If you've read my columns for a while you might have noticed that synchronization duplicates have been the bane of my existence. I've experienced duplicate contact problems in Outlook 2011 as well as duplicate data issues in Google Drive - it's never pretty cleaning up these issues but hopefully the advice in this article can be helpful if you find yourself running afoul of a duplicate Google Chrome synchronization problem. Note this might help with bookmarks, extensions, history or anything else you're having problems with.
The background of the problem
As a background, I use multiple systems (two desktops at work and home as well as two laptops) and had an add-on called "Xmarks" set up to synchronize my bookmarks (which number about 450 total) among Firefox and Chrome using the respective add-ons for each.
I had the Google Chrome bookmark sync turned off at this point (I'll explain where to turn this on or off below) so as to not make things too confusing; the goal was to let Xmarks handle synchronization on its own.
I found Xmarks worked fine with just Firefox in the recipe, but unfortunately once I added Chrome into the mix I found a seemingly never-ending parade of duplicate bookmarks piling up on all my systems. Figure A shows what I would generally see every time the problem exploded.
Each time I deleted all my bookmarks and restored them from backup. Then there would be a next time.
At first I thought Xmarks was to blame, since the duplicate bookmarks also showed when I logged directly into my Xmarks account, and even deleting them there didn't seem to do anything. I removed Xmarks from my browsers and switched Google Chrome bookmark sync on by accessing chrome://settings in the browser, clicking the "Advanced sync settings" button and checking off "Bookmarks." (Figure B)
Unfortunately, this didn't work either - I kept encountering duplicate bookmarks, and what was odd was seeing deleted bookmarks - which had been gone from all my computers - mysteriously reappear like a scene from "The Sixth Sense."
I cleaned out the duplicates, exported my known good set of bookmarks to an html file and turned off Google Chrome bookmark sync. However, this meant I had to export my bookmarks every time I made a change and reimport them on all my systems. I put up with this for a bit since I had other priorities to wade through. Finally just before leaving on my trip I thought: "This is ridiculous. Technology is supposed to solve problems, not create them." I knew I'd be adding a lot of links at the conference and wanted one less chore on my to-do list, so I began digging into the issue to see what I could do.
Looking for the fix
Based on some quick research, I checked my Chrome Sync settings to see what sort of data was being synchronized from Google's servers among my various computers. You can do the same at https://www.google.com/settings/chrome/sync. Here's what I saw. (Figure C)
Everything looked normal to me - except the "Open Tabs" and "Bookmarks" fields - Google thought I had seventeen times as many bookmarks as I really possessed, even after multiple deletions and manual imports on all my computers. I knew I had nowhere near that level of open tabs, being conservative about the ones I use.
Clearly it was time to flush everything out and start over. I did this by clicking the "Stop and Clear" button in the lower left, which invoked the prompt shown in Figure D.
I clicked OK. Then to be on the safe side I waited several hours as the box indicated. When I returned to the Google Chrome Sync settings page I observed Figure E.
I signed into Chrome which brought me to the Advanced Sync settings dialog. (Figure F)
Once I clicked OK, I checked out the Google Chrome Sync settings page once more and beheld the following. (Figure G)
This seemed like a good sign; synchronization had started according to that count of "2" in the "Bookmarks" field. I waited a couple of days and checked my various computers, testing the process by adding new bookmarks and removing obsolete ones. Everything seemed to work successfully and my Chrome Sync settings currently show the appropriate figures (I have added over 60 bookmarks since the problem appeared resolved). (Figure H)
Wow, I guess luck really is with me in Vegas! Maybe it's time to visit the roulette table.What else can I try if this doesn't work?
If the above steps don't help you, you might also try forcing synchronization in Chrome.
Go to chrome://settings. (Figure I)
Click "Disconnect your Google account" (if this option is greyed out it may be due to the fact the setting is enforced by your administrator, with whom you should discuss this problem); a yellow diamond with what appears to be a black necktie in the middle of it will be shown next to the button. (Figure J)
Assuming you can click "Disconnect your Google Account" you'll see the confirmation box shown in Figure K.
Click "Disconnect account." The Chrome settings page will appear as follows. (Figure L)
Wait a bit to ensure the changes take effect then restart Chrome.
Access chrome://settings again, then click "Sign in to Chrome" to connect your account once more.
You'll be prompted to choose what to sync. (Figure M)
Leave the defaults (unless there is a category which you do NOT want to sync) and click "OK."
Repeat this process for every system on which you are signed into Chrome. Hopefully everything will begin evening out among your bookmarks and/or data.
I also found a good tip for Android users in the Google Chrome forums describing an issue with Android phones causing duplicate bookmarks. The poster, JL King, stated:
"The Android browser (called "Internet" on Samsung phones) has been known to cause duplicates. I recommend the following:
Access Android Settings | [accounts] | Google | select your account name
Scroll down and uncheck "Sync Internet"
This should prevent new duplicates. Then you'll need to clean up the existing duplicates, which might be easier from a desktop:
Open Chrome from a computer on which you're signed into that same account.
Type chrome://bookmarks into the Omnibox
Find your Mobile Bookmarks folder in the left nav.
Select the duplicates and delete.
As an alternative to the last four steps, there are several bookmark management extensions in the Chrome Web Store that will automatically find and delete duplicates."
I got curious about the extensions mentioned in the post above and found an add-on for Chrome called Bookmark Sentry. I installed it in Chrome then accessed chrome://extensions to configure it. (Figure N)
I clicked "Options" underneath "Bookmark Sentry (scanner). (Figure O)
The extension is ad-supported, but you can turn the ad option off (albeit by checking a box that states "I don't want to support you," which seems to be a bit of a tearjerker).
You can set the scanning frequency and the options (check for duplicates / check for bad links / check for duplicates and bad links). I left the default of "Check for bad links & duplicates" and ran it. The add-on showed me some bad links but no duplicates (it does not actually appear to say "No duplicates found!" but I tested it by adding a duplicate of my "Deploy Google apps" bookmark and reran the scan). (Figure P)
There doesn't seem to be a way to prevent duplicates from occurring on a proactive basis, but this add-on can be quite helpful if you're experiencing hassles of this nature and need to comb through various bookmark folders and eliminate any extras.Other resources
Google offers a page discussing the synchronization setup process which is worth reviewing. They also have a support page on troubleshooting synchronization issues. Finally, there is also a Google Chrome forum where problems can be reported and discussed.
Scott Matteson is a senior systems administrator and freelance technical writer who also performs consulting work for small organizations. He resides in the Greater Boston area with his wife and three children.