Restoring Thunderbird Emails and Settings on Your PC, Another PC or a Linux Netbook

I’ve already blogged about backing up all your Thunderbird emails using MozBackup. Well that’s fine but what about restoring all the mails and settings to make sure MozBackup has done the job correctly. I use Windows 7 on my main PC but I have a backup PC running Windows XP. Could I restore Thunderbird to the backup PC? There are a couple of ways to do it, one uses MozBackup and the other just involves copying the Thunderbird profile from PC to PC, even across operating systems. So I tried it.

Restoring Thunderbird on the same or another Windows PC using MozBackup

On my main Windows 7 PC, I ran a Thunderbird backup to my external hard drive using MozBackup as described in my earlier post in the first link. I then installed the current version of Thunderbird on my backup Windows XP PC and also installed MozBackup on it. On both the Windows 7 PC and the Windows XP PC, Thunderbird installs to C:\Program Files\Mozilla Thunderbird. Then I restored Thunderbird from my external hard drive to my backup Windows XP PC by running MozBackup, choosing ‘Restore a profile’ and selecting Thunderbird to restore:


I then chose the default profile to restore and browsed to the directory on the external hard drive with the Thunderbird backup. Everything restored perfectly, even after backing up Thunderbird on a Windows 7 PC and restoring on a Windows XP PC. This despite the fact that the emails and settings are stored in different places in each Windows OS. In Windows 7, Thunderbird emails and settings are stored at C:\Users\<user name>\AppData\Roaming\Thunderbird\ while in Windows XP, the emails and settings are at C:\Documents and Settings\<user name>\Application Data\Thunderbird\. MozBackup must be checking the directory structure, doesn’t find the Windows 7 structure, determines which directory structure is present (Windows XP) and automatically restores to that directory. That’s very nice. Of course, restoring Thunderbird on your main PC with MozBackup is just as simple.

Restoring Thunderbird on a Linux Netbook

So far so good, I’ve managed to restore all my emails either on the same or another Windows PC using MozBackup. But I’ve also got an Acer Aspire netbook running Ubuntu. Could I restore Thunderbird there too? MozBackup doesn’t run on Linux so I had to copy the Thunderbird profile this time. First I installed Thunderbird on my netbook running Ubuntu. Then all you have to do is copy the Thunderbird profile in the C:\Users\<user name>\AppData\Roaming\Thunderbird\ on my Windows 7 PC into the folder /home/<user name>/.thunderbird/ on the Ubuntu netbook. For those not familiar with file management in Ubuntu, here’s the procedure I used. I copied the C:\Users\<user name>\AppData\Roaming\Thunderbird directory on the Windows 7 PC onto a USB stick then plugged the stick into my Ubuntu netbook. When Nautilus opened, I navigated to the folder <user name> at the top. I clicked F3 to get an extra viewing pane then in the left pane, I clicked Ctrl-H to see hidden folders and files (the Thunderbird profile is in the hidden .thunderbird folder). Then I navigated down to the .thunderbird folder and double clicked it. In the right pane, I navigated to the USB stick shown in the listing on the left, and double clicked the Thunderbird folder in the right pane. This is what you should now see:

Thunderbird directories

Then I dragged the files and folders present in the right pane to the left pane. I merged folders replacing everything. I launched Thunderbird and all the emails were present just as they were on my Windows 7 PC.

I should say I don’t need to sync my emails between different PCs, I just need a way to ensure that if my main PC packs up for whatever reason, I can be up and running with all my emails on my backup PC or my Linux netbook. Of course, when I do go travelling, I can now happily get all my emails in Thunderbird on my netbook, then when I return just reverse the above process to restore my current emails back to my main Windows 7 PC.

I’d love to hear if you have any thoughts on working with Thunderbird on different PCs and operating systems. Drop a comment below.

One Response

  1. MintBackupRestore Says:

    You can also check out this project:

    It lets you backup all settings of your Linux distribution and you can then restore selected items (e.g., Thunderbird Settings and Profile) but also many others.


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