On Ubuntu Linux, my computer started to die and I quickly backed up some stuff including the "Mail" folder of Thunderbird. I didn't copy the settings folder though, and I don't have any means to access the SSD that it was on.

I've installed Thunderbird, but should I set up my various accounts and then copy over the Mail folders? Or should I copy the folders over and then set up the accounts? Do I need to set the computer offline so it doesn't download new e-mails (SMTP) while I copy the folders over?

I can only find instructions for backing-up/restoring the account settings. Yeah it's annoying I don't have the settings, but once I get set up again at least I'll be able to continue referring to old e-mails.


If you have an IMAP account then you can just set up the account and let it download all the mail in your inbox. If you backed up the local mail folders (that reside only on your computer), then you can just setup the account and copy/move the folder into thunderbird.

In the future, the easiest way to backup everything in thunderbird is to copy the user profile folder: http://support.mozillamessaging.com/en-US/kb/Profiles#w_backing-up-a-profile

This way you get all of your emails and settings for the next installation.

  • Most of my accounts are setup using SMTP (as specified), obviously IMAP wouldn't need the saved Mail folders. – Gregory Oct 16 '11 at 23:45
  • SMTP is the protocol for sending mail, not for receiving. You receive from either a POP3 or IMAP server. Either way you can just create the account then move the folders over, I don't think it would hurt :) – eresonance Oct 18 '11 at 22:52
  • doh, I meant POP3. I really did backup stuff in a rush and without thinking the old computer was going to fully die. – Gregory Oct 19 '11 at 14:53

I set up the accounts while offline and then copied the Mail folder over. On Ubuntu the relevant folder will be something like /home/g/.thunderbird/abcde123.default/Mail where g is your username, and abcde123 is some hashtag (the default folder name may be something different). I then reconnect to the internet and downloaded mail.

Unfortunately the mail didn't download into the 'Local Folders' inbox and there is an additional tree of folders for the main account.

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