Maildir in Thunderbird

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  • Revision id: 110096
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  • Creator: Tonnes
  • Comment: comment out regular steps that aren't ready for use yet
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  • Reviewed by: Tonnes
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  • Readied for localization by: Tonnes
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Thunderbird has had hidden support (Maildir is disabled by default) for the Maildir mail storage format for several years, but Maildir still has many bugs and is not 100% ready for users. This article explains the format change and how to test Maildir starting in Thunderbird 38 (Maildir is not ready for testing prior to version 38).

WARNING: We suggest you leave Maildir disabled unless you are an advanced user, willing to risk your data, and know how to back up your email before turning on Maildir and how to restore it if you run into problems.

Maildir is a single file per email (EML), unlike the current default monolithic single file format, which is one file per folder (known as mbox). This storage format has significant benefits:

  • Backups are easier because the amount of data needed to be backed up is reduced to just those emails that have changed since the last backup.
  • It is easier for anti-virus to scan emails in individual files, and infected mails can be removed without the loss of all the other mail in the folder, as often occurs today with anti-virus software which cannot handle multiple emails in one file.

This is a major change for Thunderbird because it changes the mail storage mechanism. The development team has spent a significant amount of time developing maildir.

However, due to a lack of time and testers before Thunderbird 38 was released, the actual underlying changes have not had the extensive manual testing that would normally occur for such a major change.

How to turn on Maildir

WARNING: Again, this feature is experimental and we recommend that you know how to file bugs and how to back up and restore your email before turning on Maildir.

Here's how to turn on Maildir:

  1. Back up your email. If you don't know how to back up and restore your email and how to set an about:config variable, then you are not qualified to test Maildir.
  2. Set the about:config variable documented in the Maildir wiki page.

Any email account created from now on will use Maildir (existing accounts will continue to use mbox). If you want to use mbox again for new accounts, just reset the config variable.

Please file a bug if you encounter any Maildir issues. See also already filed bug reports.