Overall, I really like Apple’s iCloud service. Moving back to Apple after dropping MobileMe back in late 2009 has been relatively painless; The setup was simple, the service is automatic, and it’s free.
The two items I dig the most are iCal and Address Book syncing, both of which have worked flawlessly. Safari Bookmark syncing comes in a pretty close third, but getting them to sync cleanly has been somewhat of a bumpy road. In the last week, bookmarks have come and gone, been duplicated, deleted, returned, and finally gone away all together.
I’m sure Apple will create an easy way to manually flush bookmarks, but until then here’s how I got everything back in order by forcing a reset of iCloud:
1. Turn off Xmarks
I’ve used Xmarks since dropping MobileMe, and while I don’t know for sure, it’s possible that Xmarks could be the root cause. While it would be nice to keep syncing between Safari, Firefox, and Chrome, it’s more important for me to sync to an iPad and iPhone, so bye bye Xmarks. If you don’t use Xmarks then you can skip this step, of course.
2. Turn off iCloud bookmark sync on all devices
On every Mac, iPhone, iPad, iWhatever – I opened up iCloud preferences and turned off Bookmark Syncing. On the iPad and iPhone, the device asked to keep or delete bookmarks; I clicked delete.
3. Find the best bookmark backup you have
Safari bookmarks are all stored in a file called Bookmarks.plist, which is located at
User/Library/Safari/. If you don’t see the Library folder check out the article Permanently Show Library Folder in OS X Lion for an easy way to show it.
Using Time Machine I went back a few weeks to when my bookmarks were in somewhat decent shape and replaced the current Bookmarks.plist file with the older (better) one. If you don’t use Time Machine or other backup system then you’re SOL and will have to fix you bookmarks without this head start.
4. Correct bookmarks on your Mac and make a backup
If you’re lucky, your backup version of Bookmarks.plist will have gotten you most of the way to bookmark bliss. Make what ever changes you’d like in Safari, then make a backup. I did this by dragging the Bookmarks.plist file to the desktop. This will force Safari to create a new Bookmarks.plist file upon restart.
5. Delete bookmarks on all devices
Delete all bookmarks on every computer. iPhone and iPad bookmarks should have been deleted in step 2. If this seems counterintuitive, just remember, you’ve got a backup. Right?
6. Turn on iCloud Bookmark Syncing on your Mac
Once you enable Bookmark Syncing on your Mac, you’ll be prompted to ‘merge’ bookmarks with iCloud. This should flush the iCloud system. Or that’s the hope.
7. Restore bookmark backup file
Shut down Safari, and drag the good Bookmarks.plist backup file from the desktop back into
User/Library/Safari/ and restart Safari. In a minute or two iCloud should be updated with the latest bookmarks.
8. Turn on bookmark syncing on all devices
Restore syncing to each device, and wait for iCloud to update.
Issues you may run into
Going through these steps I ran into a few issues, and you may experience the same:
Deleting bookmarks would sometimes crash Safari
I had a ton of old bookmarks imported from systems past that seemed to hang Safari when I tried to delete them. I had to force quit and restart numerous times. All the old bookmark cruft is gone though!
Restoring bookmarks to all devices took some time and a little prodding
Once I turned syncing back on each device remained blank for quite some time. I’m not sure why but I was able to prod the system along by adding a fake bookmark on another device. This seemed to kick everything into gear and I was able to delete that fake bookmark on different device – which eventually deleted it across all devices.
I didn’t stumble across this info on my own, here’s a couple of articles that I used to pull my method together: