Create a clean new profile in Thunderbird and import your stuff from the old profile.

Thunderbird

So you are using Mozilla Thunderbird for e-mail and something is not working correctly.  You look for help, and are told to create a new profile to fix the problem.  So you look for instructions of how to do so, but then there is all the stuff you need to copy to the new profile (messages, address books, message filters, calendar data, add-ons, etc), and no thorough instructions for how to do this all.

A person can always create a new profile and copy the contents of the old profile to the new one, but that usually doesn't do much to fix problems, since everything from the old profile, including the problem, will be in the new profile.

Well, I'm going to try to give thorough, step-by-step instructions here.

Take note:

For reference, here are some links about Thunderbird Profiles:


Since we are going to create a clean new profile in Thunderbird, there will be a lot of things to do.

Here is a list of the steps we will be doing:
  1. Find & create a good place on your hard drive to back things up to
    1a. Copy/backup your entire Thunderbird Profile folder for safekeeping
  2. Show the Menu Bar
  3. Backup your Address Books
  4. Backup your Calendar Data
  5. Record your Thunderbird Options
  6. Record your Account Settings
  7. Record the Add-ons you are using, and will want to use again
  8. Cleanup!  Delete Spam, Empty Trash, Compact Folders
  9. Find your Thunderbird Profile folder
  10. Quit Thunderbird
  11. Backup Thunderbird Profile
  12. OPTIONAL: Reinstall Thunderbird
  13. Create new Thunderbird Profile
  14. Starting Thunderbird for the first time with your new Profile
  15. Setting up more e-mail accounts
  16. Restore Thunderbird Options
  17. Restore your Calendar Data
  18. Restore your Address Books
  19. Restore your saved e-mail messages
  20. Restore your IMAP Message Filters
  21. Restore your Add-ons

Step 1: Find & create a good place on your hard drive to back things up to.

Create a new folder.  Name it Thunderbird Backup, or whatever you want.  Eventually, you might want to copy this backup folder to some backup media for safekeeping, like another hard drive, backup drive, USB memory, or even (gasp), a CD or DVD.

Step 1a: Copy/backup your entire Thunderbird Profile folder to your Thunderbird Backup for safekeeping. First find the Thunderbird Profile Folder:

Menu: Help: Troubleshooting Information

In the Troubleshooting Information tab, you will see under Application Basics, a row with Profile Folder, and a button beside it labeled Show Folder.  Click the button.  that will open up Windows Explorer showing your profile folder.

Now copy (not move!), the entire folder or its contents to your Thunderbird Backup folder.  Again, copy, don't move!

 

Step 2: Show the Menu Bar

We are going to need the Menu Bar, so we need to get Thunderbird to show it.  Find an empty area at the top of the Thunderbird window, beside the tabs that are open.  Right-click there, and select Menu Bar.
MenuBar

 

Step 3: Backup your Address Books

Open the Address Book.  If you are smart, there is a button on the main toolbar labeled Address Book.  If not, then go to the Menu: Tools: Address Book.

Select All Address Books on the left side, then Menu: Tools: Export.  It's now going to prompt you to export each address book, one at a time.  Navigate to your Thunderbird Backup folder, type in the name of the address book in File Name, then change the Save as type to LDIF.  Once you do the first address book, it will prompt you to do each one until all of them are exported.

When choosing a name for an address book, don't use the names "Personal Address Book" or "Collected Addresses".  These address book names are special standard address books in Thunderbird.  Later if you import files called "Personal Address Book" or "Collected Addresses", you would end up with two address books with each name.  That should be avoided!

 

Step 4: Backup your Calendar Data

If you are not using the Lighting calendar in Thunderbird, you can skip this step.

Open the Calendar tab.  On the left side are your list of calendar data sets.  For each one, right-click and choose Export Calendar.  You will be prompted to export a file with an ICS extension.  Save the file for each calendar in your Thunderbird Backup folder.

 

Step 5: Record your Thunderbird Options

Menu: Tools: Options

If you have never changed any of these options, then you can skip this step.  The chances are, though, you did make a change or two, so it would be a good idea to know what those changes are.  Then you can make those changes again in the new Thunderbird Profile.

If you actually remember what changes you may have made, write them down or take a screenshot of them.  For the rest of us who probably don't remember what changes we made, we should take screenshots of the various option pages, and save them in the Thunderbird Backup folder.

Screenshot, you say?  A simple tool for this is on every Windows computer these days, called Snipping Tool.  You can use it to "snip" a part of what you can see on the screen, and save it as a picture file.  See Use Snipping Tool to capture screenshots for instructions.  (Aside: Personally, I recommend Greenshot, which is free, and more useful.)

Open the options.  "Snip" and save any and all option tabs that you may need.

Now would be a good time to "snip" an image of what your main Thunderbird window looks like also. With that snip, you can later set up Thunderbird to look the same again, like your toolbars and layout.

 

Step 6: Record your Account Settings

Menu: Tools: Account Settings

Now we are going to do the same type of thing in step 5, but for Account Settings.

Go to the Account Settings.  In the window that comes up, you will see your different accounts on the left side, with different sections under each account, and the details on the right side.

You can write down the important stuff if you want, but it may be easier to take screenshots, or "snip" as I described in Step 5.  If you can currently send and receive e-mail, then these settings will be correct when you set up your e-mail accounts again in the new Thunderbird profile.  Record, snip, or screenshot all sections for all accounts, including Local Folders and Outgoing Server (SMTP).

 

Step 7: Record the Add-ons you are using, and will want to use again

Menu: Tools: Add-ons

There are three sections that you want to record info from: Extensions, Appearance, and Dictionaries.

Record the list of add-ons in each section.  Write them down, or screenshot, whichever you want.

 

Step 8: Cleanup! Delete Spam, Empty Trash, Compact Folders

Do this for each account, including Local Folders.

Go through your spam/junk folders.  Make sure that there are no good e-mails in there, then empty the folder (right-click the folder and choose Empty Junk, or just select all the spam and press the Delete button).

Select the account on the left side, then Menu: File: Empty Trash.

Select the account on the left side, then Menu: File: Compact Folders.

 

Step 9: Find your Thunderbird Profile folder

Menu: Help: Troubleshooting Information

In the Troubleshooting Information tab, you will see under Application Basics, a row with Profile Folder, and a button beside it labeled Show Folder.  Click the button.  that will open up Windows Explorer showing your profile folder.  Keep that Windows Explorer window open.  Close the Troubleshooting Information tab.

If cannot find your Thunderbird Profile folder this way, then (Windows only):
1. Hold down the Windows key and press "R".
2. In the run box, type %APPDATA%. 3. In the right side of the Windows Explorer window that opens, scroll down until you get to "Thunderbird".  Double-click to open it. 4. Double-click "Profiles" to open it. 5. You should now see one folder with a random-type name similar to "cey72qav.default".  Double-click to open it.

 

Step 10: Quit Thunderbird

 

Step 11: Backup Thunderbird Profile

Open another Windows Explorer window (leaving the other one open to your Thunderbird Profile).  Go to your Thunderbird Backup folder and create a new folder in it called Profile.

Now copy (not move), the files and folders from your Thunderbird Profile to the Profile folder you created.  It is important that you copy NOT move the files & folders.  We want to leave the original Thunderbird Profile alone for now, for safety.

 

Step 12: OPTIONAL: Reinstall Thunderbird

If you are going to all this trouble, you might want to reinstall Thunderbird also.

Download the install file for Thunderbird from here https://www.mozilla.org/thunderbird/.

Go to Add/Remove Programs and uninstall Thunderbird.

Reboot the computer.

Find the install file for Thunderbird you downloaded, and run it.  Run Thunderbird for the first time, not setting up your e-mail accounts or anything.  Then quit Thunderbird.

 

Step 13: Create new Thunderbird Profile

I recommend creating the new profile somewhere else on the hard drive other than the default location.  The default location may not get backed up properly by backup programs, and having the profile elsewhere will make it less likely to get accidently deleted if you uninstall and reinstall Thunderbird.  If you want to put the profile it elsewhere, then I would recommend you create a folder under your Windows account (maybe under Documents?), and label it E-mail, or whatever you want.

Next, hold down the Windows key and press the r key.

In the run box, type thunderbird.exe -p.  Make sure that there is a space between .exe and -p.
RunBox

Now you will see a small window that is the Profile Manager:
ThunderbirdProfileManager

As you can see, I have three Profiles.  You will probably only see one on your computer, called default.

Click the button labeled Create Profile...  Read the first window that comes up, then press Next.

Enter a new profile name.  I recommend that it be something other than "Default User".

If you will be creating the new Thunderbird Profile somewhere else other that the default location, then click on Choose Folder... and select the folder you created for it, as I mentioned above.  NOT your Thunderbird Backup folder!

When you click the Finish button, the Profile Manager will now show your new profile in the list of profiles.  Select this new profile, and click Start Thunderbird.

