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Accidentally deleted a folder, and emptied the trash; editing the INBOX folder in the Thunderbird profile did not work, and there is no backup copy.

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  • Last reply by vicgibbons

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Hello! I have accidentally moved a folder (containing two sub-folders) to Trash, and emptied the Trash folder. I have followed the instructions on restoring them from the Thunderbird profile, and it did not work. At this point I edited the INBOX file, but after closing it was no longer able to find it again. I have also used the "Repair folder" option for the Inbox, but it did not work. There is no backup of my account.

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Hi. Please confirm if the affected account is an IMAP or POP account in Thunderbird. Also, kindly confirm what exactly you did by editing the inbox file.

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Hi, many thanks for your help. 1. The account is an IMAP one; 2. By editing the INBOX file I mean following "Part 2. Restore Permanently Lost or Removed Thunderbird Emails" - "Method 1" under https://www.easeus.com/file-recovery/restore-deleted-lost-thunderbird-emails.html#3

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re :By editing the INBOX file I mean following "Part 2. Restore Permanently Lost or Removed Thunderbird Emails" - "Method 1"

I presume you mean you accessed profile, accessed and opened the Inbox mbox file (not .msf file) and edited the 'X-Mozilla-Status: 0009' or similar, changed the number to '0000', saved and exited the Notepad document.

I note the instructions you followed are not the best to follow. Those instructions state to exit Thunderbird after editing and saving the Inbox mbox file, which is incorrect, you should have checked the Account Settings of the imap account to not compact Inbox on exit first, then exited Thunderbird, then edited the Inbox mbox file and deleted the Inbox.msf file. I would also have advised you to copy the Inbox mbox file and paste it into Mail/Local Folders folder - renaming it as 'InboxOld'. Then restarted Thunderbird. Just in case the real imap Inbox could not put emails back on server.

As you did not do that procedure, you would not have been able to edit and save any profile file whilst Thunderbird was open and running because those files were in use. In other words, the Inbox file would not have changed. This is what I think occured: When you did exit Thunderbird, you might have had the option to auto compact the Inbox selected when you exited Thunderbird, so the Inbox file would have had all the emails marked with 0009 removed. Hence when you restarted and selected to 'Repair folder' nothing would have changed except all 'marked as deleted' emails (which you thought you had saved) would have been removed.

Imap accounts only show what is stored on the server. Imap folders synchronise with server to show what is on server. When you delete folders/emails they are deleted off the server. Basically, the folders in imap account in Thunderbird are one and the same as the folders shown on the server. They should never be considered as a separate copy because the folders synchronise. Hence the need to always create a backup of profile. If you had a backup of profle, whilst Thunderbird was closed, you could have got mbox files copied from backup into the 'Local Folders' mail account and then after starting Thunderbird, copied emails from 'Local Folders' account into the imap folders and get them copied back onto the server.


Let's hope you did not compact that Inbox...... If you did NOT have 'Account Settings' > Server Settings' for imap account selected to compact Inbox on exit then please try the following....but first make sure 'Clean up (Expunge) Inbox on exit' was/is NOT selected.

  • Exit Thunderbird.
  • Locate the 'Inbox' mbox file in the profile folder.
  • Copy it and paste into the 'Mail'/'Local Folders' mail account name folder.
  • Change that copied 'Inbox' name to 'InboxOld'.
  • Open 'InboxOld' using notepad.
  • Edit all the 'X-Mozilla-Status: 0009' or similar, changed the number to '0000', save and exit the Notepad document.
  • Start Thunderbird.

You should see all emails under a new folder called 'InboxOld' in the 'Local folders' mail account. Then, in batches, right click on highlighted emails and select 'copy to' and select the imap 'Inbox' folder. Logon to the webmail account using a browser to see if those emails get put back onto server. Repeat until all emails are put back.

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Once again, thank you for your help, and for the time spent to help. Unfortunately, it did not work. 1. The option "Clean up (Expunge) Inbox on exit" was/is not selected. 2. Your assumptions on what I have done in first place hold only partially. Indeed, I worked without closing Thunderbird. I opened the file named INBOX to edit "X-Mozilla-Status: 0009", but did not find any instance of it. I closed the file and could not find it in the folder anymore. Therefore, since I am not able to locate the file, I am unable to copy it, edit it etc. The only files I can see in the profile folder are a folder named INBOX.sbd and a file called INBOX.msf.

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re :The only files I can see in the profile folder are a folder named INBOX.sbd and a file called INBOX.msf.

'Inbox.sbd' folder means you created subfolders under the Inbox folder at some point. 'Inbox.msf' should always be visible as it is the index folder used by Thunderbird. 'Inbox' mbox file would only appear if your settings stated to download full copies.

Check Account Settings: Right click on imap mail account folder in Folder Pane and select 'Settings' Select 'Synchronisation & storage' Message Synchronising: Is this checkbox selected 'Keep messages in all folders for this account on this computer...? If no, then select that checkbox.

Click on 'Advanced' button Is the 'Inbox' selected ? If no then select it. Make sure you have selected all folders which you want to be able to download full copies of emails. click on OK

Disc Space: Select 'Synchronise all messages locally regardless of age'

Select 'Don't delete any mesages'

Click on OK to ensure you have saved settings.

Please report back on the settings you had and now have if you altered anything.

Try using the 'Offline' mode to see if this forces a download of whatever is in the server Inbox to create a new mbox file containing anything in server Inbox. Menu app icon > File > Offline > Download/Sync now

select 'Mail messages' click on 'OK'

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Many thanks again. All settings were as you mentioned: Account Settings: Keep messages in all folders for this account on this computer... - selected Inbox - selected Synchronise all messages locally regardless of age - selected Don't delete any mesages - selected

The Offline mode did not solve the problem.

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In more detail: the file INBOX was created, but it does not contain any lost message, and no message is marked as "X-Mozilla-Status: 0009".

Many thanks again for the time and efforts spent.

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Who is your mail service provider?

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It is an institutional e-mail (Ion Mincu University of Architecture and Urbanism). I guessed somehow the next solution, contacted the administrator and asked for a solution directly from the server administrator.

Many thanks for all help.

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Alexandru-Ionut Petrisor said

It is an institutional e-mail (Ion Mincu University of Architecture and Urbanism). I guessed somehow the next solution, contacted the administrator and asked for a solution directly from the server administrator. Many thanks for all help.


Yeah, that would be the best action to take at this point. Hopefully there's a recent backup of the mail server's data.

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Many thanks to all. From now on I will try to solve the problem directly at its source, and not in Mozilla. Appreciate the time and hlpfull comments from both of you.

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You're welcome. Keep us posted on how it goes.

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Many thanks to all of you again. The server administrator said that the server does not allow for undeleting the messages. So the case is closed. I was able to get only the messages I sent, and were saved locally, by following the instructions at https://serverfault.com/questions/259927/recovering-deleted-emails-on-imap-server-with-thunderbird (creating a second account with no connection abilities, copying the files from the real one, and moving them from one account to the other).

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You're welcome. I advise putting in place a solid backup plan for your Tbird profile and other important data/files because things will go wrong just because they can. Better safe than sorry.

Modified by Stans

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I recently had a folder called "New Cabinet" become greyed out. While looking at Mozilla Support I went to properties and clicked on "Repair Folder". Next I knew was the folder disappeared. Now I need to reinstall the folder. I cannot find a specific solution amongst the hundreds of options. This problem seems to come the closest. Can someone please help?

Regards, Vic

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