Thunderbird is a rather popular open-source program from the Mozilla project. My partner and I used it for a couple of years for our personal emails. However, whenever it came time to backup the emails or transfer them to a different computer, we ran into trouble. Eventually, it got figured out, but not without a lot of trial and error.

Since Thunderbird has grown in popularity, some decent documentation has been produced detailing how to transfer the emails and profiles between computers. Manually, transferring the profiles between computers is kind of a hassle, but not as bad as transferring Eudora emails, if you’ve ever tried that. I’ve always found it rather puzzling how poor the support within Thunderbird for exports or transfers out of the program. Why an open-source project would do this to users, was beyond me. I’ve always chalked this aspect of the program up to the relation to Netscape, which also was a difficult program to export from.

Now, there is a better solution called MozBackup, created by Pavel Cvrcek. MozBackup is a tool for Firefox, Thunderbird, Mozilla Suite, Netscape, and SeaMonkey. (Note: Netscape emails prior to this, have been another pain to transfer for many administrators and users.) MozBackup also works as a tool to transfer emails and profiles in Thunderbird from computer to computer.

For Thunderbird, MozBackup grabs the necessary files out of the Application Data folder found in a user’s My Documents. (n.b. By default the Application Data folder is hidden in Windows XP.) MozBackup will then save the files to wherever you want them saved (e.g. USB drive, network or external hard drive, etc.) These files are saved in a .pcz format. (If needed, .pcz filescan be renamed .zip and opened with a program like WinZip.)

To transfer Thunderbird emails and profiles between two computers, you first need to run MozBackup on the original computer. Choose Backup a profile and save the profile to a medium that is accessible on the new computer. Then, start Thunderbird and setup a dummy account. The dummy account doesn’t have to function, but all the fields should be filled. Close Thunderbird and run MozBackup to restore the profile, grabbing the transferred data from wherever you stored it.

When you open up Thunderbird now on your new computer, you should see all of your emails and account settings.