Default user preferences

This article is for IT administrators who want to set a master_preferences file for the Chrome browser running on a corporate-managed Windows computer.

Preferences are kept in a file named "Preferences", which every Google Chrome user has in their own user directory. This Preferences file is just a text file that contains JSON markup. Editing every user's Preferences file to deploy a behavior change is cumbersome, so there's an easier way to manage this:

  • When users start Google Chrome for the first time, they don't yet have a Preferences file.
  • A file named "master_preferences" located next to chrome.exe is used as a template for what becomes each user's Preferences file. On a Windows system with Chrome installed from an MSI, this will be C:\Program Files\Google\Chrome\Application\master_preferences.
  • You only need to create and populate the master_preferences file when you deploy Google Chrome. All users on a machine will get those master settings when they first start Google Chrome.

The master_preferences file, like each user's Preferences file, is simply a text file that contains JSON markup, and will look something like this:

{
  "homepage" : "http://www.chromium.org/",
  "homepage_is_newtabpage" : false,
  "distribution" : {
      ...more stuff here ...
  }
}

Most of the preferences should be obvious. The less obvious preferences are described at the end of this article.

Remember, some of these preferences are managed by policy. No matter what is in the master_preferences or Preferences files, policy always takes precedence. If you set the home page in both the Preferences file and policy, the policy home page is used, and the user won't be able to edit it.

Preferences list

There are lots of preferences, but you'll probably only care about a few of them.

Here is a sample master_preferences list (this is a fully-functional master_preferences file):

 {
 "homepage" : "http://www.google.com",
 "homepage_is_newtabpage" : true,
 "browser" : {
   "show_home_button" : true
 },
 "bookmark_bar" : {
   "show_on_all_tabs" : true
 },
 "distribution" : {
   "skip_first_run_ui" : true,
   "show_welcome_page" : true,
   "import_search_engine" : true,
   "import_history" : false,
   "create_all_shortcuts" : true,
   "do_not_launch_chrome" : true,
   "make_chrome_default" : false
 },
 "first_run_tabs" : [
   "http://www.example.com",
   "welcome_page",
   "new_tab_page"
 ]
}

Most of these settings should be self-explanatory. The more interesting settings are:

  • first_run_tabs: These are the tabs and URLs shown on first launch (and only on first launch) of the browser.
  • skip_first_run_ui: This will cause the browser to not show any first-run dialog.
  • import_****: Each of these import parameters will trigger automatic imports of settings on first run, but only if skip_first_run_ui is true.