How to Disable Firefox Updates and Update Notifications

In 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 then the most likely reason is that Mozilla 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 the annoying update notification that pop-ups a few minutes into a new browsing session. If this is not enough, they also include a “sticky” update notification in the hamburger menu just to further remind you of the urgency of the update.

A screenshot showing firefox update notifications
Firefox Update Notifications

As much as I understand the urgency of some of these updates, I find all these cues a bit unnecessary. In any case, I’ve always updated my Firefox manually and prefer to keep it that way. For this reason I decided to find away to disable these notifications, and initially I was successful.

In an early iteration of this post I shared on how to do this, but subsequent Firefox updates have rendered the settings we utilized useless. I have however retained the video tutorial should you be interested in finding out more.

Fortunately, there’s a second option which has worked all through the subsequent updates, including in the new Firefox Proton. This second method is fool-proof as it involves disabling automatic updates using Firefox Policies. The update notifications are also disabled in the process.

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Disable Firefox Automatic Updates using Policies

Firefox comes bundled with a list of Enterprise Policies which can be viewed by going to the address about:policies and choosing Documentation. The policy we are however interested with here is the DisableAppUpdate policy.

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.

Please note that this policy only disable the checking and installation of automatic updates. You can therefore still update Firefox manually by downloading and running its setup package. You can read here on how to get offline installers for all Firefox versions.

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 on 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 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.
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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.

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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.


Author

Kelvin Muriuki is a web content developer that's passionate about keeping the internet a useful place. He is the founder and editor of Journey Bytes, a tech blog and web design agency. Feel free to connect with him regarding the content appearing on this page or on web and content development.

57 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!

          2. 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.

          3. 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.

          4. 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.

            1. Please consider changing how your pages are presented to make them more easily printable (or pdf-able).

              I cannot easily print this article about Firefox using the Firefox browser’s “Print” function past the 1st page (Win7 x64). Even the “Print > Simplify” function doesn’t seem to work to make this possible. I either have to cut & paste or use a web page editor to make this possible.

              1. I will look into it, thanks for letting me know. Meanwhile I’ve observed that Chrome’s Save to PDF feature prints all the pages. As a workaround on Firefox switch to reader mode before printing the page. This will get rid of the scripts that may blocking the printing past the 1st page.

            2. Hi Kelvin,
              Thank you very, very much for this fix. I just implemented your Json and Windows Policies fixes. It was the Windows Policy fix that had me stumped. At last, now rid of all Update reminders. I found that the Windows Update Reminder came up more than just once a day btw.
              I’m sticking with Vs 64.02 as so far I’ve found that this is the last Version that supports multi line TABs and allows perfect dragging of TABs with a mouse. I find it utterly unbelievable that this is not a standard feature (even if only as an Extension) not just on FireFox, but on Chrome, Edge etc etc browsers as well. When researching a topic, I often wind up with at least 3 or 4 rows. Sure, it slows things down if they are all open or have been opened, but the convenience offered by having multi line TABs is more than well worth it. Afterwards, just close unwanted TABs – a no brainer surely, so why multi-line TABs are avoided at all costs by browser developers is a mystery to me. The scrolling TAB version now offered on most browsers I find just totally useless.
              Sorry, end of rant on multi-line TABs – just that this is what keeps me anchored to FF’s earlier versions :).

              1. Hi Philip,
                Glad to hear this fix helped you out. And as for your rant, I just learnt something – I didn’t know multi line TABs was a thing, which I have to say seems more user friendly over scrolling, especially on smaller screens.

            3. Worked WELL thanks. I used to first (2) options [app.update.doorhanger and policies.json]
              and when tapping “About Firefox”, it confirms “updates disabled by your system administrator”.

              I needed this to work on an old Asus 1005PE notebook running Win7/x64 because my hardware ONLY
              likes Firefox 64.0 when using GoogleTalk to make 2-way phone calls via WiFi. Being disabled,
              this HELPED immensely today, I was able to call my doctor to get some lab results.

            4. Thank you ever so much for this article. Using the about:config option, I applied the false setting for app.update.doorhanger and I followed the steps for the addition of the json file. Upon rebooting Firefox, I immediately noticed one difference – I was not immediately prompted with the Firefox update pop-up. I then noticed that the green arrow was no longer displayed over my hamburger menu icon. So far so good! Only time will tell if the changes I have implemented will have any lasting effect, however I am quite pleased with my uninterrupted browsing experience for now! Thank you again!

            5. It is outrageous that Mozilla/Firefox makes it so complicated and cumbersome to just TURN OFF the dang update reminders when we do NOT want to be reminded/bothered by them! Mozilla/FF seems to be CONTROL FREAKS. Most people are gifted enough to know how to find and download an update if and when they want it! Leave us alone!!! This is annoying and turns people OFF in a very big way.

            6. Doorhanger toogle doesn’t work anymore.
              Policies are disabled on win 10 home too.
              What now? This forced update s*it is getting crazy.

              1. I don’t think you need Local Group Policy for the JSON to work. Have you tried creating the policies.json inside C:\Program Files\Mozilla Firefox\distribution\ or C:\Program Files (x86)\Mozilla Firefox\distribution\?

            7. Once you use the json solution, you may have to re-apply it if/when you update.

              I did this a couple of months ago, and then updated Firefox here relatively recently.

              It started up with the notifications again. The folder tree showed that the “distribution” folder had been eliminated.

              -blaine

              1. Hello Blaine,
                I noticed that too when I updated to Firefox 89 (proton). I don’t think this was the case with earlier versions, otherwise I would have noticed. I will update the article accordingly to point out this.

