Safari Bookmarks Disappeared: What to Do?
Have you recently updated your iOS or macOS? It’s common to find that your Safari bookmarks disappear after an update. Naturally, it’s upsetting—most users collect important websites and files in their bookmarks, or simply their favorite sites to visit.
Luckily, it’s nothing to be worried about—retrieving them is not that complicated. You can even restore a bookmark that you accidentally deleted, or fix issues with iCloud syncing. This article will show you details on how to get your Favorites back in Safari.
Jump to the device where you want to fix the bookmarks:
Before you do anything else, rule out any issues with the system. Check Apple’s System Status Page and see if there are any problems associated with bookmarks—look for red circles next to the heading iCloud Bookmarks & Tabs or iCloud backup. If that doesn’t seem to be an issue, close Safari before you try any troubleshooting steps.
If you’ve lost your Favorites before or accidentally deleted one, make sure you’re not left unprotected in the future by making copies.
Safari bookmarks gone on a Mac
1. Restore from bookmarks library in Finder
.plist files that store the bookmark data on your device can get corrupted when you force quit your Mail app. This will cause the bookmarks on your Mac, iPhone, or iPad to disappear. This is because the Mail app and Safari share the same bookmarks library—hence, when one crashes, the other is affected. Note that your Top Sites are not affected by this event as the Top Sites files are kept in a different folder.
The Mail app may crash if you don’t have enough free memory space on your device. On a Mac, go to Apple Menu → About Your Mac → Storage to check. On an iPad or an iPhone, follow Settings → General → iPhone/iPad Storage. If you find that there is little storage left, clean up unnecessary files.
Random-access memory is a type of memory on your MacBook that stores immediate data on your computer. Lack of RAM may cause a kernel panic, apps crashing, and the computer working slowly. Check whether your Mac is using RAM efficiently—on a MacBook, go to Applications → Utilities → Activity Monitor → Memory tab. In the bottom pane, look at the Memory Pressure graph. A green graph indicates efficient use whereas yellow and red ones show that your Mac may need a RAM update soon.
To avoid repeating Mail app crashes you can manually reinstall the app. On an iPhone or an iPad, go to Settings → General → iPhone/iPad storage and scroll down until you see Mail. Click “Offload the App”—don’t worry, your data will be safely stored on the cloud. When the process is finished, reinstall the app.
If you think that your Safari bookmarks are gone after a Mail app crash, it’s easy enough to fix it.
How to restore corrupted .plist files:
1. Open Finder and go to MacBook Pro/Air folder → Macintosh HD
2. Press Command (⌘) + Shift + . (dot) to reveal hidden folders and files. This shortcut was made available by Apple in macOS Sierra. If you have an older version of the operating system, go to Terminal and paste chflags nohidden ~/Library to get the files
3. From the menu on top of the screen, click on Go and select Go to Folder
4. Paste ~/Library/Safari/Bookmarks.plist and hit Enter to open the hidden Bookmarks library
5. Press and hold the Option key and simultaneously drag the Bookmarks.plist file to another location on your Mac. This will create a copy of the file while keeping the original in its initial location
6. Check that the bookmarks are back in place now
2. Use Time Machine
Time Machine is Apple’s own default tool that allows you to back up your data and restore lost files. You can use it to get your Favorites back in Safari.
How to fix Safari Favorites disappeared with Time Machine:
- First, you need to unhide the hidden Library folder in Finder—follow the guide from the previous section;
- Click on Go in the menu on top of the screen and select Go to Folder
- Paste ~/Library/Safari and hit enter to open the hidden Safari folder
- Now open Time Machine. Launch Spotlight (Control + Space) and type in Time Machine to find the app
- Once Time Machine is open, you’ll be able to browse the hidden Safari folder over time. Find the time around which you think your bookmarks were deleted
- Right-click on the Bookmarks file and select “Restore” from the drop-down menu
3. Turn on iCloud bookmarks and update your software
You can access your lost bookmarks from iCloud. Make sure that it’s on and that your software is up to date—outdated macOS can create system bugs and security breaches that may cause your Safari Favorites to disappear.
How to turn on iCloud bookmarks:
1. Go to Apple menu → System Preferences in the menu on top of the screen
2. In macOS Mojave or earlier, click on the iCloud heading in the third pane. If you see that you’re not signed in, make sure to do that
3. If you’re using macOS Catalina, choose Apple ID and then go to iCloud
4. In the panel on the right, check the box next to Safari.
You can use iCloud to retrieve deleted Bookmarks if you visit the iCloud website. Simply sign in to your account and go to Account Settings. Scroll down to the bottom of the page and look for the Advanced heading in the bottom left corner. Click on Restore Bookmarks to see all the recently deleted links.
To update your operating system, go to Apple menu → System Preferences → Software Update. If an update is available, click on the Upgrade Now button. You can also choose to have automatic updates by checking the box at the bottom of the window.
4. Check your internet connection
If the internet connection is faulty on your Mac, iCloud won’t sync properly. This may cause your bookmarks to disappear in Safari.
To check internet connection on a Mac:
- Quit and reopen the browser. Try going to a website or searching for something
- Check your Wi-Fi connection. Go to Apple menu → System Preferences → Network—look for the confirmation of the status of your Wi-Fi
- If you’re using a hotspot, make sure the password is correct and that the transmitting device has a good signal itself
5. Check your account details
iCloud synchronizes data across all of your Apple devices that use the same Apple ID. If you have several Apple IDs, it’s possible that one of your devices is not included in the network and you don’t see your usual Safari bookmarks. To check that your Mac is signed in to the same Apple ID as your other Apple devices, go to Apple menu → System Preferences → iCloud. If you use macOS Catalina, go to Apple ID in System Preferences instead.
