How To Move Thunderbird Emails To A Different Location Or Computer

transfer-thunderbird-emails.jpg

I just purchased a new computer to replace my 4 year old one, I’m in the group of people who prefer to move all my files from the old computer to the new one (than to start over), including applications and their preferences. One of the most complicated tasks is to transfer Thunderbird to the new computer. Luckily, Mozilla Thunderbird has made moving your entire email profile from one computer to another really, really easy.

There are a number of ways to move Thunderbird emails to a new computer, but I’ll focus on the way I did it.

Moving Your Thunderbird Emails

In this tutorial, I’m only covering location files for Windows 7 and Vista.

Move Thunderbird Emails Step #1: Location, Location, Location

By default, Thunderbird stores your profile in this location:

C:\Users\YOURUSERNAME\AppData\Roaming\Thunderbird\

This holds everything you store in Thunderbird including your emails and add-ons.

If you are planning on moving your Thunderbird emails from another computer, make sure you make a copy of this folder and move it to a temporary location on your new computer for now.

Move Thunderbird Emails Step #2: Install Thunderbird

Install a copy of Mozilla Thunderbird on your new computer.

move thunderbird emails

Launch Thunderbird on the new computer, but don’t set up an account. Simply close it again. It’s important you launch it so Thunderbird creates the default profile settings in the link above, because you need them.

Move Thunderbird Emails Step #3: Copy Your Files

I’ve set my computer up a little different to what most users have done. My hard drive is split into three partitions — the first one contains Windows 7 Home Premium (C:/) , the second one contains Windows 7 Ultimate (D:/) (Dual Bootable), and the third contains all my files (E:/). To help with backup and recovery, I have my emails stored on the E: drive. So with the files I copied before to a temporary location, I’ve now stored them in E:\Thunderbird Emails.

If you want to transfer your Thunderbird emails to the default location, simply copy your old Thunderbird folder to the new location in the new computer, overwriting everything in the newly-created, default Thunderbird folder, and you should be good to go.

However, if you’re like me and have moved your Thunderbird emails to a different location, you have to edit the Profile Configuration file in

C:\Users\YOURUSERNAME\AppData\Roaming\Thunderbird\

to appear like:

transfer thunderbird emails

Noting the change of IsRelative=0 (to 0 and not 1) and the new path, ensuring your backslashes (\) are the correct way.

Move Thunderbird Emails Step #4: Test

So if you have done the following:

  1. Installed Thunderbird on your new computer, launched, and closed it;
  2. Copy your old Thunderbird Profilefrom
    C:\Users\YOURUSERNAME\AppData\Roaming\Thunderbird\

    to a new location or copied over the one Thunderbird automatically created when launched;

  3. Changed the Profile Configuration file to incorporate the changes in
    C:\Users\YOURUSERNAME\AppData\Roaming\Thunderbird\

    (if you moved your Thunderbird emails to a new location)

transfer thunderbird to new computer

You can now open up Thunderbird, and if everything was done correctly; all of your Thunderbird emails should appear, your extensions just as it was before, and your emails should start coming in.

Now remember how I mentioned that I have a dual-boot setup on my new PC. Since I can access the E:/ drive from both operating systems, I can now access the same Thunderbird profile no matter which one I am in. By doing this, I can access my emails whenever I want.

If you experience any problems, please let me know in the comments.

About author
Jack Cola is an Internet Geek and Technology Enthusiast. You can find out more about Jack on his website JackCola.org or you can send him a tweet or follow him on Facebook
23 total comments on this postSubmit yours
  1. Thanks. So helpful :)

  2. Man, I just don’t understand, why on Earth one would have both the Windows 7 Home Premium and Windows 7 Ultimate installed on one computer?

  3. You are the man so so simple!

  4. I found this site through Google search. Followed your instructions above and bingo! It’s all there. Many thanks. You are a generous, helpful person. Appreciate your sharing this knowledge.

    • I am glade you found the article of mine useful.

  5. must be doing something wrong…. copy and paste the emil thunderbird folder to new computers desktop. install same ver thunderbird on new computer. open thunderbird. when create new account comes up, close window. close thunderbird. copy and paste “desktop” thunderbird file into the location of the new installs thunderbird file and replace it. edit profile.ini file as suggested. still no joy.

  6. OK! just got it to work. the problem was i got the “Thundrebird” file form the wrong directory.
    Thanks for the good info, just wish my brain wasn’t out to lunch.
    thanks.
    marty.

  7. Glade you got it all sorted Marty. Let me know if I can assist you in anything else.

    Cheers,
    Jack Cola .org

  8. Guess I am missing something because everything I do it, a new profile is created. What am I missing?

    • Make sure you follow it carefully, because even an extra / can make it not work. Also double check your files are in the right location that Thunderbird points too.

