I realise the solution exists out there but I'm confused by all the vocabulary.

Situation: I have two email accounts that are about to be closed (professional email accounts, end of contract). I would like to keep a local copy of all the emails and the attachments, in a way that I can still navigate the mailbox history if need be.

How do I do that?

Mail 1) is under a very old version of Outlook-Web-App. Mail 2) is under outlook.office.com . I have Thunderbird on my computer, accessing both Mails, under the IMAP protocol. To my understanding, since IMAP synchronises with server, once my account is closed I lose everything. Correct?

The only solution I found (I think) is to create two directories under "Local Folders" and then select all emails, right click, copy to the directory I just created. Does that work? Is there a better way?


3 Answers 3


Since the IMAP accounts are about to be closed, then then best solution will be to Archive the mail for each account.

Keep the Archive files in a safe place. You can open them with Thunderbird if need be.

Archiving Thunderbird.

To turn on Archive:

Archive Thunderbird email

First, open Thunderbird email client. Right-click on your account name (eg – [email protected]) and click Settings option. Now, click on the Copies and Folders option from the left side panel. In the Message Archives option, tick the Create message archives in and click on Archive options… button.

To open Archive:

See Archive Thunderbird Email

  1. Close Thunderbird and go to your Mozilla Thunderbird profile directory.

  2. Go to the Mail folder.

  3. Drag and drop the archived folder file (Archive, for example) from its remote location to the Local Folders folder.

  4. Open Mozilla Thunderbird.

Now you can open the Archive.

  • I'm a bit confused: I did that for both accounts, but I only see one "Archive" on my thunderbird directory (whereas I'm supposed to ignore .msf files, right?)
    – Milleuros
    Mar 27, 2023 at 9:02
  • I think that is correct. support.mozilla.org/en-US/kb/….
    – John
    Mar 27, 2023 at 11:13
  • Also see docs: How do I find my profile?
    – djvg
    Mar 29, 2023 at 7:50
  • Alternatively you could create a new folder somewhere under "Local Folders" in Thunderbird, then select this folder under "Keep message archives in: Other: ..." in the account settings. Then select all the emails you want to archive, and click "Archive" to move them into that folder. This way, there's no need to close thunderbird and move the archive files manually.
    – djvg
    Mar 29, 2023 at 8:06
  • If you do copy the archive manually, it appears you'll need to include three things, viz. archive.sbd, archive.msf, and archive (assuming your folder is named archive), otherwise the archive won't show up (at least on Windows 10 Thunderbird 102.9.0). Also see e.g. askubuntu.com/a/1319705
    – djvg
    Mar 29, 2023 at 10:15

Yes, IMAP accounts are mainly supposed to be direct views into the server's storage, and that's how Thunderbird treats them.

Ctrl+drag and drop all of your IMAP folders under "Local Folders", or into another IMAP account.


You may manually drag-drop messages outside of these accounts, but there exist tools that can do it safer and more efficiently.

I have previously used to good effect the free Thunderbird add-on of ImportExportTools NG, which can do both the export and import of messages.

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See a description of ImportExportTools NG in the article
How To Backup Thunderbird Email To Hard Drive Efficiently?

There exist also several commercial products for that. One example is BitRecover IMAP Backup Software ($49), which can download emails from IMAP Server to local PC in PST, MSG, MBOX, EML, EMLX, MBOX, PDF, DOC, XPS, RTF, etc.

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