July 24, 2012

Recover the Google Toolbar in Firefox

By Lynn Evans

When I recently upgraded my Firefox browser, I was dismayed to discover that my favorite add-on, the Google Toolbar, no longer worked. It seems that Google has withdrawn all support for the product, which now only functions in Firefox 4.x and below.

This was a minor disaster for me. The Google Toolbar is something I use constantly, every working day. It's true that some of its features are now built into Firefox itself. Others can be obtained from other add-ons. I've tried a few of these, but none of them could compare to the sheer convenience of the original product. Several weeks after upgrading, I was still finding the Google Toolbar hard to live without.

Fortunately, it turns out that there is an easy way of getting it back. The procedure is simple, but be warned. All it does is reinstate the toolbar as it was in Firefox 4.x. There's no way of getting updates or security fixes for it, and there's no guarantee that it will always be compatible with future versions of Firefox. In other words, proceed with caution.

As far as I know, you can no longer download a copy of the toolbar. So you will only be able to apply this fix if you have already installed it. In addition, some sources suggest that the procedure will only work with version 7.1.20110512W of the toolbar, although I've no way of confirming that. (You can check the version by opening the Firefox Add-on Manager: select Add-ons from the Tools menu, click the Extensions tab, and scroll down until you see an entry for Google Toolbar for Firefox, as in the screen shot.)

First step

The first step in recovering the toolbar is to locate its folder within your Firefox profile. To do that, open your Application Data folder (if you're not sure where that is, type %APPDATA% in the address bar in Windows Explorer, and hit Enter). Then drill down to Mozilla \ Firefox \ Profiles. Within the Profiles folder, there should be a folder with the word "default" in its name. Drill down into this folder, and then into the Extensions folder.

The Extensions folder contains a separate sub-folder for each of your add-ons. The one for the Google Toolbar will have a cryptic name. On all the computers I've checked, the name is {3112ca9c-de6d-4884-a869-9855de68056c}, but I can't be sure that will always be the case. To check that you've found the correct folder, look for a file within it called License.Txt. Open this in a text editor such as Notepad. If it contains information that clearly relates to the Google Toolbar, then in you're in the right place.

The Install.RDF file

Next, look for a file in the same folder called Install.RDF. Open this file in your text editor, and look for the following line:


Now, all you have to do is to change the "4.0" in this line to a number higher than your current Firefox version. So if you are using Firefox 12.0, change the number to at least 13.0, taking care to keep everything else unchanged. (To find your Firefox version number, select About Firefox from the Help menu.)

Finally, save the file and re-start Firefox. All being well, the Google Toolbar should now be back in action.

My thanks to Itsabhik for drawing my attention to this fix. Thanks too to the Mozilla Developers Network for the documentation of the Install.RDF file. Most add-ons come with a version of this file, and most include the same type of setting for the maximum supported Firefox version. This suggests that you can use the technique I've described here with other no-longer-supported add-ons. But keep in mind my earlier warning. There's no guarantee that it will always work, and you proceed at your own risk.

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