  9. Hi. I have a unique situation. My laptop stopped working a few weeks ago. All my Thunderbird emails were on it and my backup files on an external hard drive were corrupt :( So, I bought a new laptop and started using it a.s.a.p. until the USB to SATA hard drive adapter I bought on ebay arrived to hopefully get all my data off the hard drives in my old laptop.

    The USB adapter arrived yesterday. Now that I have access to my old Thunderbird emails, I need to move and MERGE them in with the all the new Thunderbird emails on my new laptop. I add and move all emails into appropriate “Local Folders”.

    How do I do this?

    Thanks!

    Steve

    • Hi Steve,

      I haven’t personally tried it, but you in your Thunderbird mail folder, each folder, Ie Inbox, Draft, Sent should have it’s own file. What should work is if you rename one of those files (so you can tell the difference), and put it in the profile you wish to use. Restart Thunderbird and the file should appear in your account. Then just drag and drop your emails to whever you want to store it, then delete the file you no longer need to clean up your emails a bit.

      This should work in theory.

  10. Hi, I already knew about moving the XXXXX.default folder, but the moving profile to a separate place is a great idea. I store all my personal files in a separate place to simplify back-up and now TB can join in! Thanks.

    My problem is a bit different though…I have 2 machines, both run TB. I need to send 1 PC for repairs and I want all of my email saved. I have DIFFERENT emails on each machine (and a lot of them) and I want to save all of them…is there a way to COMBINE emails from PC1 to PC2 without overwriting the emails in PC2. Forwarding would 1: take forever as I have a lot of them and 2. uhm, they come back to me, lol, while I’m doing it.

    I tried to look in the profiles folder and move/copy the individual emails, but I did not see any .eml’s nor was I able to discern what might be the actual emails. I am not PC savvy, so I probably had no idea what the heck I was looking at anyway.

    If you cannot help me, oh well…but thanks for the info I did get here…pretty neat-o.

  11. Well, now don’t I have a red face and a stoopit [sic] feeling!!! I got so excited, I stopped reading at above picture and scrolled to make a comment…then BANG there it is right above my post…sigh…sorry about that, really, sorry…But I will try that and see if it helps and THANKS AGAIN!

    Parting is such sweet sorrow, but mainly because I stuck my own foot up my own a**, sigh.

  12. [roughly 1 hour later]

    WOW! Worked perfectly….thanks so much. Only want to say, that I have both PC’s set up the same way in TB and my folders named the same way. I have a Mine folder, a Business, folder, etc, etc. I renamed the pertinent files to Business2, etc on PC1 and moved them they showed (whew) in PC2, but some didn’t have the 2 for some reason??? Still the emails were there so it worked out ok..

    I suggest renaming folders a VASTLY different name i.e.: Business to AdifferentBusiness instead of business2 to avoid the possible loss of emails if they are too closely named for TB to note the difference!

    Thanks so much and I will stop bothering you now!

    Benmara

  13. Hi there i believe i have followed all the instructions and still cannot get my old emails into my inbox. please help!!!!!!

    • Hi Sam,

      You need to provide more information on what you have done – I can’t help you one that statement, otherwise I will be writing another post.

  14. Found this page on Google and it was EXACTLY what I needed when migrating to a new PC. Worked perfectly. All the best.

  15. Hi, so I just did this to my new computer and new computer is getting all the emails fine. But i have a question, what happen if i open my old comptuer’s thunderbird, obviously, it will also start syncing mail??? then the thunderbird on my new one will have problems as some of the mails has already been synched to the “main” computer. do you recommend we uninstall thunderbird on the old computer?

    • Hello John,

      It all depends how you have setup your email. If old and new is setup to use IMAP, you shouldn’t have a problem.

      If you set your emails up to use POP3, you may have issues – this depends on the configuration options you have set, especially regarding mail been downloaded, and deleted off the mail server.

      For example, if the last last sync your emails on your new computer, then a week later, you open Thunderbird on your old computer (not checking the new computer in the mean time), the new emails will be downloaded to your old computer, possibility deleted from the mail server, so your new computer what be able to retrieve the emails.

      Also, have a read of http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/access-your-personalised-thunderbird-client-on-any-computer-worldwide/

  16. Outstanding issues altogether, you merely attained the logo new viewer. Precisely what might you would suggest in relation to your current placed that you choose to created day or two previously? Any kind of positive?

  17. Thanks so much for these instructions. This was exactly what I needed. I have a dual boot machine with a storage partition also. That storage partition was where I wanted my mail to be stored and then be able to access it from either OS partition. Now, regardless of which OS I’m using, I can access my email and also have it available on the other partition when I’m using it.

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