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:
Thanks for a great post!
The step where you manually delta all duplicated bookmarks is all good if you have a few dozen duplicates. I had thousand and thousands of duplicates, some even triplicates. The trick I used was to find the app called Safari Prairiefire. It was $6 and it found all duplicates and allowed me to delete them easily. Of course, it doesn\’t take care of syncing etc but at least it made it easy to clean up the bookmarks list.
I had the same problem due to years of upgrading, using Xmarks (previously FoxMarks), multiple computers (Mac and PC., and generally just bookmarking way too many things.
This is how I fixed my issue:
my.xmarks.com -> Tools -> Duplicate Bookmarks
Then, as your instructions keep 1 master copy (On my Mac), and delete everything else everywhere.
(Thanks for the post 🙂
Lastly I\’d like to add:
Preventing Bookmark Overload:
Tip 1: Only Bookmark if it is an ONLINE TOOL
Tip 2: If it is INFORMATION on the page that you need for future reference paste it to EVERNOTE
(This way the information will be at your disposal, even if the website goes down…)
So, in a couple of years we\’ll see a post on how to delete duplicates in evernote..
Thanks for the tips on preventing bookmark overload. I especially like #2 about Evernote. I keep my Evernote system pretty clean – deleting information once I no longer need it. I can see how it can get overloaded as well though 🙂 – Thanks for your comments.
Thank you, thank you, thank you (and that is the only thing that is duplicated now).
Thank you! This solved my problem. 🙂
Unfortunately for me ,all of my backups have the bookmarks.plist hidden. I can\’t change that in the backup files, only in my current version where I can see the short bookmarks left after the big erase. The bookmarks are gone. Thanks Apple.
If you deleted your bookmark and don\’t have itunes backup, you may try iphone data recovery tool. Which can recover the bookmars by scanning your device. And it can also retrieve data from iCloud backup file.
Yesterday, (Aug 3th), the bookmarks on my iPhone 4 were fine. This morning they were gone. I rebooted the phone at around noon PST, and the bookmarks were still gone. I rebooted again just now, (1:00PM PST), and my bookmarks are back. I made no other changes of any kind yesterday or today. Hope this helps.
Thanks for every other wonderful article. Where else
could anybody get that kind of info in such a
perfect approach of writing? I have a presentation subsequent week, and I am on the search for such
Oh cool. A presentation on removing bookmarks from iCloud. Bet you pack the house!
I’ve gone through this process 3 times and iCloud is officially destroyed my ability to use Safari. Now that I’ve managed to purge bookmarks from Safari in iCloud, it continually overrides my mac os x safari no matter how many times I sign out of iCloud safari & merge my restored bookmarks. Every time I repair my Safari bookmarks then sign back into iCloud, agree to merge, iCloud wipes out my bookmarks again. Toast. Now I have to switch to a new browser. Since iCloud already destroyed my Reminders sync ability when they upgraded without warning, Safari was the only reason i had left to use the Apple ecosystem. Now it’s done. My next device will be NOT apple.
Sorry you’re having such trouble with iCloud. Given that this post is pushing 10 years old, I can’t guarantee any of the techniques work. I can suggest that you make sure your bookmarks are cleared across all devices, but you’ve probably tried that. Best of luck with which ever platform you migrate to. Let us know if it works better 🙂