Back up or Move Your Safari Bookmarks to a New Mac

Easily back up or share your bookmarks with any Mac you use

You can use Safari's Bookmarks Manager to import, export, or back up bookmarks. The tool is useful for moving our bookmarks from one Mac computer to another, though it has some limitations.

The Import option brings your bookmarks into Safari as a folder full of bookmarks, but they cannot be accessed from the Bookmarks menu or from the Bookmarks Bar. Instead, you have to open the Bookmarks manager, sort through the imported bookmarks, and manually put them where you want them.

If you want to avoid this tedium and be able to back up and restore your Safari bookmarks without the sorting hassle, you can. This method will allow you to move your Safari bookmarks to a new Mac.

Safari Bookmarks: Where Are They?

Illustration of bookmarks between two Safari logos on monitors
Lifewire / Miguel Co

Safari stores your bookmarks as a plist (property list) file named Bookmarks.plist. It is located under Home Directory/Library/Safari. Bookmarks are stored on a per-user basis, with each user having their own bookmarks file. If you have multiple accounts on your Mac and want to back up or move all of the bookmarks files, you will need to access the above directory location for each user.

With OS X Lion, Apple started hiding the Home Directory/Library folder, but you can still access the folder in a variety of ways. Once you gain access to the Library folder, you can proceed with the instructions below.

Backup Safari Bookmarks

To back up your Safari bookmarks, you need to copy the Bookmarks.plist file to a new location. You can do this in one of two ways.

  1. Open a Finder window and navigate to Home Directory/Library/Safari.

  2. Hold down the option key and drag the Bookmarks.plist file to another location. By holding down the option key, you ensure that a copy is made and that the original stays in the default location.

    Bookmarks.plist file in Safari folder on Mac

The other way to back up the Bookmarks.plist file is to right-click the file and select Compress "Bookmarks.plist from the pop-up menu. This will create a file named Bookmarks.plist.zip, which you can move anywhere on your Mac without affecting the original.

Restoring Your Safari Bookmarks

All you need to restore your Safari bookmarks is to have a backup of the Bookmarks.plist file available. If the backup is in the compressed or zip format, you will need to double-click the Bookmarks.plist.zip file to decompress it first.

  1. Quit Safari, if the application is open.

  2. Copy the Bookmarks.plist file you backed up earlier to Home Directory/Library/Safari.

  3. A warning message will display: "An item named "Bookmarks.plist" already exists in this location. Do you want to replace it with the one you're moving?" Select Replace.

    Replace button in Copy dialog box on Mac
  4. Once you restore the Bookmarks.plist file, you can launch Safari. All your bookmarks will be present, just where they were when you backed them up. No importing and sorting required.

Moving Safari Bookmarks to a New Mac

Moving your Safari bookmarks to a new Mac is essentially the same as restoring them. The only difference is that you will need a way to bring the Bookmarks.plist file to your new Mac.

Because the Bookmarks.plist file is small, you can easily email it to yourself. Other options are to move the file across a network, store it in the cloud using a storage solution such as Dropbox or iCloud, or put it on a USB flash drive or external hard drive.

Once you have the Bookmarks.plist file on your new Mac, use the steps outlined above to make your bookmarks available.

iCloud Bookmarks

If you have an Apple ID, you can take advantage of iCloud's bookmarks feature to sync Safari bookmarks across multiple Macs and iOS devices. To gain access to the iCloud-synced bookmarks, you need to set up an iCloud account on each Mac or iOS device that you wish to share bookmarks between. 

For sharing bookmarks, make sure there is a checkmark next to the Safari item in the list of iCloud services. As long as you're signed in to your iCloud account on each Mac or iOS device you're using, you should have all of your Safari bookmarks available across multiple devices and platforms.

When you add a bookmark on one device, the bookmark will appear on all devices; more importantly, if you delete a bookmark on one device, all the devices that are synced via iCloud Safari bookmarks will also remove that bookmark.

Using Safari Bookmarks on Other Macs or PCs

If you travel a lot, you may want to bring along your Safari bookmarks. There are multiple ways to do this. One method is to store your bookmarks in the cloud, so you can access them from anywhere you have an internet connection. This is helpful when you need to access your bookmarks from a public computer.

When you use Safari's Export Bookmarks option, the file Safari creates is actually an HTML listing of all of your bookmarks. You can take this file with you and open it in any browser, just like a normal web page. Of course, you don't end up with bookmarks per se; instead, you end up with a web page that has a clickable list of all of your bookmarks. Though not as easy to use as the bookmarks in a browser, the list can still come in handy when you're on the road.

Here's how to export your bookmarks.

  1. Launch Safari.

  2. Select File > Export Bookmarks.

    Export Bookmarks item in Safari File menu
  3. In the Save dialog window that opens, select a target location for the Safari Bookmarks.html file, then select Save.

  4. Copy the Safari Bookmarks.html file to a USB flash drive or to a cloud storage system.

  5. To use the Safari Bookmarks.html file, open a browser on the computer you're using and either drag the Safari Bookmarks.html file to the browser's address bar or select Open from the browser's file menu and navigate to the Safari Bookmarks.html file.

  6. Your list of Safari Bookmarks will display as a web page. To visit one of your bookmarked sites, just select the corresponding link.