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The migrate Thunderbird help article has an error.

  • 11 replies
  • 3 have this problem
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  • Last reply by Matt

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Thunderbird Path Why moving Thunderbird into a new computer might fail.

This is my computer's folder path to the Thunderbird email files:

   C:\Users\Stan\AppData\Roaming\Thunderbird\Profiles\iq9rzk1o.default\Mail\pop.att.yahoo.com\Inbox

In that Thunderbird email folder:

Are these folders:
  Crash Reports          A long list of very tiny "Install Time" text files.
  Profiles                    Folders and files holding all the Thunderbird user's email and preferences.                                       
And these files: 
  Registry.dat             A very small file with perhaps some entries for installation in the Registry.
  Profiles.ini                A very small text file containing only this:
                    [General]
                    StartWithLastProfile=1
                    [Profile0]
                    Name=default
                    IsRelative=1
                    Path=Profiles/iq9rzk1o.default     <--- Note this.

If that Path entry is not exactly the same as the path following the Thunderbird folder, then Thunderbird does not start.

         Error message:  "Your Thunderbird profile cannot be loaded. It may be missing or inaccessible."

So, when copying/moving Thunderbird from the old computer into the new computer, that Profiles.ini file must be included.

        To do that copy/move the entire Thunderbird folder. NOT just the Profiles folder, as that Help article describes.

Thus this Help article needs correcting: Moving a Profile [ Because it fails. ]

    See:   https://support.mozilla.org/en-US/kb/profiles-tb#w_moving-a-profile

Chosen solution

StanLogue said

My original compliant remains: Where in Mozilla is an easy method for making backups of the user's entire email collection (daily)? A clone that can be restored, or moved into the user's new/other computer. (See no need to discuss Profiles.) Stan [ My first computer: Whirlwind II ]

https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/thunderbird/addon/importexporttools/

Read this answer in context 👍 0

All Replies (11)

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Users come from a variety of backgrounds and with a wide range of experience levels. Many will be uncomfortable using Windows Explorer or their local equivalent. Some will be wary of using a text editor to adjust settings files.

Thunderbird is supported for three distinct platforms, and each has its own conventions for pathnames and directory structures. So hard and fast descriptions of absolute file locations are not possible.

Geeky users will understand the profile, and will happily transplant the whole thing, including profiles.ini, and they will be aware of possible consequences and will be competent to address issues arising. These users know about hidden files and folders, about pathnames and symbolic links etc. If they are Linux users they likely prefer the command line.

For many users, we'd recommend that they let Thunderbird create a profile so that it avoids them having to learn about the pathnames and folder structures. So we advise them to let Thunderbird create a new empty profile, then copy the contents of their old profile over the new empty profile. No need to fiddle about in the profiles.ini file, just some mundane file copying. There's even a button under Help|Troubleshooting Information to take them directly to their profile.

And there are some for which this is all too involved and complicated, and for them there are tools which do it as automagically as possible, MozBackup being one such approach.

I don't think the article is wrong; it's just trying to cater for a variety of users, and their varying capabilities, and the multiple platforms Thunderbird can run on.

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Does following that article's method for moving Thunderbird to a new computer work? No, it results in an error message. I know that is so because I have ACTUALLY tested that method several times with several versions of Thunderbird (you try it). Really! Doing copy/paste using the Profiles folder is flawed. The folder that needs to be copied/pasted is Thunderbird, not Profiles. I have tested the Thunderbird folder method with both versions 31 and 6. Very easy, and it works. So, why not make a small correction to that otherwise very well written article? (Replace "Profiles" with "Thunderbird")

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'C:\Users\Stan\AppData\Roaming\Thunderbird\Profiles\iq9rzk1o.default' is equivalent to

IsRelative=1 Path=Profiles/iq9rzk1o.default

in profiles.ini.

If you copy over a profile with a different name you'd obviously also have to adjust profiles.ini. This is what the article says. How is that a problem?

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{ Seems I have communicated poorly. Please let me try again. }

This is my actual full folder path to the Thunderbird email files:

C:\Users\Stan\AppData\Roaming\Thunderbird\Profiles\iq9rzk1o.default\Mail\pop.att.yahoo.com\Inbox

In that Thunderbird folder:

C:\Users\Stan\AppData\Roaming\Thunderbird\ 

is this file: Profiles.ini

That Profiles.ini file only contains this text:

  [General]
  StartWithLastProfile=1
  [Profile0]
  Name=default
  IsRelative=1
  Path=Profiles/iq9rzk1o.default       <--- Note

That essential Profiles.ini file is inside the Thunderbird folder, but it is not inside the Profiles folder.

