Importing/Exporting Passwords in Chrome

Trouble-Shooting empty password lists in Google Chrome


Yesterday I came across the import/export function of Google Chrome's stored passwords. Over the years, a lot of stuff has been collected and I can't remember each and everyone of the passwords for the countless accounts I have on the net. Using a different one every time makes it kind of hard, if not even impossible to remember all of those passwords.

Why I needed this

The reason I needed to export the stuff in the first place was because we migrated to G-Suite. I had an account with all of the stuff connected to it. Now I wanted all the corporate stuff to no longer be stored in this account but in the actual one. Turns out: This is easy. Also turns out: It's got a catch-22 if you don't pay attention.

The Problem - "Saved passwords will appear here" - empty.

This was the weird thing. Exporting went fine. Used chrome://flags to unlock exporting and importing of passwords, however, importing didn't seem to work. Cross-checking with showed me that it apparently worked but for some reason the passwords wouldn't show up at all. After playing around with it for a while, logging the Google Account in and out several times, as suggested in Google Product forums, nothing really worked. I am also not a fan of the Microsoft-troubleshooting-approach - switching stuff off and on until it works. And of course it didn't. At some point of jumping back and forth however, passwords at least seemed to be there. I couldn't explain, why, though. But more about that later.

One step further - Passwords are there, but the list is incomplete

After checking if the autofill of passwords works, I noticed that it didn't, despite the passwords being there. After thorough checking I noticed that they weren't really. They stopped syncing at a certain letter, so there were only around a hundred passwords there and my list was a lot longer. Then I finally got an idea of what might be happening here.

[SOLVED] - Cutting a long story short

The cause for it taking so long was the password encryption utility running in the background. I had more than a thousand passwords stored in this account and obviously this would take a while to encrypt/decrypt/restore. So here's what I did. I reset Chrome one more time and started importing passwords - one more time. This time I just left the window open and grabbed a cup of coffee in the meantime. When I came back, all the passwords were there.

What Chrome doesn't tell you is that it's decrypting passwords - one by one - from, and using your password utility (gnome-keyring-daemon in my case, your OS' equivalent in yours) to re-encrypt each and every password with however strong encryption you chose. So this just takes a while. And it's hard to trouble-shoot if you don't know this.

Thanks for letting us know though

As a sidenote: The point that Chrome doesn't tell you about its work in the background is kind of stupid. One might argue that more than thousand passwords is kind of a long list and this is an exception to the rule - but then again: why would you use an import/export function rather than just migrating them by hand? Right. This feature should be better documented in Chrome and it should give you better feedback about what it's doing. And because it doesn't, I do.

What you need to do: Be patient.

When you activated import/export in the chrome://flags, just hit the three dots, import your .csv list and then just wait. It is not going to say that it's doing something and it will not seem like it's working. But when you look at the running processes you'll notice that your password-manager binary will consume a lot of CPU time.

After a while (I don't know how long exactly, just one standard cup of coffee long) your passwords should re-appear and get synced to

I myself wasted a few hours listening to idiot advice in the product forums until I tried to figure it out myself... The incomplete list I mentioned above is what got me there. Chrome seemed to have gotten interrupted syncing the passwords, so there weren't all of them there just yet. But that's what happens if you switch stuff off and on again and don't realize that it is still working on something.

Hard to figure out researching the internet. So I thought I should share this.