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Where are my Thunderbird emails stored?

Answer

The file is located in the Thunderbird application data folder. The path %AppData%Thunderbird for Windows and thunderbird/ inside the Linux home directory (~) or Mac OS X’s Library-Thunderbird

Thunderbird stores all your mail in a single folder on your hard drive. This is called one of the special storage folders: Local Folders, Mail & News Accounts or if you have set up an IMAP account then that folder will be used instead. All emails are stored here as plain text files – there’s no database file involved! Another way to think about this is that it works just like Windows Explorer or ‘My Computer’. By default, these special folders are located under ‘C:\Documents and Settings\User Name’ (XP) or ‘C:\Users\User Name’ (Windows Vista). You can also find them via Tools | Account Settings | Storage Folder Location.

So where exactly does Thunderbird store my emails?

There are two places Thunderbird stores your emails:

1. The Local Folders folder – this is the default storage location for most email accounts. All emails from all folders from that account are stored here in .eml format. This is where you’d look to recover/backup all emails across an account if you lost them for some reason (you’ve had a power cut, hard drive went bad etc). 2. The Account Settings folder – this is used only for POP and IMAP accounts and contains all the mails of the inbox in your Inbox directory*. Some email providers create subdirectories within the Inbox directory depending on how many messages there are, while others don’t so it won’t be as clear cut as the Local Folders account. However, if you want to back up or recover emails here then you should be able to find them in either the Inbox or Deleted Items subdirectories respectively.

*Although technically all emails are stored within this directory structure (including drafts and sent messages etc), they aren’t displayed by default so it’s unlikely that you’ll see anything other than your inbox at first glance. See here for more info on viewing/organising all folders under an IMAP account.


Why is my data not stored anywhere else?

In addition to using a special folder, Thunderbird also uses what’s called an Attachment Cache file (.msf) which holds attachments connected to your emails. By default, Thunderbird checks for new attachments every hour and automatically stores them to your local folder (but only if you’re offline). This means that even if your hard drive fails or there’s a power cut, any attachments added in the last hour will be stored locally until the next hourly check so they won’t be lost!

Note: If you have been using older versions of Thunderbird for some time then it may not use this method – instead attachments would be stored locally on an individual basis when needed. This has now been discontinued due to security concerns and as such is no longer available in current releases.

Should I manually back up my emails from Local Folders?

Probably not – this isn’t really the point of this feature. While some people enjoy manually backing up their data, most of us don’t (especially if we’re dealing with gigabytes worth of emails!). The Attachment Cache file is designed to do all the work for you by doing hourly backups while you’re offline and storing them safely on your hard drive until they’re needed. If it wasn’t there then attachments would only be stored locally when Thunderbird had finished checking for new ones – which could take hours or even days as attachments are checked individually rather than in bulk like mail messages!

Are my emails secure?

Definitely – Thunderbird stores everything inside a special folder called Local Folders, Mail & News Accounts (or IMAP account if an IMAP account is being used) that only you can access. It also creates an md5 hash of the password before storing it locally – see here for more details on how it does this. Once emails are downloaded then they’re encrypted using AES-256 (CRYPT_RSA_AES_256), so even if somebody intercepted your email messages in transit, they wouldn’t be able to read them without the correct password first!

What happens if I delete my Local Folders folder?

Nothing! The files and attachments are still there until you empty your Trash or permanently delete them, but they’ll just not be visible to Thunderbird anymore – which means that any new emails added by the provider aren’t displayed until you reconnect again (which is the same as it would be if your internet connection was down temporarily). However, if you need to recover deleted emails or an attachment then they can still be recovered with the steps below.

What happens if I delete my Local Directory or entire profile?

If you delete your entire Thunderbird profile (or a specific Local Folder that’s not empty), then any emails in the Deleted Items or Inbox subdirectories will be deleted permanently unless you first recover them! However, if there are any excess files in the Local Directory folder such as attachments from emails received – which take up lots of space but don’t actually appear when attached to emails – then they can be safely deleted.

Can I back up my attachment cache files?

Not directly, no. However, these are just renamed copies of the original attachments so they should be safe as long as you keep the originals intact. If you want to try backing them up on their own though, see this forum post.

Is there a way to restore my attachment cache files if I accidentally delete them?

Yes! If you’ve deleted the Local Files and Attachments folder as well as any emails in it, then you can simply copy back the original attachments (or recreate them using Tools -> Import -> Mail or News Account) – so long as no new emails have been received since you removed your old ones. Then when Thunderbird runs next time, it will automatically detect that they’re not in the correct place and re-create the attachment cache file again for you. This is particularly useful if you’ve deleted all of your email messages without deleting attachments first – which are otherwise impossible to recover from deleted items!

