Categories Ubuntu

Use Thunderbird on Windows and Ubuntu

Your email is Thunderbird and you use Windows (XP, Vista or Seven) and Ubuntu (8.x or 9.x), so here’s a simple trick that will let you enjoy your favorite email in any environment without losing a single message.

Prerequisites : we consider that Thunderbird is installed in both environments with the same configured email account.

Thunderbird’s files

Thunderbird uses a Local files (which contains all the basic folders and those you could create to effectively store your emails) and folders for each set-up email account; it will be necessary to modify the path for these 2 file types.

Like most Windows applications, Thunderbird creates the folder containing your emails in your Windows user’s profile, such as:


In this file we find:

  • Local Folders for the local folder;
  • for the configured email account;

Secure your email folders

For security reasons, I always move my email folders to a disk (or partition) other than the system partition; unfortunately, experience has shown me that system partitions are more sensitive to crash than others. To do this:

  1. Close Thunderbird (if already the application is already launched);
  2. Copy/paste the folder “...\Mail\” indicated above on another partition or disk;
  3. Launch Thunderbird;
  4. Access the account settings via the menu Tools then Account settings ;
    • Select the email account;
    • Sélectionner Server settings ;
    • Change the Local directory (last field at the bottom of the window) to point to the new folder created via the previous copy/paste (up to or its equivalent);
    • Sélectionner Local files ;
    • Change the Local directory (last field of the window) to point to the new folder created via the previous copy/paste (up to Local Folders);
  5. Save changes by clicking on the button OK ;
  6. Close Thunderbird;
  7. Launch Thunderbird, you should find all your folders and emails;

For my part, my configuration looks like this:

Capture décran - Thunderbird, paramètres des comptes
Screenshot of screen — Thunderbird, account settings

Configure Thunderbird/Ubuntu

After reading this security manipulation of his emails, I assume that you understood the trick. In fact, you just need to change the same settings in the Thunderbird/Ubuntu configuration by doing the same. Be careful access to account settings is different. You have to go through the menu Edition then Account settings.

Capture décran - Thunderbird, localisation du répertoire local
Screenshot — Thunderbird, Local Directory Location

Note 1 : if, with Ubuntu, you have a automatic mounting of your Windows partition or from your other hard drive, access to the folder will be done without problems. If you do not have automatic editing, go to the Ubuntu File Browser and double-click the desired partition or disk to make its content visible by the applications used under Ubuntu (usually a hard disk logo appears on the desktop).

Note 2 : for those who wish to keep the original Thunderbird/Windows folders (i.e. in the user profile), it will be necessary to point Thunderbird/Ubuntu folders to them.

Note 3 : this trick can be done in any order: Thunderbird/Windows first and Thunderbird/Ubuntu second or vice versa.

Thus, any email, whether sent or received, and whether it is Windows or Ubuntu, will be saved in the same folders. Cherry on the cake, the attributes of an email are kept from one system to another. If it is not read under Thunderbird/Windows it will remain as unread under Thunderbird/Ubuntu. Same for other properties of an email (label, tracking,...).

That’s why you can simplify your email management when you change your systems.


Leave a Reply

  • Roman

    Good morning

    interesting tutorial but after changing the folder address of my email account and seeing my messages correctly displayed in thunderbird under ubuntu, he insists on downloading me to the server all my messages that are already present locally....
    what to do?

    thank you in advance!

  • jpdouet

    Hello Romain,

    > he insists on downloading me to the server all my messages that are already present in local

    I‘m not sure I understand your sentence and in particular the part “... download me to the server...”. Didn’t you mean “... download me from the server...”?

    If that is the case, I think there is an option “keep messages on the server” that had to be enabled in the Thunderbird Windows version. This option being disabled in Thunderbird Ubuntu, it would recover everything that is on the server.

    Don't hesitate to keep me up to date.


  • Lemaitre

    Hello and thank you for this information.

    This is exactly the procedure I applied and actually it works very well after filling in the address fields of the local directory.

    The problem arises when the pc restarts.
    At thunderbird opening the windows are empty.
    by checking account settings, server settings, click on the local directory field, a window opens indicating that the file is not accessible.
    I fill this field again with the same path and it works.
    I'm restarting the pc and, same problem!

  • Lemaitre

    Good morning!
    Strange, I moved the common Win-Xp mail files, Ubuntu to a ntfs partition and everything works perfectly.(What is not the case with a fat32, bizarre partition!)

  • jpdouet

    Good morning,

    @Lemaitre: I didn‘t do the fat32 test, I’m “basic” in NTFS. The description of the phenomenon in your first message seemed to suggest a problem of “mounting” disk since you had an error in accessing the “shared” directory

    @Ghandi: I don't know how to answer your problem because I don't use Thunderbird’s agenda and don't know Evolution. Maybe other readers will be able to answer you. Do not hesitate to use the forum to ask your question if this is not already done.


  • Roman

    I‘m sorry I’ve been slow to answer.
    Indeed, I misspoke myself and thunderbird downloads me again from the server ( all my messages while the option to keep messages on the server is well checked under ubuntu as under vista...
    Besides, my message filters do not seem to have been imported as well...

    Do you have an answer?


  • Aelis

    Hey, hey,
    Thank you for this very interesting post. Do you know if it’s possible to do the same between Evolution on Ubuntu and Thunderbird on Windows?

    Thank you!

  • Fromento

    Hello why you don't use the function:
    Thunderbird — Profilmanager?
    you leave the profile folder a NTFS Windows partition and under Ubuntu, just mount the partition that contains the mails and then make a thunderbird -profilemanager to go point to the mail folder, moreover the mails are always synchronised between the 2 Windows and ubuntu systems.
    Well, it’s been working for me for a few years.