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Thursday, 28 January 2010

How to import your Thunderbird emails into Thunderbird v3 from another hard disk or location.

Tutorial on how to get your Mozilla Thunderbird e-mails imported from another drive.

Over the years I have often upgraded my system and changed hard disks etc and wanted to keep all of my emails from the previous system, now with Outlook Express this was something I was used to doing.
But then I came to try this using Mozilla Thunderbird and thought I would share my findings on how to do this.

Here is the scenario:
I have had a problem with the main hard disk on my Windows XP machine, namely the dreaded "NTLDR is missing" message at bootup and despite best attempts to get the drive up and running it was not possible fix it. Unfortunately this drive had all my emails on it in Thunderbird v2, so how am I going to retreive them from the old hard disk? I don't have them backed up anywhere! I will explain how to do it here:

I removed the  no longer bootable hard disk, I installed a new blank hard disk and installed Windows XP and put all the software back on (lots of fun!)

I downloaded Thunderbird v3.0.1 :
Mozilla Thunderbird
I installed it, I ran it but at the first screens that showed I clicked cancel and on all other setup screens that followed, then closed Thunderbird.
The reason for running it but not configuring it is so that it creates a folder and profile ready for use.

Now I used Windows Explorer (with it set to "Show hidden and system files") and navigated to the following location :

C:\Documents and Settings\YOURNAME\Application Data\Thunderbird\

As you can see there are about 23 files and 7 folders in this folder. This is where you need to place your original files, I will show you that bit next.

So now we need to get them from your original drive. I will assume now that you have either put the original hard disk into your system set as a slave drive OR you have placed the hard disk in a hard disk caddy and plugged it into your USB port.
Either way you will now need to access your original files. So in this example here I have connected my original hard disk to my pc via a caddy so this is showing as Drive E:
Now again using Windows Explorer you need to navigate to the same location but on your original drive so in my example here that would be :

E:\Documents and Settings\YOURNAME\Application Data\Thunderbird\

You should see the same structure of files such as a Profiles folder, Profiles.ini and a registry.dat file.
You now need to copy everything in the Thunderbird directory so press Control A to select the three items then press Control C to copy them to the clipboard.
Now navigate to the Thunderbird folder that is on your Drive C (your new hard disk) and press Control V
It will now say Profiles folder already exists do you want to overwrite it, click YES.
It will now copy all of your emails, address book etc (Note: Depending on how many emails you have and how big the attachements are there may be many hundreds of megabytes of data to copy so may take a few moments).
Once its has finished you can run Thunderbird, you will now see all of your emails that you thought you would never see again along with your address book too!

n.b: If your previous version was 2 then you will need to go into accounts and security tab and remove the tick from the area asking for additional user/password for authentification. If you do not do this then it will fail to send emails.

Of course if your original hard disk is actually faulty (rather than just not booting windows) then you wont be able to read the files from it.

I hope this tutorial helps those people in the same situation as me.
Please leave some nice comments if you found this information worked for you.


  1. Thx mate, did it as you said, well nearly as you said .... TB 3.0 now has a folder listed as "roaming" this is where you need to post the TB folder & all your email will be available.


  2. is it possible to import email from an old thunderbird 2 install on old hdd into thunderbird 3 on new hdd?

  3. I had one day when I was angry and mad. I lost my all emails. I didn't know what to do next. I wanted to terminate everything. Luckily for me a friend soon phoned me and I could understand how solve this problem. It was simply and I could. Besides the tool which was advised my friend would relieve in like any situation also - recover .pst.