Bookmark sync issues

December 28, 2010

We’ve been getting a lot of reports from users about bookmark sync being somewhat unreliable in Sync 1.6 and Firefox 4.0b8. Symptoms include duplicate bookmarks, erroneous re-ordering and bookmarks occasionally being moved to the Unsorted Bookmarks folder. We’re trying hard to track down these issues, but since they appear seemingly randomly, we’re mostly poking in the dark.

How to fix

Fortunately, Sync makes backups of your bookmarks before each sync. So if your bookmarks have been messed up, you can easily restore from bookmarks. Simply go to the Bookmarks menu and choose Show All Bookmarks (Organize Bookmarks on Firefox 3.x). In the window that opens, click on the Import and Backup button in the toolbar (it’s a star icon on OS X) and open the Restore submenu. It will give you the option to restore your bookmarks to a previous state.

How to help us

If you’re one of the affected users and would like to help us track down this issue, here’s what you can do:

  1. Let’s say you have computer A and computer B. On both computers, enable the sync log (about:sync-log) by going to about:config and setting the services.sync.log.appender.debugLog.enabled preference to true. In addition to that please make the log for bookmarks extra chatty by setting the services.sync.log.logger.engine.bookmarks preference to Trace. Make sure to restart the browser after making these changes.
  2. Now on computer A, restore your bookmarks to a good state using the above steps. Then choose Reset Sync under Sync Options and choose the Replace all other devices options.
  3. On computer B simply sync and observe whether you’re seeing any of the symptoms again. If you do, please send us your logs from both computers. They’re at about:sync-log and about:sync-log.1. You can just save those files and attach them to a new bug. Note that those logs will contain your bookmark data, so if you’re concerned about privacy, we completely understand. In that case feel free to send your logs to

Please be assured that we’re trying hard to fix these problems and we’re looking forward to your help. Thanks for bearing with us and apologies if you’ve been affected.


23 Responses to “Bookmark sync issues”

  1. Joaquín Says:

    I have been getting the “Error While Syncing” message for the past 4-5 days (before and after 1.6 update for Sync) in my Mac, but not in my PC (both FF 3.6.13).
    I’d be glad if someone knowing a solution could post it.

    • philikon Says:

      Please go to about:sync-log, save the file and send it to us (either via private email, the Google group or a bug in bugzilla). It should help us track down what’s going wrong for you. Thanks!

      • Same here… I happen to have many, many thousands of bookmarks – well maybe just a few thou, but I have saved much for years.

        Could the quantity be a problem?

    • Bruce Says:

      Me, too! Er, the “Error While Syncing” message.

      It started on 27 January, and is apparently consistent across multiple FF browsers on multiple OS’s (ditto, Seamonkey and browsers). I’m on Lubuntu, Ubuntu, PeppermintOS, Lucid Puppy, and (cringe) Win7.

      And my about:sync-log doesn’t even show any entries past last November! (at least, not on Peppermint).

      I ditched Xmarks because of the bookmark “breeding” problem (that’s what I called it because one day I woke up and found that my bookmark collection had grown exponentially with duplicate bookmarks and folders… and EMPTY folders!) I looked through their forums and found a quote by one of the Xmarks team that I will paraphrase here: “… we are aware of the problem but it is low on our priorities”.

      I promptly uninstalled Xmarks from all machines and browsers, manually cleaned my collection, saved the same collection to all browsers on all systems, and then opened a Firefox Sync account.

      Now, a few short weeks later, I get “Error While Syncing”. I don’t mind saying that this “sync” situation is getting to be a pain. I’m better off just using Dropbox and syncing from there! Of course, I lose history, password, etc, syncs. But at least I get a clean set of bookmarks on each browser… reliably.

      Don’t mean to sound like a malcontent, but I’m rather discontented at this point. I suspect that it has a lot to do with the big move to FF4 (which I tried for a few months and then upgraded to an earlier version :).

      • philikon Says:

        I’m sorry to hear you’re continuing to have problems. Logging has been turned off by default in Firefox 4. You can turn it on by following the steps outlines in this very blog post. 🙂

        Once you have up-to-date logs, please file a bug in bugzilla or send me an email, attaching the logs. We’d like to fix this!

  2. philikon Says:

    Richard, you say “same here”, but I don’t know what you’re referring to… Are you seeing the “Error While Syncing” error message like Joaquín? Or are you seeing duplicate/moved bookmarks? In any case, quantity should not be a problem, even though several thousand bookmarks is certainly quite a lot.

    Please follow the instructions about producing logs so we can track down what’s going wrong for you.

    • Jaco Says:

      Same problem with the “Error While Syncing” under Ubuntu 10.04 with Mozilla 3.6.13. The syncing proces is fine under my XP machines.

