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Cleaning up multiple accounts and retrieving lost folders after resetting Thunderbird

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  • 2 have this problem
  • 201 views
  • Last reply by Toad-Hall

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My Thunderbird account is in a bit of a mess and I need help to resolve the problem. It is on my iMac running Catalina OS15. History: Last week, after I changed my AT&T/Yahoo email password, I had difficulty getting Thunderbird to accept the new password. I tried different server settings as well as creating a new profile and new accounts. Finally, AT&T support set up a security key, which allowed me to access my Thunderbird incoming email and to send outgoing email.

In setting up a new profile or account, I lost all of my saved folders. I was finally able to restore them from my Profile folder, but made mistakes during my attempts. I may have restored from the wrong Thunderbird folder, stored either in Documents or Library. Lots of extra system type files were imported as you can see in the first screen shot. I put them in the trash, but it won’t empty. The second screen shot shows the side bar with 3 different In/Out/Trash folders. Only one has my saved folders. Several hundred emails were downloaded from the server into the Inbox. However, the date range is only since the problem began, even in the Inbox above the saved folders. The third screen shot shows Tool/Account Settings which may show the extra local folder.

Lastly, I lost my other two identities that I had set up. I’m sorry this is long-winded, but hope the information helps someone to help me to clean up this mess.

Thanks, Delilah

Attached screenshots

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Attached is a screenshot of those items. There are 2 that point to "/Users/delilah/Documents/Thunderbird/Profiles/d7ehr0l4.default"). I made them Bold in the copy in Notes before taking the screenshot.

There is no root.imap No \\ backward slashes. Only / forward slashes Nothing in this list points to Users/Delilah/Library/Thunderbird/Profiles/Zquad8v.Default User

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The image you have posted contains all the pref stuff that was in the original default file. As you could see it was pointing to a differnt location.

As the new profile is called zquaud8v.Default User, the data in the prefs.js file needs to contain that information.

I've shown what needs to be changed in the bold font- see image. You can click on image in browser to enlarge if required.

I'm not sure if there was another item in list just above what is shown in image as user_pref mail.root.none.

Do you see entries called : user_pref("mail.root.imap"... and user_pref("mail.root.imap-rel", ?

If yes then it would need :

user_pref("mail.root.imap", "/Users/delilah/Library/Thunderbird/Profiles/zquaud8v.Default User/ImapMail");

user_pref("mail.root.imap-rel", "[ProfD]ImapMail");

If you see another entry called: user_pref("mail.server.server3.directory" and it points to ImapMail account

It would need:

user_pref("mail.server.server3.directory", "/Users/delilah/Library/Thunderbird/Profiles/zquaud8v.Default User/ImapMail/imap.mail.yahoo.com");

user_pref("mail.server.server3.directory-rel", "[ProfD]ImapMail/imap.mail.yahoo.com");


Once you have completed everything - double check, everything must be exact. Then save the file and Start Thunderbird.

Modified by Toad-Hall

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Ok. Done. The first attachment shows a copy of the whole pref.js before I made the changes. I don't see any of the additional files you asked about with imap or map in the string on this list.

The second attachment shows a copy of the whole pref.js list after I made the changes.

The third attachment shows the sidebar in Thunderbird after the changes. My Archives, Templates and Saved folders are back. However, I might have tried something back in May before I saved a copy of the profile, because there are still 3 different Inboxes, one at the top under email address that is still loading new mail, a second one under Local Folders, which also has the Templates, Sent, Archives, Junk folders and the third one under Saved. I wrote the date ranges next to each.

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Things are starting to look much better. Let the download complete before doing anything.

re: Local Folders

It looks like you attempted to back up emails into Local Folders. Perhaps you initially tried to use Local Folders as a global Inbox or redirected eg: Archives etc to use 'Local Folders'.

At least it looks like all the emails are now accessible.

Once all emails have completed downloading, check the Account Settings, Copies & Folders to make sure all settings are now saving into the mail account and not into a folder in Local Folders - assuming that is the desired result.

  • Right click on mail account name in Folder Pane and select 'Settings'.
  • Select 'Server Settings'

Under 'Message Storage section - check settings are as follows

  • Click on 'Advanced..' button
  • Select 'Inbox for this account'
  • click on OK
  • Select 'Copies & Folders'

Check you have the following set up.

