Software, Technology

How-to: Change your Firefox Update Channel

Firefox on the work desktop was not playing nice; realising it looked funny, I did a version check and discovered it was stuck on 24.0 ESR.

Normally Firefox updates automatically. To kick off the update process, go to Tools, About and the version checker usually appears below the version number.

As Mozilla has a number of update channels, each with differing frequency of software releases, ESR seemed like a poor choice given I hadn’t updated in six months. Working as I do on the web, that’s equivalent to 4.2 years.

To change your Firefox update channel:

1. Close Firefox.

2. Go to the Firefox program folder.

3. Go to defaults\pref

4. Edit the channel-prefs.js text file in Notepad or similar. You need to change:

pref(“”, “esr”);

to the one you prefer. Mozilla has the following update channels to choose from:

  • nightly
  • aurora
  • beta
  • esr
  • release

Given that choices like nightly and beta can be unstable, to say the least, I went for:

pref(“”, “release”);

5. Save the file and exit.

6. Re-open Firefox.

To check the change, open about:config (being mindful of the ‘here be dragons’ warning) in a Firefox tab and scroll down to: The string on the right should be the one you chose.


In my case, ESR – Extended Support Release – is designed for corporate IT types who don’t want potentially instable releases from the other channels messing with their carefully imaged Windows clients. It seems changing the channel value in itself isn’t enough.
Going to Tools, About, instead of the version checker, on the ESR channel what I got was a simple:

“Updates are available at”

So I went there, downloaded the stub installer Firefox Setup Stub 35.0.1.exe, ran that, it downloaded the upgrade and then installed.

Am now on 35.0.1 latest, which works, so all’s well. RC

About Robin Catling

Robin Catling gained degrees in both arts and technology which led to a diverse portfolio of employment. A freelance systems analyst, project manager and business change manager for the likes of American Express, British Airways and IBM, he moved on to web design, journalism and technical authoring. He has also worked in film and television, both behind and in front of the camera, including productions by Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorcese, Ron Howard and Ridley Scott. A qualified three-weapon coach, he runs West Devon Swords teaching sports fencing to all age groups, and in recent years qualified with the British Federation of Historical Swordplay to teach medieval and renaissance combat in the Historical Western Martial Arts.


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