 

Step 14: Starting Thunderbird for the first time with your new Profile

When Thunderbird starts now, it show you a Welcome to Thunderbird window that will ask you if you want a new e-mail address.  Click on the button on the bottom left labeled Skip this and use my existing email.

Enter the settings for your main e-mail account, using the information you recorded in Step 6 above.

When you have your e-mail account set up, Thunderbird will ask you at the bottom of its window whether you want to use the Lightning calendar.

You should now follow Step 2 to Show the Menu Bar again.

 

Step 15: Setting up more e-mail accounts

Menu: Tools: Account Settings

If you have any other e-mail accounts, set them up now in Thunderbird.  Go to Account Settings, click the Account Actions button on the bottom left, and choose Add Mail Account.  Again, use the information you recorded in Step 6 above.

 

Step 16: Restore Thunderbird Options

Menu: Tools: Options

In Step 5 above, you recorded your Thunderbird Options.  Use that info to set the options again.

 

Step 17: Restore your Calendar Data

If you don't use the Lightning calendar, skip this step.

In Step 4 above, you backed up your calendar data to your Thunderbird Backup folder.  We are now going to copy those files with the ICS extension to your new profile, then import them.

So open up Windows Explorer and go to your Thunderbird Backup folder.

Back in Thunderbird, click on Menu: Help: Troubleshooting Information.  Click on the Show Folder button under Application Basics.  This will open another Windows Explorer window pointing to your new Thunderbird Profile.  In that folder is another folder called calendar-data, open it.

From your Thunderbird Backup folder, select and copy the files with the ICS extension, and paste them into the calendar-data folder.

So the files are now where we want them, we just need to tell Thunderbird to use them.

In Thunderbird, open the calendar tab by clicking on the button at near the top right of the window:
CalendarButton

Click on Menu: File: Open: Calendar File:
OpenCalendarFile
Now navigate to that calendar-data folder in your new profile, and choose a calender (file with an ICS extension), to open.  Do the same for each of the files with the ICS extension.

Go ahead and customize the different calendars with different colors and different names if you want, by double-clicking on the calendar name to open the Edit Calendar window for it.

 

Step 18: Restore your Address Books

Importing your Address Books will be similar to when you backed them up in Step 3.

Open the Address Book (Menu: Tools: Address Book, if you don't see an Address Book button).

In the Address Book, click on Menu: Tools: Import.  Navigate to your Thunderbird Backup folder and choose a file with an LDIF extension.  Repeat for all files with an LDIF extension.

 

Step 19: Restore your saved e-mail messages

If all the e-mail accounts you had set up before (and set up again), are IMAP accounts, then you will not need to import those messages, because they are on the server and you already have access to them again.

It is the e-mail messages under Local Folders and accounts you had/have set up as POP accounts that we need to import now.  If you don't have any e-mail in either Local Folders or POP accounts, then you can skip this step.

First, quit Thunderbird.

You will need Windows Explorer windows open again for both your Thunderbird Backup folder and your new Thunderbird Profile folder (see Step 17 to figure out your new profile folder).

Open the sub-folder called Mail in both locations.  Now copy the entire contents of the Mail folder from the backup to the new profile.

Now when you start Thunderbird, all your saved e-mail messages will be back.  Also, your message filters for Local Folders and POP accounts will be back.

 

Step 20: Restore your IMAP Message Filters

If you didn't have any Message Filters set up before, then skip this step.

Quit Thunderbird.

Like the last step, you will need Windows Explorer windows open again for both your Thunderbird Backup folder and your new Thunderbird Profile folder.

Open the sub-folder called ImapMail in both locations.  There will be a sub-folder for each of your IMAP e-mail accounts.  In each of these folders in the backup, there will be a file called msgFilterRules.dat.  Copy this file to the same location in the new profile.

 

Step 21: Restore your Add-ons

Menu: Tools: Add-ons

To make sure that we have a clean Thunderbird, each add-on should be searched for and installed again.  You could take a shortcut and just copy the extensions folder over from the backup to the new profile, but I don't recommend it because you don't know if those add-ons files have problems or not.  Better to be safe and install the add-ons from the source.

So at the top right of the Add-ons Manager tab is a spot labeled Search all add-ons, where you can type in the add-on name you want, then press the Enter key.  Use the info you recorded in Step 7, and search for each add-on, then install it.  For some add-ons, Thunderbird will say that it needs to be restarted, but you can wait to restart Thunderbird until you have all of them installed.


If I've forgotten something, my instructions are unclear, or (gasp) wrong, or you have suggestions for making the instructions more clear, please let me know.

Last edited 2017-Jan-14

 

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