I just created a new Thunderbird profile. Unfortunately Thunderbird only downloads recent messages. I need to get all my messages and subfolders. Any idea?

  • 2
    Worked for me out of the box when switching to offline mode. Only spam|junk|trash folders needed to be manually activated.
    – neverMind9
    Apr 16, 2019 at 17:24

5 Answers 5


Go to Tools/Options/General/Config Editor or in more recent versions Edit/Preferences/Advanced/General/Config Editor. This may vary between operating systems.

If presented with a

This might void your warranty!

dialog, click on the button "I'll be careful, I promise!".

Type folders_for_new in the filter box.

Look for an option called mail.check_all_imap_folders_for_new or on newer versions mail.server.default.check_all_folders_for_new.

Change this setting to true. This has the effect of not treating inbox as special, but all folders are "inbox", so all folders will be checked and downloaded.

If this key does not exist, then add it (right click / new) exactly as it is written above as a boolean preference. When you add the preference, you will be asked for the initial value. Choose true.

Next, in Account Settings/the account you are referring to/Synchronisation & Storage ensure that "Synchronise all messages locally regardless of age" and "Keep messages for this account on this computer" are selected.

  • @EchtEinfachTV "Keep messages.." won't achieve what the OP is after, if the key isn't present, it needs to be added.
    – Paul
    Apr 9, 2014 at 0:01

There should be a menu or button to "go offline"

In my current Thunderbird 17.0.2 (on Ubuntu 12.04), the button is at the lower-left corner of the whole application.

Clicking the button will start the download and if everything is configured correctly (i.e. has keep all messages regardless of age local) then that is what it will download

  • 5
    This is the key. Hitting the button in the bottom left corner will take you to offline mode and will give you the chance to force Thunderbird to download everything. Mar 14, 2013 at 22:41

You have to check a box called "Keep messages for this account on this computer". Have a look at this tutorial for keeping IMAP messages in Thunderbird.

[Account Settings[1]

  • 1
    This option is already set. The main issue is that it doesn't get subfolders. Nov 5, 2011 at 18:20
  • Have a look at the tutorial, they write about this, too.
    – Jens Erat
    Nov 5, 2011 at 18:22
  • I read that part as well. It seems that Thunderbird is not able to see subfolders. I am going to try with another mail client. Nov 5, 2011 at 19:34

In the list of your accounts in the main window, and right click on the account name and click the "Subscribe..." option. You will then see the list of (sub)folders on the server, check the ones you want. They will now be synced with everything else.


To retrieve all messages in all folders and subfolders, regardless of age and whether the messages are new/unread or not:

From Thunderbird version 115 and later:

  1. Right-click on the account and select 'Settings'.

  2. In Synchronization & Storage, ensure Synchronize all messages regardless of age is selected. By default, it is already selected.

  3. Edit (ALT+E) -> Settings -> General -> (scroll to the bottom and select) Config Editor

  4. Type '_folders' into the search bar.

  5. Double-click on the entry, mail.server.default.check_all_folders_for_new to set the value to true. If the entry does not exist, create it. By default, the entry already exists and is set to false.

6. Click the online/offline icon in the bottom-left corner of the main reader pane/window. This will start to get all messages not already got. The status bar at the bottom will indicate it's getting messages from each folder.

enter image description here

Step 6 is the most important. Previous answers focus on the mail.server.default.check_all_folders_for_new setting, but that is only part of the solution. The clue is in the text - it only gets new/unread messages, not older ones. You need to go into offline-mode to get the older/read messages.

  • I think the client being online is a reasonable assumption. Others already note making sure the client is set to download messages regardless of age. Mar 26 at 20:23

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