When sending messages, automatically:

  • Select 'Place a copy in'
  • Select 'Sent' Folder on: mail account name = email address

Message Archives:

  • Select 'Keep messages in:
  • Select 'Archives folder on:' and choose mail account name
  • click on 'Archive options..' button
  • Check/Set up the prefered Archiving options and click on OK

Drafts and Templates

  • Select : 'Drafts folder on' and choose mail account name
  • Select: 'Templates folder on' and choose mail account name


Select 'Junk Settings'

  • Select 'Enable adaptive junk mail controls for this account'
  • Select checkboxes for any address book you want to be a whitelist.
  • Select 'Move new junk messages to'
  • Select 'Junk folder on' and choose the mail account name.

Click on 'OK' to save and close Account Settings.

If you had to change anything to match the above info, please exit Thunderbird, wait a few moments for files to update preferences and restart Thunderbird to ensure it is using those settings.

Currently there are a load of emails in three different Inboxes that need sorting but before that occurs...

I presume you want to get the 'Local Folders' Template emails into the mail account name again. Folders like 'Drafts', 'Templates' and 'Sent' get auto created in the mail account.

Click on 'Write', create a short email to end to yourself. Save as a Draft, then save as a Template, then finally send email. This should create those three new folders in the mail account. You can then access them and delete the saved emails.

You can now, access eg: Local Folders 'Templates' folder to see template emails. Select those Template emails and move them into the mail account 'Templates' folder.

Repeat same action to move Local Folders 'Sent' emails into mail account 'Sent' folder. As there may be a lot of emails, I suggest you do this in batches and be patient :)

What do you want to do about all the folders you created and stored in Local Folders under 'Saved' folder? You can leave them as they are and continue to use them or move them back into the main account. If you choose to leave as they are, then work through the various 'Inboxes' reading, sorting emails and storing in the various folders.

This will take a while to do, but I'm not going anywhere, I'll keep following the question. Let me know how you get on and what decision you decide on the 'Saved' folders.

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It does feel like it's moving back towards normal again. I am so relieved and grateful for your help. I followed your instructions on settings and creating a Template, Drafts and Sent folder. I've started moving the Local Folder Inbox and Saved Folder Inbox contents into the main Inbox under my email address. I was cleaning up, which is very time consuming, but I could do that later as well as deleting duplicates and just move emails for now. I'll just move the emails in batches as you suggested.

The Saved folder and the Archive folder all used to be under the one account folder, so I'll want them back there. I don't need a separate Local folder. The Saved Folder has all my personal and business/job emails. It didn't used to have an extra Inbox or Trash in Saved, so we'll have to get rid of those, once I transfer the Inbox contents.

How do I create a new archive folder in the main account under my email address or move the full Archive folder, which is currently under Local Folder, into the main account? And how do I move the Saved folder with all it's subfolders back under the main account?

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Assuming you have emptied the folders in Inbox (both), Drafts, Templates and Sent that are currently displaying in 'Local Folders', instructions on deleting and moving files as follows:

  • Exit Thunderbird
  • Access: Library/Thunderbird/Profiles/'zquaud8v.Default User' folder
  • Click on 'Mail' folder
  • Click on 'inbound.att.net' pop mail account folder to see contents.

This 'inbound.att.net' pop mail account folder is the folder that needs the copied files, so you paste them here.

  • Go back to 'Mail' folder to see contents.
  • Click on 'Local Folders' mail account folder.

Delete these files:

  • Inbox
  • Inbox.msf
  • Drafts
  • Drafts.msf
  • Templates
  • Templates.msf
  • Sent
  • Sent.msf
  • Junk
  • Junk.msf
  • Trash
  • Trash.msf

Do not delete these because Unsent Messages is the Outbox folder and it is used by all accounts. They must remain where they are in Local Folders.

  • Unsent Messages
  • Unsent Messages.msf

Do not delete these, because they contain emails that need to be moved.

  • Saved
  • Saved.msf
  • Saved.sbd
  • Archives
  • Archives.msf
  • Archives.sbd


  • Click on 'Saved.sbd' folder

Delete the following files

  • Inbox
  • Inbox.msf
  • Trash
  • Trash.msf

Now you need to get copies of the following put into correct folder. I suggest you use 'Copy' so if something goes wrong, the originals are still in Local Folders.

Go back to 'Local Folders' folder and Copy the following files and folders and paste them into the 'inbound.att.net' folder as previously mentioned which currently only has the good 'Inbox' and 'Trash' files.

  • Saved
  • Saved.msf
  • Saved.sbd
  • Archives
  • Archives.msf
  • Archives.sbd

Start Thunderbird.

Check the 'Archives' and 'Saved' folders look correct in the account name folder and you can see all the subfolders.

Some folders will now have disappeared from 'Local Folders', but others still need to be removed.

