systems now:

[Install4F96D1932A9F858E]
Default=woozle.main.session
Locked=1

[Profile1]
Name=default
IsRelative=1
Path=woozle.main.session
Default=1

[Profile0]
Name=default-release
IsRelative=1
Path=t00eyu7p.default-release

[General]
StartWithLastProfile=0
Version=2
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