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How to reset the Opera web browser (and when you should)

The Opera web browser makes it easy to reset, should things go awry.
Written by Jack Wallen, Contributing Writer
Person using laptop
Jay Yuno/Getty Images

Back when I worked for a managed service provider, I spent probably 50% of my time troubleshooting web browsers, 40% of my time with printers, and 10% of my time wondering why web browsers and printers were so finicky.

The longer I spent working with web browsers and end users, the more I believed the issue was simply the combination of software that allows too much tinkering and end users who loved to tinker. Many times the problems began with an extension that shouldn't have been added (such as one of those nefarious coupon bars), which would lead to a corrupt user profile. 

Also: What is the Opera Personal News feature and how do you use it?

In the end, there was only one solution…start from scratch. Some users would be frustrated because they'd lose their open tabs, history, bookmarks, themes, extensions, and any other customizations that might have inadvertently led to the problem in the first place. Sometimes, I would install a different browser (especially if they were using an out-of-date version of Internet Explorer). However, most often the solution was to reset the browser to factory defaults.

Truth be told, I've had to do this on my own computer. But I tend to use beta or nightly versions, so I can see what's coming with the latest releases. So, imagine using a beta release of an application that is notorious for being, well, less than stable.

Also: How to use Opera's Speed Dial to quickly get to your favorite sites

You see, we ask our web browsers to do the impossible. We want them to always function (with accuracy, speed, and privacy), and all the while we're visiting site after site (many of which are poorly designed or so heavy with ads it's a miracle the pages even render). 

The result is our web browsers are constantly rendering and re-rendering ads, hit with a deluge of images, displaying video, and just generally handling more digital gymnastics than they should be able to handle. This overload makes it understandable that web browsers crash and burn. 

One way you can help fend this eventuality off is to regularly clear your browser's cache. When the browser cache grows too large, it can become slower to render pages and respond to input. 

To do that in Opera, click the O button in the top left corner and click History > Clear browsing data. In the resulting popup, keep Cached images and files checked and optionally uncheck Browing history and/or Cookies and other site data. Once you've made your choices, click Clear data and you're good to go. 

The Opera Clear browsing data window.

You can also select a time range for the data you want to delete.

Screenshot by Jack Wallen/ZDNET

Most often than not, clearing the cache will solve the problem that ails your browser. If not, you're probably going to have to do a browser reset.

What does a reset do?

Simply put, a browser reset removes all of your customizations, extensions, history, sign-ins, bookmarks…everything. 

Also: How to upgrade Opera connections from HTTP to HTTPS

Essentially, a reset puts you back to square one, as if you've started the browser for the first time.

I recommend signing up for a free Opera account that allows you to sync your tabs, bookmarks, history, and more. 

However, I tend to not enable the syncing of settings and passwords. If a setting is the cause of the problem, when you resync your browser with your Opera account, it'll just re-apply the setting and the problem will start all over again.

Once you've signed up for an Opera account, click the profile icon in the upper right corner, click Sync, and in the resulting window, select Customize sync, enable/disable the features you want to sync. After taking care of that, close out the Settings window.

The Opera Synchronization configuration window.

I wouldn't recommend syncing everything to your account.

Screenshot by Jack Wallen/ZDNET

With that taken care of, it's time to reset Opera.

How to reset Opera

What you'll need: The only thing you'll need for this is an updated and running instance of the Opera browser. 

1. Open Opera

The first thing to do is open Opera. If Opera will not open, you might have to rename a folder (more on that in a bit).

2. Open the Update and Recovery window

Click the O button in the upper left corner and click Update and Recovery.  

3. Open the Reset dialogue

In the resulting window, click Recover.

The Opera Recovery button.

Only start this process when you're certain nothing else will work.

Screenshot by Jack Wallen/ZDNET

4. Select your option

In the Recovery popup, I would suggest you first select Keep my data and only reset Opera settings. Once you've made the section, click Recover and Opera will do its thing. If, however, you find that part reset doesn't solve the problem, go back to the Recovery window, select Reset my data and Opera settings (which does a full reset).

The Opera Recovery options window.

I would suggest going with the first option before deleting everything.

Screenshot by Jack Wallen/ZDNET

Once you re-open Opera, it'll be as though you just installed the browser. You can then log into your Opera account, resync the browser, and you should be good to go.

What if Opera doesn't start?

I've seen this happen more times than you might think. Most of the time, the problem is a corrupt profile and can be fixed by renaming a directory. 

Also: How to enable tracker blocking in Opera One 

In doing so, you lose all of your customizations and cached data. But if you can't get Opera to start, it can be used as a last resort.

But where are these directories that need to be deleted? The answer is here:

  • Linux: /home/<username>/.config/opera
  • macOS: /Users/<username>/Library/Application Support/com.operasoftware.Opera
  • Windows: C:\Users\<username>\AppData\Roaming\Opera Software\Opera Stable

Where <username> is the username you use to log in.

Do not delete the directory but, rather, rename it. With that done, you should be able to start Opera and it will be as if you've also done a reset.

And that's how you take Opera back to its factory-fresh settings.

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