Before installing a new OS I tried to backup my Thunderbird by copying the .thunderbird directory.

To be on the safe side I tried to emulate the restore procedure on another machine. I copied the .thunderbird directory to it and set up a symlink from /home/username/.thunderbird to this backup directory.

Thunderbird starts correctly, it shows plugins, calendar, address book, all news feeds and all mail accounts.

But for POP accounts it shows only the Inbox folder (which is empty) and the Trash folder. All the other folders are missing (Archives, Drafts, Sent).

What I have tried so far and it did not help:

  • click 'Repair folder' from the menu folder;
  • Delete .msf files to force Thunderbird to rebuild index;
  • Delete Panacea.dat;
  • start Thunderbird with -profilemanager to choose the particular profile directory;
  • all tips from the official documentation.

It seems like Thunderbird successfully restores all the information from the backup, except the folders and messages for POP mail accounts.

Any ideas regarding such a strange behavior of Thunderbird?


In the original(your backup) .thunderbird directory there should be a file that is named with a bunch of random letters and/or numbers followed by .default. That is you profile that has all your data stored in it. in the screen shot below it is 5euxiyvw.default

enter image description here

Paste that file from the backup into the new .thunderbird directory. You will then need to open the profiles.ini file and edit the last line to match the name of the new directory. Here is a screen shot of the file in the above screenshot. As you can see the Path= file was edited to be Path=5euxiyvw.default

enter image description here

Then you should only have to save the file and start Thunderbird. Thunderbird will now be looking at the newly pasted file folder for your profile and you should have all the emails and folders that were saved locally when you backed up your .thunderbird directory. All the setting for the old profile should be the same as well.

  • I did that before and unfortunately it did not help. I just double checked the profiles.ini file and the Path section, everything is correct there. I have all the accounts, news, plugins imported, but the POP accounts miss all the messages and folders.
    – skanatek
    Sep 5 '12 at 5:58
  • then I'm not sure what the problem is, I would have to assume that either some of the files were not saved or were corrupted when you backed them up. sorry I could not be of more help.
    – TrailRider
    Sep 6 '12 at 3:12
  • What TrailRider proposes is the right procedure but I will share with you my experience to give you an other hint (since I do not know your local folders structure). I use in a dual boot machine the same profile folder for thunderbird in ubuntu and windows. Sometimes, when I go to windows, my local folders have the similar appearance with yours. The solution is to go in preferences and re-define what is the profile correct folder. What is probably happening, I am not sure though, it is because I have common local folders for all accounts, and I have stored emails in separate MAIL folder, then
    – bob
    Sep 9 '12 at 17:56
  • ... if you see my profile folder, I have mail.sbd and MAIL.sbd directories and probably thunderbird under windows is not distinguishing between them... The easiest way is to use "ImportExportTools" add on; see detailed info in nic-nac-project.de/~kaosmos/mboximport-en.html
    – bob
    Sep 9 '12 at 17:59

I know this question is very old. But as I just had the same problem and found a solution, I wanted to share it: Thunderbird stores the absolute path (not just the profile-relative path) to the directory where it stores the mail folders. If this path changes, you have to update it in the account settings for each account. This changed for me, as there was a symlink in the path to the profile. But Thunderbird stored the actual path, not the symlink path. When I changed the symlink, Thunderbird "lost" all my mails, just as you described it.

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