  3. Thomas Says:

    I’m also affected by the reordering and reparenting problems – but it’s almost impossible to investigate this, as Weave discards log files all the time. I just had a log for a initial “merge” sync (as “replace” is broken until bug 619995 is fixed, hopefully a.s.a.p.), now it’s gone as logs were rolled over during the next automatic sync. Does it really only keep one older log, and only ~65kb? Why so little? What’s a couple of MB log files for a current computer?

    Finally: What’s the bug number for this issue, where one could follow the progress?

  4. filofel Says:

    I’m running 3.6.13 and latest 1.6 sync (whatever that is).
    I have discovered today that sync had garbled my bookmarks too. I have a rather large bookmark file (typical .json file below 5MB, bookmarks quota around 13MB) with losts of folders (several levels). In my case, the content of at least one major folder and all of its subfolders ended up all jammed into the “unsorted bookmarks”. A number of subfolders ended up empty under “unsorted bookmarks”, with their bookmarks directly located under “unsorted bookmarks”.
    Sync had started to propagate the mess on other machines.
    I’ve been able to restore the missing folder from a machine that hadn’t been synchronized during the last couple of weeks. I’m running both Linux and Win XP machines.
    And unfortunately, I’m not sure (yet) when and on which machine the corruption originally occured.
    I suspect it happened after updgrading to 1.6, since shortly after it, I had a sync that lasted forever, grabbing 100% of one CPU, and giving a “script busy, cancel or continue” firefox message. After several “continue” (and no indication that the thing wasn’t deadly looping) I ended up cancelling both times.
    If this were the root of the corruption, I have trouble understanding why the sync isn’t done to a work copy of the bookmark file, with a commit / rollback feature to garantee that the bookmark file is never corrupted…

    I’m trying right now trying to figure out what the latest pre-corruption .json file on all my machines.

    • filofel Says:

      PS to my previous message:

      I always keep my unsorted bookmarks tab clean (ie. I regularly sort whatever bookmark accidentally ends up in it, and this folder is most always empty).
      So the huge amount of data that ended up there is not the result of years of accumulation, and can only be there as the consequence of the bookmark file corruption that occurred between upgrading to 1.6 and today…

  5. tobias3 Says:

    Had to turn off my syncing. Could you please roll back the changes made in 1.6 and thereby make it stable again?

    • philikon Says:

      We’re working on fixing the issues that people are facing in 1.6. We have identified some problems already and will be rolling out an update shortly. Apologies for the inconvenience, please stay tuned!

  6. pappu Says:

    well, instead of reinventing the wheel, you could acquire foxmarks/xmarks. But you did not. And now, we, who moved to your Sync facility, are totally frustrated.

  7. Natanael L Says:

    Hi. My sister synced her old computer (Vista) with Sync in October. Then she turned it in for service, and it got replaced. On the new computer (Win7) she got “error while syncing” for quite a while, and then recently it “started working” – it syncs now, but the old data is nowhere to be found.

    Can it be recovered somewhere? That’s a lot of old bookmarks, actually. She wants it back.
    Is it completely gone?

  8. tobias3 Says:

    Now with 1.6.2 it only created the empty folders and duplicate bookmarks the first time I sync (contrary to every time I sync on 1.6.1). The folders were not really empty. They contained the different bookmarks in that folder (and none if the bookmarks were all the same). Synced only two computers for now.

  9. Washo Says:

    I have been getting the sync error message, on two different machines (both FF and Win7). The occurance seems random and sometimes just clicking on the message clears it sometimes it goes to check server message and thence to bugzilla page.

  10. Peter Lairo Says:

    I’m getting this sync problem too on Firefox nightlies with Windows 7. A “reset sync” didn’t fix the problem.

  11. Rose Says:

    First time with Sync desde mac book pro to an iphone os 4.2.1 : server does not support RFC 5746, see CVE-2009-3555

  12. Shum Says:

    unknown error on sync in last 12hrs

  13. Don McNulty Says:

    I continue to get an Error While Syncing message with no elaboration on what type of error in version 1.7 running under Ubuntu Linux 10.04, 10.10, and Win XP.

    • philikon Says:

      Would love to help you, but for that I need to know what error it is and for that I need logs. Please follow the steps in the “How to help us” section. Thanks!

  14. Phred_E Says:

    I’ve started having sync problems, too, with both Sync and Xmarks, just like Bruce. A mire.
    What I’d really like to understand is the sync process: under what circumstances sync happens, whether datime markers are placed on individual bookmarks, whether delta-copies are performed, what happens when a sync fails but a bm data change is made on another computer, what the sync window is so we know when it’s safe to make bm changes on a dormant machine assured that it’s already up to date, what happens when a sync silently recovers after going from the living room to the office and making a change there – the whole scenario.
    I not seen anything anywhere.

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