Optional support for Maildir allows a single unique file per email (using the EML data format), unlike the default monolithic single file format of one file per folder known as mbox. Note – this is NOT full Maildir in the sense that most users, particularly Linux or mail administrators, know Maildir. You cannot point Thunderbird accounts to a mail server directory, nor do you get message flags stored with emails. See the wiki for more details.
Maildir is disabled by default because there are still many bugs. It is not 100% ready for users.
The remainder of this article explains the format change and how to test Maildir.
Maildir is a major change for Thunderbird because it changes the mail storage mechanism. The single file per email storage format has significant benefits:
- Backups are easier and shorter because the amount of data to be backed up is reduced to only emails that have changed since the last backup.
- It is easier for anti-virus to scan emails in individual files, and infected mails can be removed without the loss of all the other mail in the folder, as often occurs today with anti-virus software which cannot handle multiple emails in one file.
How to turn on Maildir
To turn on Maildir:
- Back up your email.
- At the top of the Thunderbird window on the Menu Bar toolbar, click the menu and select In the menu bar, click the menu and select At the top of the Thunderbird window on the Menu Bar toolbar, click the , or on the Mail Toolbar click the menu button and choose menu and select .
- Select the panel, followed by the tab.
- Next to Message Store Type for new accounts, select .
Any email account created from now on will use Maildir. Existing accounts will continue to use mbox. If you want to use mbox again for new accounts, just reset the config variable.
To change an existing account to use maildir, see this blog post.