What if I don’t want to keep my attachment cache files on my hard drive?

If you’re running out of disk space then it’s easy to move your account in Thunderbird to another location. Then run the Maintenance wizard from Tools -> Account Settings -> Server Settings and tick “Disabled for this profile”. This will stop creating new Local Folder, Mail & News Accounts (or IMAP accounts if an IMAP is being used) folder so you should find that your computer runs a bit faster! You can now copy or move the original attachments somewhere else safe – such as another disk, network share or USB stick – and delete the files in your local account (if necessary), but leave the Attachment Cache file where it is. Then when Thunderbird starts next time it should automatically detect that your account is “disabled” and remove the Attachment Cache folder.

Won’t my ISP be upset if they see that I’m using email attachments?

You may have heard that in some countries using attachments is illegal and ISPs are required by law to report people who do this. This isn’t true for most western European countries but unfortunately some of the worst examples are here in the UK. However, most email providers don’t really care if you use them because they can be used for other legitimate reasons – even if it’s just for keeping important documents in one place or transferring files between computers and devices.

Furthermore, many ISPs also offer their own non-email storage services that typically work much better than attachment caches do anyway! The key thing is to be respectful of others and not spam people with attachments (or send inappropriate ones) then everyone should get along well!

Does Thunderbird delete my emails automatically?

No! The only automatic deletion is when a message is “marked as read” after being displayed in any of its views. Otherwise, it will remain undisturbed until you move it (or delete it).

What if I have lots of emails in my Inbox and want to delete them without marking all the ones I don’t need as read?

There’s no “Shift” key shortcut for this unfortunately, but if you use the mouse then right-clicking on an email in your Inbox should display a menu with an option like “Archive”. If not, then pop-up context menus are turned off by default so see this forum post. Otherwise, for a quicker solution that works anywhere on one or more messages at once, you can also try “Move To -> Trash.”

If that’s not enough then remember that there are also three other main folders (and personalised virtual folders) in Thunderbird. For more information, read this article about how emails are stored.

Is there any way of preventing deleted messages from turning up in “Junk”?

Unfortunately not! You can only delete all of them at once using Tools -> Junk -> Get Rid of All Junk Mail – which deletes spam and also probably some legitimate items too (such as genuine newsletters). This is another reason why it’s a good idea to move the Local Folders folder somewhere else where you won’t accidentally delete or overwrite it by mistake. If you do find that your “Junk” inbox has become inundated with unwanted email then try searching for general phrases such as “remove me”, “no longer required” or “remove me from this list” in the Subject line of any email. This should help you find and delete all messages that were sent by spammers.

Why does Thunderbird have so many options for how I view my emails, and can’t it just remember the last one I used?

The reason why there are so many different display methods is because everyone has their own preference when viewing e-mail. Some people like to see lots of detail while others prefer a more condensed view without any details about dates or attachments – as such Thunderbird has been carefully designed to make your display look exactly the way you want it too! However, if you’re lazy then try clicking on Tools -> Account Settings -> Server Settings -> Default Message Display and select either of the “RSS Feed” options.

How can I tell if a message has been received from me or not?

Most messages sent using Thunderbird should have a tiny blue arrow icon next to them in your Inbox that will appear when you hover over it with the mouse (see below). However, there are several ways to quickly check emails for authenticity:

– Right click on any email while viewing its details and then choose “Properties”. If you prefer, you can also add an extra button for this purpose by going to Customise Toolbar -> Customise… -> Main Toolbar – see right. Selecting the second toolbar from the left will display all of the available buttons and should have an existing one for viewing message properties (Expand/Collapse) that you can drag over to a spare toolbar.

– You can also do a quick file integrity check using MIMEsweeper. It will tell you if your email is a “good” or “bad” message – however, it doesn’t always work when messages are having trouble reaching their intended destination due to issues outside of Thunderbird’s control.

Where are my Thunderbird emails stored?

The file is located in the Thunderbird application data folder. The path %AppData%Thunderbird for Windows and thunderbird/ inside the Linux home directory (~) or Mac OS X’s Library-Thunderbird

Where is the Thunderbird inbox file?

Another way to find the Thunderbird Database location is if you are using Mozilla Thunderbird. Click on “Local Folders” and then hit the “Settings” button on the right window. The “Local Directory” displays where your Thunderbird files are kept.

Can I reinstall Thunderbird without losing email?

Thunderbird is installed as a program rather than an extension of your user data. Any problems you’re encountering with multiple accounts will likely persist even after rebooting/reinstalling the program.
Output text: Thunderbird is installed separately from user data, so any issues with having multiple accounts may remain even after reinstalling the software.

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