6. Turn off iCloud bookmarks and turn it back on
Rebooting iCloud will force it to synchronize the data shared between your Apple devices again, hence it restores your disappeared Safari bookmarks. You don’t have to restart the entire iCloud, it’s sufficient to just turn Safari syncing off and on. To do that, go to Apple menu → System Preferences → iCloud and deselect the box next to Safari. Wait a few seconds and check the box again. In macOS Catalina, you’ll find these settings in the Apple ID section.
7. Restart your computer
Restarting your Mac often solves a lot of issues, including Safari bookmarks being gone. Open the Apple menu and choose Restart, or simply hold down the power button to see a pop-up window with the option to restart your computer. You can also hold the power button for longer to shut the Mac down completely and start it up again. Learn what to do if your Mac won’t shut down.
Bookmarks not displaying in the correct order?
If you have more than 500 bookmarks in Safari, they might not display in the same order on all of your Apple devices. If, however, the issue doesn’t seem to arise from that, there is a way to restore the desired sequence.
To sync bookmarks in a particular order across all of your devices:
1. Use Time Machine to back up all of your data
2. On your Mac, go to Apple menu → System Preferences → iCloud and untick the box next to Safari to disable synchronization
3. On your iOS devices, go to Settings → your Apple ID → iCloud → slide the bar next to Safari to the left to turn it off
4. Open the Bookmarks window on your Mac and rearrange them in the desired order;
5. From the menu on top of the screen, go to File → Export Bookmarks and choose where to save them on your Mac
6. Delete all the bookmarks from your browser
7. Re-enable iCloud Safari sync in your Mac and iPhone/iPad settings. This will make the empty bookmark pane available on all devices
8. In the menu on top of the screen, go to the File menu again and select Import from → Bookmarks HTML file. Select the file you saved earlier
9. Now your bookmarks will be restored and synchronized across all your devices in the correct order
iPhone/iPad bookmarks disappeared
iOS users often complain that their iPhone or iPad bookmarks are suddenly gone, especially after an update to a newer version of the operating system. Luckily, there are a few simple things you can try.
1. Repair iPhone/iPad bookmarks gone in iOS 9 and newer
To perform a full restart of Safari in a new iOS:
- Swipe up/double-press the home button to open your recently used applications
- Swipe until you see Safari. Close the app
- Restart your device
- Relaunch Safari
2. Repair iPhone/iPad bookmarks gone in iOS 8 and older
To perform a full restart of Safari in an old iOS:
- Double-press the home button to open your recently used applications at the bottom of the screen
- Swipe right until you see Safari
- Hold the Safari icon until it starts moving. Press on the red minus sign
- Quit the recently viewed apps by pressing the home button
- Restart your device
- Relaunch Safari
3. Turn on bookmarks and update your device
Make sure that synchronization is turned on on your iOS device—maybe you’ve switched off iCloud sync with your Mac, which caused iPhone bookmarks to disappear. Go to Settings → Your Apple ID → iCloud. If the slider next to Safari is grey, swipe it right to switch in on.
Install the latest version of the operating system supported by your device to avoid any system lags. If an update is available, you should see a notification marked by a red circle in Settings. To check, go to Settings → General → Software Update. Make sure your device is connected to power output to enable upgrading.
4. Check your date and time
Date and time set incorrectly may cause Favorites to disappear on your iPhone or iPad. You can set them automatically based on your time zone and location. Go to Settings → General → Date and Time. Swipe the slider next to “Set Automatically” or choose them manually.
5. Check your internet connection
Poor internet connection will affect your iCloud syncing and can cause Safari bookmarks to disappear. To check the quality of your signal, open the browser, and try going to a secure website. Try to reload your data or Wi-Fi connection if there is no network. Restart your phone if that doesn’t work.
6. Check your account details
If your iOS device is signed in to a different Apple ID than your other Apple devices, the Bookmarks won’t be synchronized between them. To check if you’re using the same Apple ID on your iPhone or iPad, go to Settings → Apple ID.
7. Turn off iCloud bookmarks and turn it back on
Sometimes you may just need to re-initiate iCloud syncing by turning it off and back on again. Go to Settings → General → Your Apple ID → iCloud. Swipe the slider next to Safari to the left to turn the syncing off. Wait a few seconds and slide it right to turn back on.
8. Restart your device
Restart your iPhone or iPad by holding the power button on the right side of the device. A menu will appear—tap on Restart.
9. Perform a forced restart
If simply restarting your device doesn’t change anything, you can try force restarting it.
How to force restart:
On iPhone 8, 8 Plus, X, 11, 11 Pro, 11 Pro Max: press the volume up button, press the volume down button, then hold the power button until you see the Apple logo;
- On iPhone 7 and 7 Plus: hold the power button and the volume down button until you see the Apple logo;
- On iPhone 6s and earlier, iPad: hold the home button and the power button until you see the Apple logo.
Where are Safari bookmarks stored?
Safari bookmarks are stored in a hidden folder called ~/Library/Safari/Bookmarks.plist on your Mac’s hard disk. You can only reveal it with a special shortcut.
How do I export bookmarks for safekeeping?
Open Safari and click on File in the top menu. Select “Export Bookmarks” and choose a location on your Mac in the window that appears.