At startup Thunderbird checks that Profiles.ini entry against the actual Thunderbird folder path. If they are not the same, Thunderbird detects that and issues this error message: "Your Thunderbird profile cannot be loaded. It may be missing or inaccessible." And the Thunderbird program does not start.

The problem: When moving Thunderbird from one computer into another computer, if it is the Profiles folder that is Copied/Pasted, that Profiles.ini file does not get Copied/Pasted.

Because: - The Profiles.ini file is in destination Thunderbird. . (Perhaps a new Thunderbird installation.) - The actual Thunderbird folder path is for the source Thunderbird. . (Perhaps an "older" installation.)

Thus the name for this folder in Profiles.ini ( xxxxxxxx.default ) differs from the actual Thunderbird folder path. Thunderbird detects that difference, so the moved Thunderbird in the destination computer fails to start.

When moving Thunderbird into another computer, if it is the Profiles folder that is Copied/Pasted, that Profiles.ini file does not get Copied/Pasted. So, the moved Thunderbird program does not start.

When moving Thunderbird into another computer, if it is the Thunderbird folder that is Copied/Pasted, that Profiles.ini file does get Copied/Pasted. So, the moved Thunderbird program does start.

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OK, I'm making some suppositions here. I have little in the way of hard evidence...

I run Thunderbird on several machines, one Windows, several Linux. I see differences in profile structure between them and some of this is historical.

At some point in time, the profiles data was contained in folders, with names like abc123def.default and these would be stored at the same level as profiles.ini.

So long as I installed Thunderbird by copying the profile from an old machine to a new, this structure persisted. At one point when I installed Thunderbird afresh on a new computer, the .../Profiles/ subfolder appeared, and the profile data folders (abc123def.default et al) appeared inside .../Profiles/.

I assume this was done to make profile copying easier; if you had multiple profiles, then their data folders would all be contained and transferred as one item, namely .../Profiles/.

I think you are taking the word "profiles" too literally. When these documents were written, the .../Profiles/ folder didn't exist, and the use of the word "profiles" would be taken to mean all files related to storage of user data for Thunderbird. "profiles" in this context includes profiles.ini. Mentioning these two variants would make the article more complicated and arguably more confusing.

Since Thunderbird looks for profiles.ini at start up, in order to locate the actual data, this file must be in a known location. The actual data it refers to can be stored almost anywhere else.

The profile is a simple concept; the data is stored in user-accessible file space, separately from the executable program. I think it's useful to think of the profile having two components: profiles.ini, which tells it where to look, and the profile data folders. In the current system, the profile data folders are lumped together in the new folder, .../Profiles/.

A new installation will create the .../Profiles/ folder and store actual profile data folders inside it. Installations which have been set to use old profiles will retain the older structure, without .../Profiles/.

The take-home moral is "know your system". The instructions must be read in context. You copy the data from one computer or disk drive to another. The important thing is to retain its structure as-is, or else consciously edit the structure, and the profiles.ini file, to reflect any changes. If you have a .../Profiles/ folder, your profiles.ini must reflect it, as in the example christ1 gave above.

.../Profiles/ was, IMHO, an unfortunate choice of name, since as the explicit name of a folder, it is confused with the broader and more general concept of a profile. .../Profile_Data/ might have been a better and more usefully explicit name.

We have a similar issue with the Address Book; this contains entities which are also known as "address books" and there is no easy linguistic way to describe which kind of element we're talking about.

Modified by Zenos

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Hi, Team Mozella: Some more thoughts ..........

Move all the Thunderbird email (and its settings) into a new computer That is the goal. This article seems promising:

Thunderbird: "Moving Thunderbird Data to a New Computer"

  https://support.mozilla.org/en-US/kb/moving-thunderbird-data-to-a-new-computer#w_manually-moving-files

In that article, for "Manually Moving Files" the reader is right away referred to this article:

Thunderbird: "Profiles TB"

   https://support.mozilla.org/en-US/kb/profiles-tb

That article is really only concerned with creating and managing Profiles. Which really isn't a good way for transferring all the Thunderbird email and settings. For only doing this: "Moving Thunderbird Data to a New Computer"

Overly complicated. Perhaps the following? . (Why not? It does work.)


