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How to migrate from Apple mail to Thunderbird

  • 7 replies
  • 1 has this problem
  • 82 views
  • Last reply by Stans

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I've been using Thunderbird for many years in my work life. I use it every day. I'm as happy as the famous clam. I've even been a tiny contributor to Thunderbird development (statements only, no code).

But since I switched from Windows to macOS ten years ago, I have been using Apple Mail for personal mail. (I don't know why.)

I have finally given up on Apple Mail, after knowing for years that it simply does not work for me. (Not even Search.) I am ready to say goodbye and to migrate all my back messages to Thunderbird.

It is straightforward to navigate to this page:

    https://support.mozilla.org/en-US/kb/switching-thunderbird#w_switching-from-apple-mail-to-thunderbird

Right up front we are told:

    "Currently, message and address book import is only functional with Apple Mail 5.0 or earlier."

So, I am hoping, all I have to do is export each of my forty or so folders, with mail from my sixteen e-mail accounts, into (some arrangement) of .mbox files, and import each of those files into Thunderbird, right?

How?

Oops. I mean, how, reliably. And with reasonable effort.

I've spent some hours looking for the product that offers to do this. Or even part of this. I have found only one, from New Zealand. If you folks don't straighten me out quick, I' will try it.

Finally, my question:

    How do I migrate from Apple Mail to Thunderbird?
I've been using Thunderbird for many years in my work life. I use it every day. I'm as happy as the famous clam. I've even been a tiny contributor to Thunderbird development (statements only, no code). But since I switched from Windows to macOS ten years ago, I have been using Apple Mail for personal mail. (I don't know why.) I have finally given up on Apple Mail, after knowing for years that it simply does not work for me. (Not even Search.) I am ready to say goodbye and to migrate all my back messages to Thunderbird. It is straightforward to navigate to this page: https://support.mozilla.org/en-US/kb/switching-thunderbird#w_switching-from-apple-mail-to-thunderbird Right up front we are told: "Currently, message and address book import is only functional with Apple Mail 5.0 or earlier." So, I am hoping, all I have to do is export each of my forty or so folders, with mail from my sixteen e-mail accounts, into (some arrangement) of .mbox files, and import each of those files into Thunderbird, right? How? Oops. I mean, how, reliably. And with reasonable effort. I've spent some hours looking for the product that offers to do this. Or even part of this. I have found only one, from New Zealand. If you folks don't straighten me out quick, I' will try it. Finally, my question: How do I migrate from Apple Mail to Thunderbird?

All Replies (7)

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The Mail app supports exporting entire mailboxes (accounts) to mbox files, as explained here. Thunderbird uses the mbox format for storing messages, so you don't need any product to facilitate this. Simply get the exported mbox files and copy them to the Local Folders folder inside your Thunderbird's profile folder. See Profiles - Where Thunderbird stores your messages and other user data for details about your Thunderbird profile. The mbox files should be copied to the Mail > Local Folders folder while Thunderbird is closed (not running), then when you relaunch Thunderbird, it will load the mbox files under the Local Folders account.

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Thanks for the quick response, Stans. I have never used Local Folders. As I've started to migrate (by simply using two mail readers during the migration) one account at a time, I have the back mail in Mail and the new mail in Thunderbird. Because I have many accounts, I use the excellent View>Folders>Unified.

Am I right that, using your method, I could then archive the messages in each Local Folders mailbox to a corresponding archive mailbox, and, in future, archive from the account specific mailboxes to the same arrangement of mailboxes? (I'm a mail hoarder. Perhaps why Apple Mail continues to deteriorate for me.) Or maybe archive them one account at at time to a Local Folders archive then select Message>Move to the specific archive. Or simply Move from the Local folder to the corresponding archive folder.


Forgive me for piling on: It looks like, with my many account setup, I can view the messages Unified, but to search, I must search one account at a time. Correct?

Maybe I don't understand the purpose of Local Folders. (Old fashioned POP user?? One reason I use POP is that my work requires that I don't keep my mail anywhere but on my machine. I just searched 'local folder' at Mozilla Thunderbird Support. I wonder if, using Local Folders properly, I would wind up with being able to do a Unified search. This would cover the case of mixing up mail, or being mixed up myself about which account a message arrived from. )

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Hmmm... Looks like that is the answer: Having read a message in an incoming account folder, and not wanting to keep it handy, I would move it to the corresponding local folder. Then, if I wished, have a different protocol for finally moving messages to archives. Or simply letting Local Folders be the archive?

(Again, because of my work, I am required to keep all incoming mail organized, in case some other person should hire a lawyer who asks the court to order me to produce mail concerning that other person. Though we hope that never happens, it has happened just now that we are asked to make sure we can do that if the other person in a certain other matter succeeds in getting such an order.)

...

I get the feeling that Thunderbird is optimized for IMAP. That certainly is good deign, for the obvious reason.

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I just read your message of May 4th 8:56. That answers my second question. I have tested, and, indeed, I have unified search on Local Folders.

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There's a bit more to the process than just exporting folders from Mail app to mbox files. The actual mbox files that can be imported to TB are contained within the 'mbox' export:

https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=688166#c23

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I did everything suggested in this thread and it transfers my emails in my inbox only. I finally got it to transfer my mailboxes/folders but they are all empty. Any suggestions how to get the content of the folders? Thanks.

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What exactly did you do, step by step?