Monday, 2 September 2013

How-to: Install Firefox 23 on Debian

If you run Debian, you will know that the default browser is a Firefox derivative, IceWeasel (see what they did with the name, there?). While the Weasel is good, it still isn't the Fox, so after a few weeks trial, I took it out in favour of the latest Firefox release, 23.0.1.

This is an old-fashioned, hokey-looking manual install that doesn't involve package managers, PPA's or compiling from source code. At first I thought this was rather too simple...

You can download the release from the official Firefox channels Alternatively a 64-bit build is also available in the x86_64 directory of Mozilla's FTP server.

The download firefox-23.0.1.tar.bz2 is a compressed .tar.bz2 archive, which you can right-click and extract here, or using an archive manager such as File Roller, or extract the archive from the command line:

tar xjf firefox-23.0.tar.bz2

In those tar parameters, x is eXtract, j specifies the bzipped file format and f is read from a file (as opposed to a tape device, those were all the rage when grand-daddy Unix was invented).

Move and Shake 
The extracted firefox folder will need to be moved somewhere that Debian can address it - for the sake of tidiness, I chose to put it in the /opt folder. Anything you do there needs to be done under admin privileges, hence we prefix commands with sudo.

If you are upgrading to a newer release, you will need to remove any previous Firefox version installed in the /opt folder:

sudo rm -r /opt/firefox

Now move the firefox directory (which was created in your Downloads folder during extraction) to /opt:

sudo mv firefox /opt/firefox23

I also specified the version number  in the folder name.

To create a symbolic link pointing to the new Firefox version:

sudo ln -s /opt/firefox23/firefox /usr/bin/firefox

This should pick up the default icon.

You can launch the browser by running firefox23 in a terminal, although you'll probably want to or create shortcuts and icons pointing to firefox23.

Firefox 23 will dial home to check for updates independently of your package manager, and offer to download newer releases

Why no PPA's?
Most how-to's on this subject are dominated by Ubuntu users and most will tell you to install Firefox  through Mozilla's ppaubuntu-mozilla-daily, which will not only install the latest, gloriously unstable Firefox 25, but update it daily with an even more gloriously unstable build in  test versions! That's more pain that I need.

Alternatively you could go to the official Firefox Beta ppa: mozillateam firefox-next or firefox-next ppa which will replace your current Firefox installation with the current available version in the Mozillas Beta channel. or you could go to the Firefox Aurora ppa. I also have reservations about the versions in these ppa's, since what I want is a reliable, stable browser for everyday use.

Other Linux Versions
These instructions are also known to work on the following distributions:
  • Debian 6 "Squeeze"
  • Debian 7 "Wheezy"
  • Linux Mint 13 "Maya" LTS
  • Linux Mint 14 "Nadia"
  • Linux Mint 15 "Olivia"
  • Ubuntu 10.04 LTS "Lucid Lynx”
  • Ubuntu 12.04 LTS "Precise Pangolin"
  • Ubuntu 13.04 "Raring Ringtail" 
  • CentOS / Scientific Linux / RHEL 6.3 & 6.4

This is by no means definitive or exhaustive, but works for me. RC


  1. You should at least use checkinstall which generates a deb and also allows you to uninstall the package via your package manager.

  2. Cody, that is a far more robust and workmanlike solution than the above and I shall try that when I do this on another machine. I did say this was a hokey quick fix... Thanks. RC


At least try to be nice, it won't kill you...