Disable Firefox Quantum Update Notification and Updates

In a recent update to the new Firefox Quantum, the Mozilla team removed the option to Never check for updates in the browser's update settings. They however left two of the three original options:
  • Automatically install updates (recommended)
  • Check for updates but let you choose to install them

Now I'm not sure what prompted this decision, but if I were allowed to speculate my guess is that the Mozilla team is merely trying to protect users from themselves; that is, pushing security updates they deem urgent and that would otherwise go ignored by some users.

This is all good but it takes away from the countless more, usually the more experienced tech-savvy crowd, the choice to make this decision at their own discretion. In place of the now defunct option, Mozilla seems to expect such users to make do with the check updates and notify to install option.

Now this option would have been slightly bearable were it not for that pestering notification to update that pop ups a few minutes after one begins a new browsing session.
notification
Update Notification

If this is not enough, they also include a "sticky" update notification on the hamburger icon and menu just to further remind you of the urgency of the update.
notification on menu
Update Notification on Menu

After having had enough of that distracting pop up, two weeks ago I caved in and finally updated Firefox 63.0 to the new 64.0 version. My reprieve however only lasted a week before the notification reared its ugly head with a new update (64.0.2).

It's here that it dawned on me that I would never be able to keep up with Firefox's rapid release cycle. A more permanent solution was thus necessary.


Disable Firefox Updates Notification Popup Only


The good news is that it is possible to disable the annoying update notification without completely disabling the updates. To do this:

1. Type about:config in Firefox address bar and enter.

2. Search for the following preference: app.update.doorhanger

3. Double click the preference to toggle its boolean value to false.

Restart Firefox and the pestering notification should be gone. You will however soon notice that doing this enables the following old Software Update window.
software update window

While not as annoying as the notification, the pop up window also has to be dismissed by clicking the Ask Later button. By default the pop up only appears after every 24 hours.

Fortunately you can change this duration by doing the following:
1. Go back to about:config and search for the following preference: app.update.interval

2. The preference value is set to 86400 seconds which equals 24 hours. Double click the value and change it to a longer duration e.g 604800 (1 week) or 2592000 (30 days).



Disable Firefox Updates Completely


If you don't want Firefox to automatically check for updates and install updates, then Firefox Policy is what you need. You can view a documentation of Firefox Policies by going to the address about:policies. The policy we are however interested with here is DisableAppUpdate.

These polices can be enabled in two ways:
  • using a JSON file in Firefox's installation directory
  • integrating Firefox Policies into Windows Group Policy and managing them using the Local Group Policy Editor.

Disabling updates this way also gets rid of the update notification.


Option 1: Disable Updates using Enterprise Policy JSON

1. Open a plain text editor like notepad or notepad++ and paste the following code in it:
{
 "policies": {
    "DisableAppUpdate": true
  }
}
2. Save the file as a json file named: policies.json

3. Go to the installation directory of Firefox and create a new folder with the name: distribution. On Windows the directory is:
C:\Program Files\Mozilla Firefox\distribution
If you're using a portable version of Firefox the directory should be:
FirefoxPortable\App\Firefox\distribution
FirefoxPortable\App\Firefox64\distribution (for the 64-bit version)
4. Now just copy the policies.json file into this folder.



Option 2: Disable Updates using Local Group Policy Editor

Starting from Firefox 60 and Firefox 60 ESR, Firefox policies can be integrated into Windows Group Policy. Using the Local Group Policy Editor one can then easily enable or disable specific policies which will apply to all users who are members of a given Group.

Using this method is therefore especially useful for System administrators managing multiple users as it's not ideal to go creating the policies.json in individual computers.

Nevertheless, you can also opt to use this method as an individual PC user as its less cumbersome and ensures the policy remains active should you reinstall Firefox.

For this to work however you should be running a Windows edition that supports Group Policy. They include:
Windows 10: Pro, Enterprise & Education
Windows 8/8.1: Pro & Enterprise
Windows 7: Professional, Ultimate & Enterprise

If that checks out, do the following:

Steps

1. Download the Firefox Policy Templates. Make sure to download the corresponding release for the version of Firefox you're running.

2. Extract the ZIP package and copy the entire contents inside the windows folder.

3. Now to install the polices, paste the copied files inside the following directory:
C:\Windows\PolicyDefinitions\

4. Next launch the local group policy editor by running gpedit.msc via the Run... window (Win Key +R).
run gpedit

5. In the editor's sidebar go to Computer Configuration and expand Administrative Templates > Mozilla > Firefox
firefox group policies

6. In the Polices window open the Disable Updates item and configure it to Enabled. That's it.
disable update policy

NOTE:
  • For some reason on Windows 7 this policy setting disables the updates for all user accounts (Standard and Administrators) except for Guest accounts. It however works with Window's 10 Visitor account.



Confirm Updates Have Been Disabled

After enabling the policy, restart Firefox and go to the settings. You should get a notification embedded at the top of the setting's page with the message: Your organisation has disabled the ability to change some options.
policy settings
Policy Settings Activated

When you scroll down to the Updates settings and you should find the message: Updates disabled by your system administrator. The Check for updates button will also have been disabled in the process.
updates disabled
Updates Disabled Permanently

If you want your browser's search engines to be updated automatically, remember to enable that option as it's turned off after activating this policy setting.

On the other hand, should you wish to revert this setting, just delete the json file or revert the Disable Update policy to Not Configured. Otherwise have yourself some peace of mind free of forced updates.

Kelvin is a blogger and registered nutritionist based in Nairobi. Passionate about writing and helping people find solutions, he's been actively blogging since 2014 on tech, nutrition and "pseudo poetry". Follow him on Twitter or YouTube to get updates on his content and projects.



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