            8. I have the policies.json file copied and pasted into my self-created ‘distribution’ folder within C;\Program Files\Mozillla Firefox
              Windows 10 home 64 bit.
              But the updates from Firefox 88.0 are still popping up and also appear at the top of the menu.list
              When I try to read policies.json file I get: ‘the system cannot find the path specified’ do I need to correct this?
              I went back to version 88.0 as the update to v89 had irreversably changed too much.

              1. Hi Douglas,
                Yes, you need to fix that error which seems to suggest the file is no longer in that folder.

                When I updated to FF 89 recently I noticed that the distribution folder was deleted. It could have something to do with this. Can you try creating the policies.json anew and see what happens.

            9. Yes thanks. This time I created ‘distribution’ folder under Windows Explorer instead of my app 2xExplorer and now the file can be read without the error message, and update reminders seem to have been eliminated. There is still a reminder at the top of the pull-down menu but I can live with that. Thanks again.

                1. PhantomFlanFlinger

                  Thanks, this simple policies.json tweak has stopped Firefox nagging me to update.

                  V89 looks horrifying. Do Firefox devs think this will win back users from Chrome?! They have lost their way and I’m tired of defending FF to my clients. I can’t recommend Firefox to them anymore, after years of doing so.

                  1. Yeah, it seems they’re more focused on enticing new users rather than securing their loyal base. The new version 89 was indeed a drastic change. I don’t mind the new UI though I much prefer the older style. Performance wise, however, it’s somewhat buggy that I’m contemplating downgrading to v88 or switching to a Chromium based browser.

                2. Mozilla will eventually put themselves out of business trying to change their beautifully simple browser to some
                  robot from outer space. They got popular, hired a bunch of geeks, and instead of letting them earn their paycheck upgrading security, they cut them lose to ruin what Mozilla was all about. Any Firefox browser post 88.0.1, will never
                  run in any of my Windows 7 machines. Guess you can tell I don’t like change much….took one look at windows 8, and back to 7 I went. Windows 10 is a “data gobbler” with no advantages, not for my simple needs anyway. So, I guess one day a couple of years from now my 88.0.1 will start acting like an out dated Internet Explorer browser. However, thanks to Kevin, at least I won’t be nagged to update multiple times daily until that day comes. Thanks Kevin.

                3. Thank you SOOOOO MUCH !!!
                  Finally I got rid of this f….ing update invitation.
                  Also this mozilla hides now run as administrator option. Literally I consider it abuse .
                  I found it anyway but the idea not to allow me to do what I want in my own computer pisses me off.

                  One more time thank you very much for your advises with steps- it is life saving.

                4. I’ve added the registry policy and shows’ Update been disabled by you administrator in Firefox 90 GUI – still get updates
                  I’ve added the .json file in distribution folder – still get updates
                  I’ve disables BITs in services.msc – still get updates
                  I’ve altered alomost everything in about:config – still get updates.

                  I do get update dowwnloads if I delete them I dfon’t get updated. Folder options, click view hiden
                  files on C drive click to view programs then open ‘Prgram data’, look for Mozilla and you have two options-:

                  Delete the Mozilla folder in ‘Program data’ io if you open the folder you’ll see another folder ‘Updates’, there is another file UpdateLock, this seems to make no difference…. I have Crap Cleaner doing this fore me BUT be careful, you can clean the updatedate folder and UpdateLock is back in a flash as soon as you start Firefox, if you delete the files with Firefox open they usually stay clear until you restart Firefox – and they creep back on you from time to time during browing…. BE sure to clean them out before rebooting the machine or you’ll get updated.
                  Sorry, I run out ideas and non of them works for me on Win 7 with FF 90.

                  1. You could try reinstalling Firefox using an offline installer, but uncheck the maintenance service. You won’t lose any of your existing data. After that, install the JSON policy to disable the updates. I’d also be careful with CCleaner. Cleaning the registry can cause more issues than help.

                5. I agree that vendor arrogance in endlessly pestering re updates and removing the option to switch it off is bad. I HATE the new ‘tabs’ (really awful floating buttons): just programmers fiddling for the sake of fiddling. For some reason, the json policy approach didn’t work for me, maybe in part because Firefox had already downloaded an update to install. I solved it thusly (Firefox x64):
                  1. Delete everything in the folder C:\ProgramData\Mozilla\updates
                  2. In C:\Program Files\Mozilla Firefox, rename these files (I added “.BAD” to the end), so they can’t run:
                  maintenanceservices.exe
                  maintenanceservices_installer.exe
                  updater.exe
                  Since then and restart Firefox, absolute total silence about updates. Bliss.

                  1. Yes thank you Neil Sky, I’ve turned off as much as I could…. I’m looking for another browser now – I’ve had enough. I also deleted the Task schedule and stopped Windows BITs.

                6. Since yesterday a strange thing started to happen, if I disconnect the router cord so as to get no internet, I open Mozilla data settings… files are empty OK?, with NO internet I open Firefox the ‘Update folder’ and ‘UpdateLock’ files are back, this has never happened before.

                  I’ve removed Maintenence Service in Program files, I tried renaming the files but they just comeback…. ‘I think’ we gotta be careful here because Mozilla could be using us as guinnea pigs meaning other computers could be in a different state, far too many telemetry pings going on for my liking, I deleted one marked ‘experimental’ or something and changed a few to false.

                7. What the BLUE THUNDER are these in about:config?
                  app.normandy.startupRolloutPrefs.browser.topsites.experiment.ebay-2020-1 true
                  browser.topsites.experiment.ebay-2020-1 true

                  1. Seems to be related to Firefox studies. You should turn off the consent in the settings or when installing to disable them. You can check about:studies for a list of studies that you have participated in.

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