How to Recover When Thunderbird is Broken

Here’s a helpful trick for Thunderbird users …

Yesterday I started noticing a strange issue in the Thunderbird email client. I could open the email client as usual, and mail would be retrieved. I was also able to click on one mailbox and read the mails there. But when I tried to click on another mailbox, or another folder of the same mailbox, nothing would happen. When I restarted the email client, I was again able to click on one mailbox, but not on any other.

I tried a lot of “internal” fixes, like removing the msf files so that Thunderbird would regenerate them, or reinstalling the program to see if that would resolve the problem.

Unfortunately though nothing did. I did notice that my mail was still there which was reassuring to say the least.

I first thought about backing up all emails to Mailstore and starting anew, but this would have meant that I would have to juggle between two programs (the new Thunderbird and Mailstore) for a while.

I kept the option in mind and decided to play around with profiles first. First thing I did was to add -profilemanager to the end of the Thunderbird startup command to launch the profile manager during start up.

thunderbird profilemanager

You can do that by locating the Thunderbird shortcut in the taskbar or start menu. Right-click it and select Properties from the options. Look for the Target field and add -profilemanager at the end of the command. This launches the profile manager before the email client is started. A profile is like a new user account for Thunderbird.

I decided to create a new profile. This is a simple process, all you need to do is to click on create profile and enter a name if you like. Exit the window afterwards.

thunderbird create profile

Now for the difficulty part. Locate your Thunderbird profile folder on your hard drive. Windows users find the profile under C:\Users\Martin\AppData\Roaming\Thunderbird\Profiles\

Note that you should see at least two profiles listed there. For the sake of simplicity, we assume you see two profiles. First your original profile with all your emails, and then your secondary profile that you have just created. We are now going to move important data from the old profile to the new one. Important data in this regards are all emails, contact information and preferences.

Locate the Mail (and if you like ImapMail) folder in your old profile and copy it to the new profile. Look into the root folder of the profile and copy the following files to the new profile: all abook*.mab files, all prefs files, all signons files.

Once done start Thunderbird using the new profile. Please note that you need to enter the mailbox passwords again. All extensions and other customizations are not moved. I’d suggest to install them anew, but you could try and move them from the old to the new profile.

You should now see all your mailboxes in the new profile. The preferences should be the same as in the old profile, as we have moved the preference files to the new profile as well.

This process has resolved the issue on my end. I selected the new profile to be started with Thunderbird automatically, and removed the profilemanager command from the startup.

Have you ever experienced issues with an email client? What did you do to resolve them?


© Martin Brinkmann for gHacks Technology News | Latest Tech News, Software And Tutorials, 2011. | Permalink |
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