Thunderbird Move Mail / Settings From Desktop Computer To Laptop

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Q. How do I move my Thunderbird email client settings from Debian Linux desktop to a new Ubuntu Linux laptop? I’ve installed Thunderbird on Ubuntu Linux but not able to find any import or export option. How do I move settings?

A. Make sure Mozilla Thunderbird is not running. You need find out your profile directory / folder. Open terminal and change directory to ~.thunderbird:
$ cd ~.thunderbird
Type ls command to see the profile directory:
$ ls
Sample output:

appreg  iz80591g.default  profiles.ini

The path is usually ~/.thunderbird/xxxxxxxx.default/ (xxx is random character; in above example it is iz80591g.default directory). You can copy iz80591g.default using network (scp command) or USB pen. Insert USB pen and copy iz80591g.default to pen drive:
$ cp -avr iz80591g.default /media/disk/
You can also use GUI tools. Open file manager by clicking on Places > Home Folder > Hit CTRL+H to display hidden file. Go to .thunderbird > highlight all files and folders in it. Copy the files to the desired backup location.

A note about Windows XP / Vista profile location

The path is usually %AppData%\Thunderbird\Profiles\xxxxxxxx.default\ . Open command prompt and type command to find out your path:
cd %AppData%\Thunderbird\Profiles\

Windows GUI method

Alternatively, click on Start > Run > Type the command:
Press [Enter] key > Open the Thunderbird folder.

A note about Mac OS X

The path is usually ~/Library/Thunderbird/Profiles/xxxxxxxx.default/. Open a terminal and type the command to find out your path:
cd ~/Library/Thunderbird/Profiles

OS X GUI method

Open your home folder > Select Library folder > select the Thunderbird folder.

How do I restore the profile?

To restore the profile on laptop, open a terminal and type the following command (make sure Thunderbird is not running):
$ thunderbird -profilemanager

Click on Create profile > Click Next > Type “Restore” under new profile name > (note down the folder location) Finish:

Finally Click on Exit.

Copy the files from USB pen

Open a terminal and type the command:
$ cd ~/.thunderbird/
Run ls command to see the folder noted when you created your restoration profile. Run cd command on the folder:
$ cd xxxxxxxx.restore
$ cp -avr /media/disk/iz80591g.default/* .

Alternatively, you can highlight and copy all files using Places > Home Folder method.

Start the thunderbird and you should see all your old emails including settings.

Further readings

Posted by: Vivek Gite

The author is the creator of nixCraft and a seasoned sysadmin, DevOps engineer, and a trainer for the Linux operating system/Unix shell scripting. Get the latest tutorials on SysAdmin, Linux/Unix and open source topics via RSS/XML feed or weekly email newsletter.

1 comment

  1. This is a useful one to many.

    By this way we can also share the profiles among a Linux and Windows dual-boot OSs. Just need to keep the profile in a shared location, and add that to both instances. I have my Firefox and Thunderbird profile copied this was across many places when I moved from college to office to my personal laptop.

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