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Use initial preferences for Chrome browser

Applies to IT administrators who want to deploy an initial_preferences file for managed Chrome browser on Windows, Mac, and Linux computers.

As an admin, you can use initial preferences to deploy default preferences to Chrome browser users on managed computers. These preferences are applied when users first open Chrome browser. For example, you can set the homepage or choose which tabs and URLs are shown when they open Chrome browser.

Note: For Chrome browser 91 or later, the file named initial_preferences replaces the master_preferences file. To minimize disruption, Chrome continues to support both filenames, and any further change will be notified in the Chrome Enterprise release notes

When to use initial preferences

Use initial preferences to:

  • Configure default settings that users can change later.
  • Deploy settings that you don’t want to manage, or aren’t available, with a Chrome policy.
  • Apply settings to Microsoft Windows computers that aren’t joined to an Active Directory domain.

To apply settings that you don’t want users to change, enforce Chrome policies on Windows, Mac, and Linux computers instead.

If a setting is managed by a Chrome policy and also configured in the initial_preferences file, the policy takes precedence and users can’t edit the setting. For details, see View a device’s current Chrome policies.

Before you begin

If users already have Chrome browser on their computers, you need to remove it before you complete the steps below.

Deploy initial preferences

Step 1: Create the initial_preferences file
Create the initial_preferences file that contains the settings that you want to apply to Chrome browser on users' computers. Use the example initial_preferences file that’s included in the Chrome Enterprise Bundle (Configuration folder). Or, download it now. You can edit the JavaScript Object Notation (JSON) file using a text editor.
For information about available preferences and how to set them, see Configuring Other Preferences.
Step 2: Automatically install Chrome extensions on users' computers (Optional)
To add features and functionality to Chrome browser, you can automatically install Chrome extensions. In the initial_preferences file, add information about the extensions that you want to automatically install on users' computers. Users need access to the extensions category in the Chrome Web Store or the URL where the Chrome extension’s .crx file is saved.
For details about how to automatically install extensions, see Pre-installed Extensions.
Step 3: Validate your file
Use your preferred tool to validate your initial_preferences file to make sure that there are no errors in the JSON code. If you find errors, check the syntax and structure of the initial_preferences file, make corrections, and validate it again.
Step 4: Push preferences to users
Push the initial_preferences file to users' computers at the same time as Chrome browser and any policies. The initial_preferences file needs to be added to the same folder as the chrome.exe file on users' computers.
  • Windows—C:\Program Files\Google\Chrome\Application\initial_preferences
  • Mac—~/Library/Application Support/Google/Chrome/Google Chrome Initial Preferences or /Library/Google/Google Chrome Initial Preferences
  • Linux
    • To determine where Chrome browser is installed, run the command readlink -f `which google-chrome`
    • Different versions of Linux install Chrome in different folders, such as
      • /opt/google/chrome/google-chrome/
      • /etc/opt/chrome/
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