. =============== A Suggested Approach =============

Installing all Thunderbird email into another computer:

The following is performed using only Windows Explorer:

In the Source computer - To backup the Thunderbird folder: . 1. Install a USB flash drive to hold the Thunderbird folder backup. . 2. In the Source computer, locate* this folder: Thunderbird . 3. To copy that Thunderbird folder, select it. Then do: Ctrl C . To locate it, select the folder holding it. . 4. Paste that Thunderbird folder copy into the backup USB flash drive . To do that, select that USB flash drive. Then do: Ctrl V

In the Destination computer (Assumes Thunderbird is installed.) - To restore the backup Thunderbird folder: . 1. Install the USB flash drive holding the Thunderbird folder backup. . 2. In the Destination computer, locate* this folder: Thunderbird . 3. Rename that folder: Thunderbird-1 ( Hiding it from Thunderbird. ) . 4. In the backup USB flash drive, copy the Thunderbird backup folder. . 5. Paste that Thunderbird backup folder where the Thunderbird-1 folder is located. . Locating the Thunderbird folder path * - For easy reference you can place that folder path listing into WordPad: . 1. At the top of the Thunderbird display, click on these: . Tools > Account Settings . 2. In the Folder Pane column on the left, select the desired Account. . (An email address.) . 3. In that Account Settings box click on this: Server Settings . 4. Now at the bottom of the Account Settings display is a box: Local Directory . 5. Click the mouse cursor in that box. Then press: Home . 6. Then while pressing Shift and Ctrl, press: Home . All the box's text is selected. . 7. To copy that selection, press: Ctrl C . 8. Open the Windows WordPad application. . 9. To paste the selection into WordPad do: Ctrl V

. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Example Thunderbird folder path listings:

Windows 7 ( The Thunderbird folder is in the Roaming folder.)

C:\Users\Stan\AppData\Roaming\Thunderbird\Profiles\iq9rzk1o.default\Mail\

Windows XP ( The Thunderbird folder is in the Application Data folder.)

C:\Documents and Settings\Stan\Application Data\Thunderbird\Profiles\fl9e9qwi.default\Mail\

. ============== NOTE: The word "Profile" does not appear anywhere in the above text.

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I think that just copying the Thunderbird folder from one machine to the other will do it all in one operation. I can't agree with your suggestion to fiddle with the Local Directory settings. That is unnecessary and prone to cause trouble later on, as it means that mailstores will likely be stored outside your profile making future maintenance a lot more complex.

You've given advice for Windows users; you haven't considered Mac or Linux users.

The main snag with copying the Thunderbird folder is knowing where to put it on the new computer. This is best done by letting the new Thunderbird run so it creates an empty profile. Help|Troubleshooting Information will take you to this folder. Just climb back up the folder tree to Thunderbird and you're good to go.

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Note that q9rzk1o.default is effectively your profile, or at least the data part. It needs profiles.ini for it to be useful.

Note also that my own recipe above is also specific to Windows. On Linux, ~/.thunderbird would be the equivalent. I don't know about Macs.

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Hi Zenos:

"I can't agree with your suggestion to fiddle with the Local Directory settings." No, no! Do not alter the Local Directory box contents. But seems that box's contents can not be fiddled, altered.

"...climb back up the folder tree to Thunderbird and you're good to go." Like that approach. Will steal it.

"You've given advice for Windows users; you haven't considered Mac or Linux users." Nope! Am hoping to inspire someone skilled to do that (hint, hint).

My original compliant remains: Where in Mozilla is an easy method for making backups of the user's entire email collection (daily)? A clone that can be restored, or moved into the user's new/other computer.

(See no need to discuss Profiles.)

Stan

 [ My first computer: Whirlwind II ]
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"Help > Troubleshooting Information will take you to this folder. Just climb back up the folder tree to Thunderbird and you're good to go."

Discovered: Climbing not needed.

How to get the folder path to the Thunderbird folder Click on: Help > Troubleshooting Information > Profile Folder > Show Folder Click in the top Address box, thus selecting it. To copy the Address selection, press: Ctrl C It is:

C:\Users\Stan\AppData\Roaming\Thunderbird\Profiles\iq9rzk1o.default
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Chosen Solution

StanLogue said

My original compliant remains: Where in Mozilla is an easy method for making backups of the user's entire email collection (daily)? A clone that can be restored, or moved into the user's new/other computer. (See no need to discuss Profiles.) Stan [ My first computer: Whirlwind II ]

https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/thunderbird/addon/importexporttools/