I would like to install Firefox v52 ESR on Ubuntu 16.04 in order to access a legacy Java applet. The current version Firefox 60 ESR no longer allows me to do that.

In effect, I would like to apt-get install firefox-esr=52.5.3esr+build1-0ubuntu0.16.04.1 from deb http://ppa.launchpad.net/mozillateam/ppa/ubuntu xenial main, but the version is apparently no longer available from this PPA.

How can I get hold of an older version of an Ubuntu package in a case like this?

  1. See this Mozilla article about installing an old version. They go through a page of reasons why it's a bad idea because it is insecure, and a host of alternatives. They even recommend going to a competitive browser rather than downgrade.

  2. Verify that your legacy add-on is still available and supported (many add-on developers dropped legacy support and either re-coded for the new standard or threw in the towel).

  3. Just to toss this out there, there are some Firefox spin-offs that still support the legacy add-ons but are maintained so as not to be sitting ducks for exploits. The popular options are Waterfox, Pale Moon, and Basilisk. There is some basic coverage of these options here

  4. Assuming you know all of the risks and are still intent on sticking with an old Firefox, read the part in the first link about disabling automatic updates. I had my system locked into v52 ESR for the same reason as you, and thought I had disabled updates. However, when ESR updated to v60, it ignored my settings and updated anyway. After you download it and before you install it, disconnect from the Internet until you get it installed and have turned off automatic updates. Keep the downloaded package so you can reinstall, just in case.

  5. You will likely need to get this in the form of a tarball from Mozilla. The directory of previous releases is here. You mention v52.5.3 ESR. It isn't clear if you need that specific version or that was just what Ubuntu previously had in their repository. Mozilla offers every minor release of v52, the final one being v52.9.0 ESR. That would be the most "up-to-date" version.

  6. It is a trivial installation and doesn't use the package manager. The instructions from Mozilla are here. These are the basic steps:

  1. Download Firefox from the Firefox download page to your home directory.
  2. Open a Terminal and go to your home directory: cd ~
  3. Extract the contents of the downloaded file: tar xjf firefox-*.tar.bz2
  4. Close Firefox if it's open.
  5. To start Firefox, run the firefox script in the firefox folder: ~/firefox/firefox

    Firefox should now start. You can then create an icon on your desktop to run this command.

If your system menu doesn't launch the new installation, edit the menu. Go to the Firefox entry and point it to the new installation start script.

If the icon in the system tray or desktop still points to the previous installation, you can delete those icons and create new ones from the menu entry.


This is extension of fixer1234's answer with some shell scripts.

There are two main URL to download Firefox package directly. These can be also viewed from a browser.

  1. http://ftp.mozilla.org/pub/firefox/releases/
  2. http://download-installer.cdn.mozilla.net/pub/firefox/releases/

First download the package with wget or curl then extract that tarball package with tar command. Here is a sample shell script:

cd ~
wget http://ftp.mozilla.org/pub/firefox/releases/$Version/$Arch/$Lang/$File 
tar --extract --bzip2 --file=$File
cd firefox

This installation procedure may overwrite previous installed Firefox profile. Also the Firefox binary may not be visible in any desktop manager menu. Firefox depends on some libraries, check/install those with apt-get install libgtk-3-0 libdbus-glib-1-2 libxt6 command before executing Firefox.

  • Ah, yes. Support for the CLI users! Just a couple of observations for readers. 1. The packaged versions are different for deb and rpm based distros, so Arch would use a different package than Ubuntu, and some people may be used to seeing that. In the script, Arch is just a variable name. For the tarballs, all Linux distros use the same tarball (although there are different ones for different computer architectures; the x86_64 is for 64 bit systems). Also note the need to specify the desired minor release number in the second line; (cont'd) – fixer1234 Jan 10 '19 at 11:21
  • 52.0 was the first v52 release, the last was 52.9.0. So recognize that the script might need some minor tweaking, hence sample script. 2. The libraries mentioned in the last paragraph should already be there if Firefox was previously installed. 3. To avoid any risk of your profile being overwritten, you can temporarily rename the existing directory. The profiles are in /home/username/.mozilla/firefox/profile_folders. Rename that firefox directory to something like firefox_old. After installation, you can reuse the the current folder. – fixer1234 Jan 10 '19 at 11:21

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