Firefox Login with the primary account issue

AKA Mr. Prosser’s Display Department

Greetings from the Couch
Sep 17 · 4 min read

Covid-19 has been great for getting lots of background tasks finally sorted out.

I’ve tagged all my music, I’ve cut cardboard and assembled cat scratching posts, I’ve even managed to finally sort out my backups.

Last night I decided I’d perform a Windows reinstall on my Surface Pro 4.

The reinstall went well, and I started reinstalling software.

The creepiness began when I tried logging into my Firefox account.

The ghost of passwords past.

So, about 2 years ago, I changed all my user names, email addresses and passwords. I’m using BitWarden for password management by the way.

This included my firefox account.

I mention this because every time I completed the login process, the old username appeared.

  • I started with the new email address as username.
  • I entered the new password
  • I copied/pasted AND typed the confirmation code.

At which point, Firefox did this:

  • Displayed a red message that I needed to use the Primary email address to login
  • Substituted a very old email address as the username.

So I recreated the old email address and tried to get a password reset.

At which poing Firefox said I’d tried to reset the password too many times.

Well that’s a bit worrying

Had I been hacked? Was I being hacked? Had Firefox been hacked?

What, in fact, was going on?

To the Knowledgebase, Batbloke!

Firefox has an extensive online help/knowledgebase system. It also has a bug reporting system.

The online help didn’t. The only article I found on “Firefox account issues” was for new accounts and covered creation, confirmation and login.

But there was a support system

Which you have to login to.

How ironic.

And completely useless. Adding to the metallic taste is that the support system used to have standalone email accounts, and they have been retired in favour of an all-powerful Firefox account.

Well, I say “all-powerful”; not in my case of course.

The solution is not immediately obvious

So, to summarize:

  • I’ve tried logging in.
  • I’ve tried getting a password reset to a long abandoned account that Firefox has resurrected and is jangling chains menacingly at me
  • I’ve tried looking in their knowledgebase and found nothing
  • I can’t login to report the issue because I can’t login.

By this point I’m feeling like Arthur Dent trying to find the plans for the bypass that’s going to demolish his home. To refresh your memory, his exchange with Mr. Prosser, who has come to build the bypass runs like this:

Arthur: I eventually had to go down to the cellar.

Prosser: That’s the Display Department.

Arthur: With a torch.

ProsserL Well, the lights had probably gone.

Arthur: So had the stairs.

Prosser: Well you found the plans.

Arthur. Oh yes. They were on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet, stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying “Beware of the Lepoard”!

Beware of the leopard!

I had one more toss of the dice. I knew there was a developers forum:

I created an account, hoping I’d get a solution, but not sure if it was available.

The process was relatively simple, and I was able to login.

Then I tried a search:

firefox account old email

This gave me two results, one of which wasn’t what I was looking for, but the other had potential solution thanks to a Jon Buckley who said this:

…I think this is a known bug where your primary email address is cached within the browser. I think you should be able to resolve this by visiting and attempting to sign in again…

And it turns out I didn’t have to create an account, but how was I to know?

The problem and solution

… that only took 2 hours of my time.


  • Login to Firefox account fails after entering verification code with error “You must use your primary email”


Was it caching issue though?

The problem appears solved, however, I’m not convinced it’s a caching issue. Why? Because it occurred on a clean install of Windows 10, and a new install of Firefox.

I can also discount the possibility it was cached within the Microsoft account I’m using on the rebuilt machine. That’s because I used the same Microsoft account when I reinstalled Windows 10 on another machine a couple of weeks ago.

In short, this was an extremely weird waste of 2 hours of my life.

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