Profiles - Where Thunderbird stores your messages and other user data

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  • Creator: Jarmo
  • Comment: Removed Win95 instructions, added for-clauses
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Thunderbird saves personal information such as messages, passwords and user preferences in a set of files called a "profile", which is stored in a separate location from the Thunderbird program files. While it is possible to have multiple profiles, most users just use the single default (see Using Multiple Profiles for more information).

What is a profile?

In Thunderbird, the profile stores two main sets of items. First, it stores your local mail, and possibly copies of messages that reside on the mail server (depending on your account configuration). Second, it stores any changes you make while using Thunderbird (for example, changes to account settings and changes to the toolbar).

When you install Thunderbird it creates a profile called "default". This profile will be used automatically unless you invoke the Profile Manager and create a new profile.

Where is my profile stored?

Profile files are stored separately from the Thunderbird program files. The program files are static and do not change (except when you upgrade the Thunderbird application version). Because we store profile and program files separately, you can uninstall Thunderbird without losing your messages and settings, and if something goes wrong with a Thunderbird update your information will still be available. It also means that you don't have to reinstall Thunderbird in order to delete your information or troubleshoot a problem.

Each profile is stored on your hard drive in a profile folder. The folder is named using the following convention:

<random_string>.<profile_name>

...where "<random_string>" is eight digits randomly generated by Thunderbird and "<profile_name>" is the name you assigned to the profile. The location of the folder will vary according to the operating system (and whether or not you specified a non-default location when you created the profile):

Profile Location Summary

%APPDATA%\Thunderbird\Profiles\xxxxxxxx.default\

  • %APPDATA% is shorthand for the C:\Users\<username>\AppData\Roaming\C:\Documents and Settings\<username>\Application Data\ folder, which depends on your Windows user account name.

~/Library/Thunderbird/Profiles/xxxxxxxx.default/

  • The tilde character (~) refers to the current user's Home folder, so ~/Library is the /Macintosh HD/Users/<username>/Library folder.

~/.thunderbird/xxxxxxxx.default/

How to find your profile

If you are having difficulty finding the location of your profile, use the following instructions to search your filesystem:

  1. Click the Windows Start button and type %APPDATA%\Thunderbird\Profiles\ in the Search box at the bottom of the Start menu, without pressing Enter. A list of profiles will appear at the top of the Start menu.

    Win7 Start Menu Profile folder

  2. Click on any of the profiles (e.g. xxxxxxxx.default) to open it with Windows Explorer.

    Thunderbird Profiles Folder
  1. Click the Windows Start button, and select Run....
  2. Type in %APPDATA%\Thunderbird\Profiles\ then click OK.
  3. Windows Explorer opens a folder containing your profiles.
  4. Double-click the profile folder you wish to open (e.g. the xxxxxxxx.default folder).
  1. Open Finder and go to your home folder (which is usually the name of your Mac user account).
  2. From your home folder open /Library/, then /Thunderbird/, then /Profiles/. Your profile folder is within this folder.

ab167bec686b081a25849c98d6bf9ea7-1265843917-281-1.jpg

  1. Click the Places menu on the top right of the screen and select Home Folder. A File Browser window will appear.
  2. Click the View menu and select Show Hidden Files if it isn't already checked.
  3. Double click the folder marked .thunderbird. Your profile folder is within this folder.

Backing up a profile

To back up your profile, first close Thunderbird if it is open and then copy the profile folder to another location.

  1. Shut down Thunderbird.
  2. Locate your profile folder, as explained above.
  3. Go to one level above your profile's folder, i.e. to %APPDATA%\Mozilla\Thunderbird\Profiles\~/Library/Thunderbird/Profiles/~/.mozilla/Thunderbird/
  4. Right-clickHold down the Ctrl key while you click on your profile folder (e.g. xxxxxxxx.default), and select Copy.
  5. Right-clickHold down the Ctrl key while you click the backup location (e.g. a USB-stick or a blank CD-RW disc), and select Paste item.

Restoring a profile backup

  1. Shut down Thunderbird.
  2. If your existing profile folder and profile backup folder have the same name, simply replace the existing profile folder with the profile backup, then start Thunderbird.
    Important: The profile folder names must match exactly for this to work, including the random string of 8 characters. If the names do not match or if you are restoring a backup to a different location, follow the steps below.

Restoring to a different location

If the profile folder names do not match or if you want to move or restore a profile to a different location, do the following:

  1. Completely close Thunderbird, as explained above.
  2. Use the Thunderbird Profile Manager to create a new profile in your desired location, then exit the Profile Manager.
    Note: If you just installed Thunderbird on a new computer, you can use the default profile that is automatically created when you first run Thunderbird, instead of creating a new profile.
  3. Locate the backed up profile folder on your hard drive or backup medium (e.g., your USB-stick).
  4. Open the profile folder backup (e.g., the xxxxxxxx.default backup).
  5. Copy the entire contents of the profile folder backup, such as the mimeTypes.rdf file, prefs.js file, bookmarkbackups folder, etc.
  6. Locate and open the new profile folder as explained above and then close Thunderbird (if open).
  7. Paste the contents of the backed up profile folder into the new profile folder, overwriting existing files of the same name.
  8. Start Thunderbird.

Moving a profile

Occasionally, you might want to move a profile or tell Thunderbird to use a profile stored in another location.

  1. Shut down Thunderbird.
  2. Move the profile folder to the desired location. For example, on Windows XP, move the profile from C:\Documents and Settings\[username]\Application Data\Thunderbird\Profiles\xxxxxxxx.default to D:\Stuff\MyMailProfile. (If you are reverting to a backed up profile, this step isn't necessary. Just note the current location of the profile you want to restore.)
  3. Open up the profiles.ini file in a text editor. The file is located in the application data folder for Thunderbird:

#* On Windows 7/Vista/XP/2000, the path is %AppData%\Thunderbird\ #* On Linux, the path is ~/.thunderbird/ #* On Mac OS X, the path is ~/Library/Thunderbird/

  1. In the profiles.ini file, locate the entry for the profile you've just moved. Change the Path= line to the new location.
  2. If you switch from a relative path to a non-relative path, the direction of the slashes may need to change. For example, in Windows, non-relative paths use backslashes, whereas relative ones use forward slashes. Change IsRelative=1 to IsRelative=0.
  3. Save profiles.ini and restart Thunderbird.

See Also