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
C:\Program Files\Mozilla Firefox (x86) [if running 32bit Firefox in 64bit Windows]

If you’re using a portable version of Firefox the directory should be:

FirefoxPortable\App\Firefox  
FirefoxPortable\App\Firefox64 [if using 64bit Firefox Portable]

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.

19 Comments

  1. I will like to ask for a favour – Can you explain where that must be put precisely like for
    instance naming other folders in that place – I am using portable version of
    Firefox and because of that i am asking this question – Where i need to put
    this folder of file if i am using portable version – Thanks in advance

    1. Hey there, I can’t confirm right now but I think you should create the Distribution folder in the following directory: FirefoxPortableAppFirefoxDistribution
      After doing that, create the JSON file and put it inside this folder. Do tell if it works.

      1. Yeah – It WORK 🙂 – Thank a lot

        You are right but with one correction – You have two folders there

        Firefox
        Firefox64

        Because i am using 64 bit version for me solution is to put folder distribution in Firefox64 because it won’t work if i put it in Firefox

  2. Thank you, Kelvin!

    I tried several of your suggestions, some of which worked and some didn’t. First, I set app.update.doorhanger to false, and that stopped the Notification popup, but as you said would happen, it was replaced by the Software Update window. So when I read app.update.interval I tried to use 46656000 for 18 months, and it didn’t work. So I thought “ok, on to plan b”, and set it to 2592000 for 1 month and will see if it works tomorrow night. However, I also created the policies.json file and added it to the distribution folder as you suggested. Hopefully one or the other will work. But even if neither of them work, one popup a day is a far cry better than one every hour or so! Like you and many others, that was driving me batty!

    Now, how about a little dietary advice for Diabetics with Short Bowel Syndrome and Pollen-Food Syndrome, both of which developed after having a Colectomy for Colon Cancer? 🙂

    1. Hey James, I’m glad I could help. About the Software Update window, I’ve also since noticed that app.update.interval seems to have no effect on it. I will be updating the post soon regarding this. However, if you’ve enabled the policies.json file that should disable all update pop ups for good.

      Regarding the dietary advice, I’ll be glad to help where I can though for your case I would really advice on seeing an RD near you if possible. We can talk more over email, just leave me a message on my contact page.

      1. I had my doubts after app.update.interval to 18 months didn’t work. So I hope you’re right about the policies.json file. I get such a kick out of Firefox sometimes. Like the page that opens when you open a website they seem to think is some hackers website, like a US government website with health care advice for Senior Citizens for example.

        I actually have an appointment scheduled to see an RD. I was just curious if you would have any suggestions for things to look up online, and then discuss at the appointment. But it’s all good. The appoint is coming up soon…

        Thanks again and take care!

        1. Good to hear you’ve the appointment already set up. Maybe you can discuss foods you need to restrict or avoid due to the reduced absorption from the colectomy and any SBS symptoms you may be experiencing such as diarrhea, constipation, flatulence.

          For instance my manual tells me you need to avoid caffeine and if you are experiencing steatorrhoea (execess fat in faeces) to reduce fat intake and introduce medium-chain triglycerides. If reduced fat intake is inevitable, you’ll however have to consider the absorption of fat soluble vitamins (A D E K) by monitoring their levels or considering supplementation.

          You should also discuss on the intake of Oxalates (found in foods such as spinach, beetroot, peanuts etc) which you may have to avoid or minimize if you had a partial colectomy as they increase the risk of calcium oxalate renal stones.

          For a diabetic diet we usually recommend a largely plant based diet so this is something you need to factor when choosing vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts and grains. (High oxalate foods = https://www.healthline.com/health/what-is-a-low-oxalate-diet)

          Discuss on the proportions of calories that should come from your carbs, fats and protein and the types. Fortunately for carbs the complex carbs are recommended for SBS which should be good for your sugar control.

          Discuss on which type of fibre you should be consuming (soluble or insoluble). The manual recommends the former for both partial and complete colectomies. Finally, discuss on fluid intake with respect to your body weight and what fluids to avoid.

          This is just some of the things I thought you can read up on or discuss with your RD. Every patient is a unique case so not all of the above may be true for you.

          Otherwise wishing you good health. Take care!

  3. as far as i can tell, this does not work with a Guest user in windows. which is very unfortunate, because all the users in our public library (who must sign on as guests) are being constantly annoyed by this pop-up.

    1. I finally tested it out today and it also didn’t work on a guest account I created on my Windows 7 machine. It works perfectly though for standard user accounts. I however went ahead and created a guest account (“Visitor”) on a Windows 10 machine and for some reason it worked there.

  4. Thanks for this. By not installing updates for a long time; I never had to deal with the add-on certificate issue that plagued FireFox users for a while.

  5. One way to reduce the annoyance factor but to keep the update checks, just to be on the safe side, would be to change the time between update checks. In “about:config” set “app.update.interval” to whatever you like. The number is in seconds. So for example 86400 would be once a day. Multiply that by 30 and it would check for updates once a month and so on.

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