How to deploy and manage Firefox in your organization

Follow these steps to install the Firefox Extended Support Release version. Also, learn how to manage Firefox via Group Policy.

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Image: FIrefox

You want to use Mozilla Firefox as your main browser or as an alternate browser at your organization, but you also want to standardize on Firefox's features and settings. To deploy the browser to your users, you can turn to the Firefox Extended Support Release (ESR), which is specifically designed for organizations. And to manage Firefox after it's been deployed, you can download Mozilla's Group Policy templates and use Group Policy to apply, maintain, and modify your Firefox settings for your users.

The Firefox Extended Support Release is an official version of Firefox created for organizations and businesses that need to deploy and manage the browser for a large environment. Firefox's ESR version doesn't include the latest features, but it does come with the latest security and stability updates. With the Firefox ESR edition, you can also freely access community support, a self-service knowledge base, and publicly submit bug reports. For a certain fee per installation, you can opt for a much higher level of support, if needed.

SEE: How to protect against 10 common browser threats (free PDF) (TechRepublic)  

To learn more about the Firefox Extended Support Release, browse to Mozilla's page Get Firefox for your enterprise. Click the download button. At the next page, choose the download package based on your environment--Windows 32-bit, Windows 64-bit, or Mac--and click on its download button. Extract the downloaded ZIP file.

The extracted files contain exe and msi installation files for the latest supported ESR version of Firefox, a PDF-based deployment guide, and a zip file for the Group Policy templates, which we'll cover in a bit (Figure A).

Figure A

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Open and read the deployment guide to familiarize yourself with the process. The guide is a brief one with only a few pages, but it contains links to web pages with more detailed information.

When you're ready, run the appropriate exe or msi file on your test PC to install the version you want. You can then open Firefox and review the various features and commands. (Figure B).

Figure B

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You should also click on the tab for the Firefox Privacy Notice and read the information to learn about the privacy features and settings in this version of the browser (Figure C).

Figure C

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Next, you'll want to add and review the Group Policy settings. You can use the policy template files that you just downloaded; however, Mozilla recommends that you download and use the files from its GitHub site, as they sometimes contain changes and updates not found in the other downloaded version. Browse to Mozilla's GitHub site for Firefox ESR Policy Templates to download and extract the correct policy templates ZIP file for your version of Firefox.

Go to the downloaded and extracted files from GitHub and extract the ZIP for the policy templates. Drill down through the extracted files for the templates until you find the firefox.admx and mozilla.admx. You'll also see folders for your language and region, which contain the language-based ADML files (Figure D).

Figure D

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Next, you'll need to copy the ADMX files from its downloaded folder to the appropriate folder or container for your Group Policy administration. If you use a Central Store for Group Policy, the steps are different than if you use a single PC or a handful of computers with locally stored templates. The Microsoft Support article on How to create and manage the Central Store for Group Policy Administrative Templates in Windows explains the Central Store option. I'll cover the option for using the templates locally.

The local Group Policy templates are stored at C:\Windows\PolicyDefinitions. Open that folder in a separate window. Copy or move the firefox.admx and mozilla.admx to that folder (Figure E).

Figure E

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In the C:\Windows\PolicyDefinitions folder, open the subfolder for your language and region, such as en-US. Open the same language and region folder in the extracted template folders. Copy or move the firefox.adml and mozilla.adml files to the same subfolder in C:\Windows\PolicyDefinitions (Figure F).

Figure F

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Open your local Group Policy editor by typing gpedit.msc in the search field. The Firefox template files are stored under Computer Configuration and under User Configuration. To view the ones under Computer Configuration, go to the following location: Computer Configuration | Administrative Templates | Mozilla | Firefox. You'll find subfolders and settings for the different Firefox options (Figure G).

Figure G

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To view and work with the templates under User Configuration, go to User Configuration | Administrative Templates | Mozilla | Firefox (Figure H).

Figure H

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Mozilla offers online resources to help you deploy Firefox's ESR version and manage it through Group Policy. Check out the Firefox for Enterprise Support site for the knowledge base and community forum, and the GitHub readme page for help on understanding and managing the Group Policy settings.

Also see