Assuming all is correct...

  • Exit Thunderbird
  • Access: Library/Thunderbird/Profiles/'zquaud8v.Default User' folder
  • Click on 'Mail' folder
  • click on 'Local Folders' folder

Delete these files and folders, because you have successfully got copies in the mail account.

  • Saved
  • Saved.msf
  • Saved.sbd
  • Archives
  • Archives.msf
  • Archives.sbd

Start Thunderbird

Your Folder Pane should now look much better and all folders with emails should now be in the mail account name folder. 'Local Folders' account should have an 'Outbox' folder.

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Wow. It looks so much better now! After moving all in the 2 extra Inbox and Sent mail to the active Inbox and Sent folders at the top, I followed through on your instructions above. All looks good now and nothing is lost. What a relief! Thank you!!!

There are just a few things that may need tidying up, unless you think we should leave them alone. • A new Trash folder appeared under Local Folders after I had deleted the Trash and Trash.msf files after I was all done. It is empty and not active. Sidebar attachment #1 • Attachment #2 is a screen capture of the new profile in the Library. I've pasted in the open folders below Local Folder, which is open, and color coded them to reference easily.

    1. Although it doesn't appear in the side bar, there is a Local folder/Inbox with 2 subfolders I created a long time ago. I'm not sure why they weren't copied when I transferred everything else. I don't need them. 
    2. Local Folder-1 is one I inadvertently created when I first made this mess. I don't need to keep it.
    3. pop.mindspring.com is the old email address and folder where everything got saved in the Documents folder in earlier profiles. It still shows in the Documents folder/profile d7.., but is empty. I guess it was in the profile we copied/pasted as well and contents were carried over.
    4. smart mailbox-1 contains a copy of the Archives folder, which doesn't need to be a smart folder.

How do I handle these?

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re : A new Trash folder appeared under Local Folders after I had deleted the Trash and Trash.msf files after I was all done. It is empty and not active.

That would be normal, just in case you had an email in the 'Outbox' and decided to delete rather than send.

1. Although it doesn't appear in the side bar, there is a Local folder/Inbox with 2 subfolders I created a long time ago. They will not show because the 'Inbox' mbox file and Inbox.msf file does not exist in Local folders, so the top level 'Inbox' does not exist, so subfolders cannot be shown I'm not sure why they weren't copied when I transferred everything else. I don't need them. If you are sure there are no mbox files in the 'EVENTS.sbd' and 'FOLLOW-UP.sbd' folders that you want then follow instructions below to delete, but if you want those folders then you can copy the 'Inbox.sbd' folder over to the 'inbound.att.net' folder

2. Local Folder-1 is one I inadvertently created when I first made this mess. I don't need to keep it. - OK to delete

3. pop.mindspring.com is the old email address and folder where everything got saved in the Documents folder in earlier profiles. It still shows in the Documents folder/profile d7.., but is empty. I guess it was in the profile we copied/pasted as well and contents were carried over. Are you certain there are no emails that you need that are still in that account? - if all got moved to the current email address then it's ok to delete.

4. smart mailbox-1 contains a copy of the Archives folder, which doesn't need to be a smart folder. Note: 'smart mailboxes' is only created if you choose this option: 'View' > 'Folders' > 'Unified'

  • Exit Thunderbird
  • Access: Library/Thunderbird/Profiles/'zquaud8v.Default User' folder
  • Click on 'Mail' folder
  • Delete 'Local Folder-1' folder
  • Delete 'pop.mindspring.com' folder - Note only delete this folder if you are sure there are no emails still in that account that you need. Otherwise leave as it is.
  • Delete 'smart mailboxes-1' folder
  • click on 'Local Folders' folder

Option 1 - delete without saving.

  • Delete: 'Inbox.sbd' (all the contents will also be deleted)

Option2 - to save folder before deleting:

  • Right click on 'Inbox.sbd' folder and select 'Copy'
  • Click on 'inbound.att.net' pop account folder to see contents.
  • Right click in 'inbound.att.net' pop account folder and select 'Paste'
  • click on 'Local Folders' folder
  • Delete: 'Inbox.sbd' (all the contents will also be deleted)


Note: At this point, it would be a good idea to get a good backup copy of all this.

  • Library/Thunderbird/Profiles/'zquaud8v.Default User'

Make a copy of the 'Thunderbird' folder, as indicated above and paste it into a suitable location eg: external harddrive.

Regarding the Documents/Thunderbird folder - it is a mess, I would suggest that you delete it so no confusion occurs in the future.

Start Thunderbird.

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