How to migrate your e-mail from Outlook (Express) in Windows to Thunderbird in Ubuntu or Linux Mint


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When you use Outlook or Outlook Express in Windows for your e-mail, then you can easily transfer your e-mails, contacts and settings to the e-mail client Thunderbird in Ubuntu or Linux Mint.

Like this:

1. Boot your computer into Windows.


2. Download Thunderbird for Windows and install it in Windows. During installation, Thunderbird will propose you to import all of the e-mails, contacts and settings of Outlook (or Outlook Express). Agree to that.

Don't change anything else in Thunderbird, but close it when the data import has finished.


3. Still in Windows, copy the profile folder of Thunderbird containing the e-mails, contacts and settings that you've imported, onto a USB memory stick. You can find that profile folder like this:

The name of the profile folder you've just filled with imported stuff, is an arbitrary combination of letters and digits, but always ends with .default.
For example: mhezna7n.default
For the purpose of this how-to I'll call it fullprofilefolder.default

In order to find that profile folder, you have to unhide the hidden files in Windows Explorer. The method for that, differs for each Windows version:


Windows XP:
Launch Windows Explorer, for example by double-clicking the My Documents icon.

Explorer panel: Tools - Folder Options.

After the new window appears, select the View tab.

Put a checkmark in the checkbox labeled:
Display the contents of system folders

Under the Hidden files and folders section:
Select the radio button labeled Show hidden files and folders

Press the button Apply to All Folders

In Windows XP, the Thunderbird profile folder of user John (just an example) should now be visible in:
C:\Documents and Settings\John\Application Data\Thunderbird\Profiles


Windows 7 and Windows Vista:
Launch Windows Explorer, for example by opening the Documents folder from the menu.

Explorer panel: Organize - Folder Options

When the Folder Options window pops up, select the View tab.

Remove the checkmark for:
Hide protected operating system files (Recommended)

Under the Hidden files and folders section:
Select the radio button labeled Show hidden files, folders and drives

Press the button Apply to All Folders

In Windows 7 and Windows Vista, the Thunderbird profile folder of user John (just an example) should now be visible in:
C:\Users\John\AppData\Roaming\Thunderbird\Profiles


Windows 8.x and 10:
Launch Windows Explorer.

Explorer panel: click the tab View

In the panel (to the right), you now see a checkbox labeled Hidden items. Check it.

In Windows 8.x and 10, the Thunderbird profile folder of user John (just an example) should now be visible in:
C:\Users\John\AppData\Roaming\Thunderbird\Profiles


4. When you've copied the profile folder onto the USB memory stick, shut down Windows and reboot your computer into Ubuntu or Linux Mint.


5. Ensure that your Ubuntu or Linux Mint is completely up to date with all updates. This will minimize the differences between the Thunderbird version in Windows and the Thunderbird version in Linux.


6. Launch Thunderbird in Ubuntu / Linux Mint. Not because you're actually going to do something with it, but simply launching it once, will make it generate a profile folder automatically.

Click the option to configure your account later.
Then close Thunderbird.


7. Open your home folder with the file manager.

Use the shortcut (key combination) Ctrl h to make the hidden files visible (unhide them), or do it like this:

In the task bar of the file manager: View - check: Show hidden files


8. Open the hidden settings folder called .thunderbird (with a dot before the name, that makes it hidden) in Ubuntu or Linux Mint. In that folder you find the current (nearly empty) profile folder of Thunderbird in Linux.

The name of that profile folder is again an arbitrary combination of letters and digits, but always ends with .default. For example: brfnan5s.default
For the purpose of this how-to I'll call it emptyprofilefolder.default

Now delete the current profile folder emptyprofilefolder.default. And put the new profile folder fullprofilefolder.default that's on the USB memory stick, in that location instead.


9. Almost done, but not quite: now double-click on the file called profiles.ini in the folder .thunderbird. That causes that text file to be opened in a text editor.

In the last line of that text file, you see a reference to the name of the former profile folder. In this example: Path=emptyprofilefolder.default

Change the old name into the new name:
Path=fullprofilefolder.default

Take care not to make mistakes when typing the name, even though it's a complex combination of letters and digits. Because it has to be exactly right!

Save the modified text file and close it.


10. Finally, for the sake of security, hide the hidden files again in the file manager, by means of the shortcut (key combination) Ctrl h


11. Launch Thunderbird in Ubuntu or Linux Mint: now it should contain all of your e-mails and also all of your contacts and e-mail settings. Ready for use!


Want more tips?

Do you want more tips and tweaks for Ubuntu or Linux Mint? There's a lot more of them on this website!


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