Moving Thunderbird Data to a New Computer

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  • Revision id: 159965
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  • Creator: kenptr
  • Comment: Work in progress - Making style and format consistent - more for non-tech users - starts with Chris's easy screencast, followed by text that covers most situations
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Copying all your Thunderbird email data

You can copy your Thunderbird data to a new computer (or other location) with a simple 4-step procedure that copies your Profile and then tells Thunderbird where to find your Profile. In Thunderbird your Profile is a set of computer files containing your personal information including messages, passwords and user preferences.

  1. To find the computer folder where your Profile is stored, select Help > Troubleshooting Information in the Thunderbird menu. Then look for "Profile Folder" and click on the Open Folder button.
    This will open a window showing information about your Profile folder. In this window you will see a path of names, starting with names of parent folders that contain your Profile folder, and ending with the name of your Profile folder. The path will look something like this example: > This PC > Elements(D:) > Other Documents > Amy's Thunderbird Profile
  2. Use File Explorer Windows Explorer Finder your computer's or device's file manager to select and copy this Profile folder, with its contents, to a new computer or other new location (with a new folder name, if you wish). You can put your Profile folder into a parent folder of your choice. Once you complete steps 3 and 4, Thunderbird will be able to find all your data, and your data will be preserved whenever you install a new updgrade of Thunderbird. Be sure you are not copying a Profile folder while Thunderbird is running and using that folder. If you have a large amount of email data, the copying process may take a long time.
  3. Tell Thunderbird where to find your Profile folder by opening the Choose User Profile window. For example, in Windows 10,
    • Close Thunderbird
    • Right-click the Start icon
    • Click Run
    • Enter this in the Open box: thunderbird.exe -p
    • Click OK
  4. This will display the Choose User Profile window, which lists profiles by their nicknames. Proceed to create a new nickname for your new Profile folder:
    • Click the Create Profile button,
    • Click Next,
    • Enter a new nickname for your new Thunderbird Profile (this does not need to be the same as the name of your Profile folder),
    • Click the Choose Folder button,
    • Navigate to and select your new location's Profile folder that was set up in Step 2,
    • Click Select Folder,
    • Click Finish

You will now see a Choose User Profile window that displays your new profile in a list of your profiles. (You'll probably have at least one other profile, even if it's just called "default".)
If each time you start Thunderbird you want to select from a choice of profiles, uncheck the "Use the selected profile without asking ..." box.
To automatically use a specific profile, select that profile and check the "Use the selected profile without asking ..." box. (You can always open the Choose User Profile window again, to change this setting.)

Close the Choose User Profile window by clicking the Exit button.

Using Gmail to move messages

If you're uncomfortable finding and copying folders with your computer's operating system, if you use Gmail, and if you have a small number of email messages (less than about 500), you can transfer the messages to a Gmail account and then synchronize them to your new Thunderbird installation.

  1. Create a Gmail account if you don't already have one.
  2. Create a Thunderbird account on the original computer for your Gmail account.
  3. Make sure that your Gmail account properties are configured to use IMAP rather than POP3.
  4. In Thunderbird, create matching subfolders under your Gmail account for every message folder you want to move. Thunderbird will automatically create a corresponding folder in your Gmail account. You can create nested subfolders. For example...

    Thunderbird folders
  5. For each folder you want to transfer, go to the original folder in Thunderbird, select all the messages, right-click and select Copy To and then select the corresponding folder in the Gmail account. As Thunderbird copies the messages to the new folder they are also copied to your online Gmail storage space.
  6. On your new computer, install Thunderbird and create your Gmail account.
  7. Your online folders and messages should now be available in Thunderbird on the new computer. As you click on each folder, it will synchronize with your Gmail account.

Your Thunderbird Profile Folder

The Profile Folder stores everything about your email, including locally stored messages and attachments, address lists, account settings, Thunderbird settings, stored passwords, tasks, calendar data, and data for add-on features.

You can keep a Profile Folder on just about any kind of storage or device. Regularly back up your profile folder. Once you're sure you don't want the data in an old Profile Folder, use your operating system to delete it.

Use good judgment about revealing your Thunderbird email Profile Folder names and locations to others.

Learn more about your Profile Folder at Profiles - Where Thunderbird stores your messages and other user data.