Migrating Mozilla Thunderbird email between computer systems isn’t as hard as you would think. Often people are restoring their email from a backup to a new computer. Other times migrating between computer systems, after an upgrade. Sometimes users are changing between Ubuntu and Xubuntu. These instructions for migrating email apply to both Ubuntu and Xubuntu linux distributions, plus no-doubt many other linux distributions.
Step 1 – Show hidden folders
In either Nautilus or Thunar you need to select the option to show hidden files and / or folders. This then enables you to view the ‘.thunderbird’ folder in the home folder of the logged in user.
Step 2 – Copy the folder
Next you have to copy the .thunderbird folder to either a DVD, USB stick, network share or another hard drive to enable you to transfer to the other computer. The .thunderbird folder doesn’t just contain your messages, but also your server settings and most likely your passwords. So be extremely careful how you manage this ‘copy’ and make sure you consider security at all times.
Step 3 – Paste the folder
On the computer system which you intend to transfer the Thunderbird email to, please make sure Thunderbird is already installed. Then you need to make sure the show hidden folders option is enabled, then you can replace the existing .thunderbird folder with the one you copied earlier. Make sure you are not overriding any email accounts and mail that need to be kept.
Step 4 – Turn off show hidden folders / files
Make sure on both systems you disable showing hidden folders / files again, if originally that was the setting. Having hidden folders being shown makes working in the home directory frustrating for the average end user. ie. Trying to find their day to day data without scrolling past hidden folders being shown.
Transferring Thunderbird email doesn’t take too long unless using slow technologies such as USB 1.0 or DVD to migrate the files. You should find once the folders and sub-folders have been transferred, Thunderbird will open up and be able to send / receive without requiring additional configuration.