Friday, January 05, 2007

Migrate Thunderbird mailboxes from Windows to Mac

When I moved from my Windows machine to a Mac I had a bunch of mail in my Thunderbird that I wanted to migrate over. These are emails going back to the days of the war in online email services. As it turns out it isn't as easy as copying the mailboxes over from Windows to my shiny Mac. MozBackup didn't work for me because it is only for Windows-to-Windows. I found a solution after some soul searching from Google... Turns out it's almost as easy as copying over your mailboxes...

1) Install the T-Bird extension MBoxInput
This is the beauty in open standard. Mailboxes in T-Bird are stored in MBox standard, therefore they are portable to whichever email client you wish to use. Install this onto your Mac T-Bird.

2) Copy your mailboxes from your Windows T-Bird profile folder to your Mac
They are in your %APPDATA%\Thunderbird\Profiles folder. I used my good-ole USB drive...

3) On your Mac, right click on your Folders menu, there will be a "Import/Export" item. Select it, and then choose the mailbox in your Profile folder/sub-folder you want to import (eg. Inbox)
If you have multiple email accounts set up, you can right click on the account before selecting Import/Export. The mail will then be imported into the appropriate account as a subfolder.


Anonymous said...

Actually, you can simply copy the everything in your Thunderbird profile and transfer it to the profile on your Mac. Its as easy as overwriting everything in /Users/[user]/Library/Thunderbird/Profiles/[your profile]/

Ah, the joys of cross platform applications

Anonymous said...


That worked like a charm!
I only had to copy my local (windows) folders to my mac. Simply copy and paste the folders to my (local mail) profile folder!

Fairflow said...

How did you link it to an account on the mac? I don't find the profile is recognised when I start Thunderbird?

大眼斗官 said...


Open the profiles.ini in the Thunderbird folder and change it to the new profile folder name.

Arnold Chan

Andrei Victor said...

How come my other mail accounts are not seen?

It's only my Local Folders set and my main account.

Mercury said...

Stephen, Thank you so much for blogging this feature. I worked for hours on Mozillazine and others. Douglas Tan's comment and your original post helped me solve my problem is about 10 minutes!

Here is what I did:

First of all, make sure Thunderbird is closed and not running in the background.

(1) I copied the Windows Thunderbird profile folder in its entirety to a flash disk.

(2) I replaced the existing Mac Thunderbird profile folder with the Windows Thunderbird profile folder (it was a clean install with no risk of losing data).

(3) I used the Terminal utility on my Mac to direct Mac Thunderbird where to "look" for my updated profile folder.

This is done by opening Application/Utilities/Terminal and pasting the following: /Applications/ -profilemanager

This opens Thunderbird's Profile Manager so you can name your profile then browse to the location.

(4) Open Thunderbird and all the folders and messages that were stored in the Windows Thunderbird profile are now visible and available in folder's column on the left side of the Mac Thunderbird window/pane.

(5) From the Mac Mail application I chose File/Import Mailboxes/Thunderbird, etc. following the prompts to select the particular "folders" I wanted to import into Mac Mail.

Wow! Thanks again for helping me accomplish in a few minutes what I had struggled with for the better part of a day!

grace and peace,

Herbert said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Herbert said...

After weeks of trying different software solutions I finally found you blog - I was floored to learn how easy it actually was to do this transition.

The various software vendors out there made it look so complicated, now I understand why - they wanted me to buy their products! As it turned out, none of their tools actually worked for me, it was a long and painful two weeks to go through their very limited and superficial email support, with me doing most of the documentation…

Thank you Stephen! And Thank you to Douglas Tan as well, you definitely made my day!


Herbert said...

Sorry for the typos, if you find any, you may keep them… :)

mikeodyssey said...

I also recently switched from PC to Mac. I have been working on converting email over to the Mac for several days. This worked fantastic. The stuff people do without any gain to them makes me feel good about the world. I really appreciate the help.

Anonymous said...

Mercury - Gracias Amigo!

Exactly what I needed.

Anonymous said...

The way explained by Mercury worked great for me in less than one minute. Great. Thank you all

Anonymous said...

Thank All.


Anonymous said...

Dear Stephen,
As Clubdutch said:" it worked like a charm!" I do not have any idea how it happens quite frankly but it happened and then suddenly, after twist and paste and copy and hours and minutes and stress and god knows it was, absolutely everything without a loss.

Thank very much, from all my heart.

In silence


Jan R said...

Hello! I have read this tread in your blog. I try to migrate my mail from thunderbird to iMac. i have followed all steps, but when i start tb after replaced the mac tb profile with the windows, i always get the message that more than one tb is running. i don't know why, because i only have one. do you have any solutions on this??
thank you, jan from norway

Anonymous said...

Mercury's instructions were simple and spot on. Made my life so much easier.

After trying for hours to import my mozilla mail to Apple Mail, I found Apple mail downloading all my IMAP accounts again from the server when I added the accounts. There was no way I could find to link the imported folders to the account I created.

So I decided to instead use Thunderbird which I have been using for years now and found these instructions which made the whole process a breeze. I prefer open application rather than locked down applications so prefer Thunderbird to Apple Mail.

Thanks again to Stephen for starting the bolg and initial instructions and Mercury for writing a simple step by step that made is super simple.

Much appreciated :)

Lydia Theys said...

Jan, Did you edit "Profiles.ini" because until you do that, you can get that Thunderbird-is-already-running message.

DonC said...

That was awesome, thanks!

Robert said...

Thanks for posting this, made the first day with the new mac (from PC) a seamless transitiion. Anything else I needed to know I found here
Douglas and Mercury's comments made everything work very easily.

K said...

Thanks so much to all of you, especially Mercury, for the instructions. Success!

Apple User said...

Well, apparently Mac OS hides the Library folder, and it is a pain to make it visible and thus accessible...

Bill said...

I must be dumber than a stump! I cannot make sense of Mercury's #2 comment: " I replaced the existing Mac Thunderbird profile folder with the Windows Thunderbird profile folder (it was a clean install with no risk of losing data)." How do I replace the Mac Thunderbird profile?

I copied the PC TB profile to a flash, and I got to the "Choose User Profile" on my Mac, but I can't figure out how to get the profile from the flash onto the Mac.

I used to swear at Bill Gates, but now I'm starting to use Steve Jobs.

Thanks for any assistance.