Importing a Thunderbird 16.04 profile into 19.08 TB


I've spent over a month on this problem so now it's time to ask for help.

I've stayed with the LTS releases since I installed Ubuntu about 10-15 years or so ago. I use POP mail in Thunderbird. I use a Crucial SSD for the root drive and 4 more for cloned backups. Crucial recommends 4 years use according to a tech I talked to early in this adventure. My purchase receipt says I bought them 5 years ago. My bad for not paying attention to the elapsed time. A drive started returning bad data. By the time it had gotten bad enough to prevent the machine from booting, all 5 of my drives were contaminated. Thus no opportunity to export my 16.04 TB profile.

My first thought was to re-install 16.04 long enough to export my profile. Search as we may, we could not find the install disk (I install from a thumb drive but backup to a DVD also). All critical data goes into a fireproof safe but for some reason, this DVD didn't.

So I searched around and found a forum (not this one) comment that 18.04 should be able to import. I installed it. No, it can't import. I found a vague comment that the next minor release would have that capability. It did not. Someone has written a conversion utility independent of TB. It gets about half way through my profile and pukes.

Soooo, I dropped off the LTS train and installed version 19. Still no import ability but I found an import-export plugin and a fork of same. Both reported success but TB can't see the resultant profile.

I'm at my wit's end. I have 10-15 years' worth of business correspondence in there (all divided into annual folders) so I really need to recover this profile.


Thank you,

You will have a ".thunderbird" folder in your home folder. This is where all of your emails and email accounts are. Take a copy of that and paste it into your 19.04 home folder.

Then, get hold of copy of the thunderbird appimage and open it and it should find your ".thunderbird" folder and use it in the usual way, thus populating your accounts tab inside thunderbird GUI.

You can get thunderbird appimage here:

I should say, an "appimage" is a standalone version of an application. In other words, you do not "install" it. Instead, you just download the folder and run the binary of the applicatiuon that is in the folder.

@stevecook172001 is correct: the key is .thunderbird folder in your saved home folder.

Please note, that Thunderbird creates its .thunderbird folder upon its first launch. The problem is that within it it creates subfolder with randomly generated name.
One way is to shutdown Thunderbird and to copy the contents of saved randomly named subfolder to the new randomly named subfolder. Launch Thunderbird again an it will see data you have copied.

Another way is to copy old randomly named folder into .thunderbird folder and select it as your Thunderbird folder using menu Edit => Account Settings => Server settings, scroll to the bottom of the right page and select the copied folder as the Local folder. Since then restart Thunderbird.

Yet another way is to locate files which actually contain your mail
and copy them into appropriate place in the new randomly named folder.
Even better is to copy them into a separate folder of your choice. Since then you open Thunderbird, use menu Edit => Account Settings => Local Folders and select that folder as Local directory.

Hopefully, this will help.

John, here's how I move my tbird data ...

==old computer/release
exit thunderbird
copy .thunderbird/ folder to external drive (it will copy profiles.ini file and xxx.default folder and all subdirs)

==new computer/release
start thunderbird, creates yyy.default/ folder and profiles.ini file, then exit thunderbird
delete .thunderbird/yyy.default/ folder and profiles.ini
mount external drive
copy from external drive the xxx.default/ folder and profiles.ini file into your .thunderbird/ folder
start thunderbird

You should have all your data, folders, contacts, etc. The profles.ini file contains the relative path pointing to your xxx.default (which by default is the .thunderbird folder)

Thanks everyone for the responses. Unfortunately the first two are too ambiguous.

Last one first. Pavlos, yes, that was the old way. But sometime after 16.04 LTS, in their infinite wisdom, they put most everything into squlite databases. So copying the old profile and profiles.ini does not work. a conversion during import must be done.

The add-on ImportExport NG almost works. It brings in a few folders but no content. Plus profilemanager can't find it.


I'm not at all clear on your instructions. Here is how I interpreted them.

My installed profile is /home/jgd/.thunderbird/hvs9mc55.default

My 16.04 profile is /backup/home/jgd/.thunderbird/vg5x6l7o.jgd This is the old pre-sql format.

I think you're telling me to copy the old profile,


Into the new one, resulting in



The conversion during import is not necessary with the appimage version, I know because I do it every time I rewrite my machine.

I just download the appimage version of thunderbird. and befor I start it for the frst time I copy over the entire .thunderbird folder to my new home folder. Then start the appimage thunderbird. Because there is already a .thunderbird folder there, it does not try to make a new one. Instead, it uses the one I have there and loads it up in Thunderbird on first launch.

Edit to add.....

Actually, scratch that...

I have just taken a nother look at the version I am using. It seems I copied this last one directly form thunderbirds own site and downloaded one of the legacy ones. Can't remember why, but it might be related to what you are mentioning.

As it turns out, this is also standalone, however. Just download and run the binary in the folder like you would with an appimage. I also recall, upon first loading it, to immediately go to preferences and turn off "updates" to stop it updating. Again, I now recall this was to stop it buggering up and not working with my .thunderbird folder.

Memory is wonderful thing, I seem to remember.

It's a pity I can remember bugger all else...

The legacy version I am curently using is:


Here's what I did. I copied the old profile, into .thunderbird. I started appimage and there was my mail data!. Out of curiosity, I commented out all the files I copied over, leaving the originally named file and profile. I then started regular Thunderbird. Amazingly, there was my data in ~/.thunderbird/vg5x6l7o.default and profile to match.

I inspected a few files in vg5x6l70.default and found that a conversion had been done. Since there is absolutely no explanation regarding what appimage, it seems rational for it to do a conversion.

So it looks like we've reached my goal. I'm just not entirely sure how it happened.

Again, thanks for everyone who replied

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The advice I received here completely solved my problem. This note is to thank everyone who contributed. The key was the appimage. That's what made everything work. Again, thanks to everyone who replied


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