Use Thunderbird and Thunderbird Portable

Martin Brinkmann
Dec 14, 2007
Updated • Nov 9, 2017
Email, Thunderbird

Thunderbird portable is the portable version of the email client Thunderbird. It does not require to be installed which makes it ideal for USB Flash drive and removable storage device use, but also for systems where users prefer to run portable programs.

I'm using Thunderbird on my desktop computer and made the decision to install a portable version of Thunderbird on my USB drive so that I can use it to check emails when I'm on the road using a different computer.

One of the things that I had to do was to copy the existing profile, including all emails, to the portable Thunderbird folder so that it would pick those up. It took some time but I finally managed that Thunderbird portable had all the mails, contacts and settings that I have had access to and used in Thunderbird for some years now.

Here is how I did it

Download the portable version of Thunderbird and install it on your hard drive or device that you want to use. Please note that this installation is more or less only an unpacking of the content, nothing is written to the Registry or system files.

Locate your Thunderbird profile folder which can normally be located in "C:\Documents and Settings\username\Application Data\Thunderbird\Profiles\xxxxxxxx.default" if you are running Windows XP or C:\Users\username\AppData\Roaming\Thunderbird\Profiles\xxxxxxxx.default on newer versions of the Windows operating system.

Select Help > Troubleshooting Information > Open Folder if you have difficulties locating the profile folder. This opens it on the local system.

Now copy the files localstore.rdf, abook.mab, prefs.js, and the Mail and News folders to the profile folder of the Thunderbird portable directory. That folder is located in ThunderbirdPortable\Data\profile.

Replace the files if asked and open the file prefs.js afterwards. You will notice that the mail accounts are pointing to the profile folder of the normal Thunderbird installation: this has to change. Replace all paths to the local Thunderbird profile folder (the one starting with the original path to the profile folder with the path to the portable Thunderbird folder.

A valid path would look like this: F:\\Thunderbird\\ThunderbirdPortable\\Data\\profile\\Mail\\Local Folders. Please note that you have to use double \\ instead of single \. This has to be done for every mail account that you use. All are located in the same file though, so no need to worry that much.

Once that file has been edited you can start the portable Thunderbird installation. I changed one setting in portable Thunderbird, I did not want it to download and delete the mail from the mail server. I changed that so that it would download the mails but leave them on the server.

Tap on the Alt-key and select Tools > Account Settings and there every Server Settings entry. Check Leave messages on server for all accounts and close the settings afterwards. Another option would be to sync both profiles whenever both are connected to the same PC.

Syncing is probably the better option. You could use Sync Toy if you use Windows XP to sync both Mail folders with ease. I write about that in another article.

An alternative is to use IMAP only, as it will sync with all instances of Thunderbird automatically without affecting the list of emails on other devices that you use. If you use IMAP, you don't really need to copy the mail folders over either.

Use Thunderbird and Thunderbird Portable
Article Name
Use Thunderbird and Thunderbird Portable
How to use Thunderbird and a portable version of Thunderbird at the same time by sharing a single user profile in both programs.
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  1. JMGG said on January 19, 2012 at 8:25 am

    You said that Outlook isn’t your main email client, so which is your main one?

    1. BalaC said on January 19, 2012 at 9:42 am

      I think its thunderbird

    2. Martin Brinkmann said on January 19, 2012 at 10:15 am

      It is Mozilla Thunderbird.

  2. Salaam said on September 24, 2012 at 9:52 pm

    Awesome! This actually solved my problem… what a stupid bug.

  3. Claud said on December 19, 2012 at 2:08 am

    If this is the same bug that I’ve encountered, there may be another fix: (1) hover over open Outlook item in Taskbar, cursor up to hover over Outlook window item, and right-click; (2) this should give you Restore / Move / Size / Minimize / Maximize — choose Move or Size; (3) use your cursor keys, going arbitrarily N/S/E/W, to try to move or size the Outlook window back into view. Basically, the app behaves as though it were open in a 0x0 window, or at a location that’s offscreen, and this will frequently work to resize and/or move the window. Don’t forget to close while resized/moved, so that Outlook remembers the size/position for next time.

    1. Lynda said on February 12, 2013 at 3:37 pm

      THANK YOU Claude!!! I could get the main window to launch but could not get any other message window to show on the desktop. You are my hero!!!!

    2. Chad said on November 20, 2018 at 4:24 pm

      Solved my issue! 6 years later and this is still problem…

    3. Ivan X said on January 21, 2021 at 4:50 pm

      Fantastic. Thank you. Size did the trick.

  4. Andrew said on October 26, 2013 at 7:06 am

    This solved my Outlook problem, too. Thank you. :)

  5. Charles said on December 7, 2013 at 7:23 pm

    Thank you so much, this started happening to me today and was causing big problems. You are a life saver, I hope I can help you in some way some day.

  6. garth said on November 7, 2014 at 7:13 pm

    You are a god – thank you!

  7. Faisal said on February 9, 2015 at 10:09 am

    thanks a lot…. work like charm.. :-)

  8. Simon said on March 24, 2015 at 11:36 pm

    Yah…thanks Claude. I’ve been having the same problem and tried all the suggestions…your solution was the answer. It had resized itself to a 0/0 box. Cheers

  9. Olu said on April 14, 2015 at 1:35 pm

    Excellent post. This had me baffled even trying to accurately describe the problem. This fixed it for me.
    Thank you

  10. Coenig said on July 23, 2015 at 7:36 am

    Thanks a lot for the article. Don’t know why it happenend, don’t know how it got fixed, but it was really annoying and now it works :-)

  11. Fali said on January 20, 2016 at 4:19 pm

    Thanks a lot. I was facing this issue from past 3 week. I tried everything but no resolution. The issue was happening intermittently and mainly when I was changing the display of screen ( as i use 2 monitors). The only option i had was to do system restore. But thanks to you.

    1. MIki said on January 10, 2019 at 11:54 am

      I’ve been tried to sole this problem for 12hours. Your comment about changing the display of screen helped me a lot!! Thanks!!

  12. Christina said on January 20, 2016 at 6:14 pm

    Thank you…don’t know why this happened but your instructions helped me fix it. Running Windows 10 and office pro 2007

  13. Oz said on July 22, 2016 at 3:20 pm

    Great tip! Thanks!

  14. Tracy said on September 1, 2016 at 4:48 pm

    Worked for me, too – thank you!!!

  15. shawn said on September 9, 2016 at 10:25 am

    It’s Worked for me, too
    thank you very much!

  16. Jari said on October 31, 2016 at 11:53 am

    I had a similar issue with Outlook 2013 on Windows 10 and this helped me to fix it. Thank you very much!

  17. Michel H said on November 30, 2016 at 11:08 pm

    Thank you so much. Solved!
    Considering you published this in 2012, incredible not been debugged by Microsoft.
    Thank you again. M

  18. Ziad Bitar said on January 9, 2017 at 2:00 am

    This problem was faced by only one user logging to TS 2008 r2 using outlook 2010.The issue was resolved.


  19. Anonymous said on February 15, 2017 at 5:24 pm

    Great tip. Thank you!!!! If it helps, I had to use the Control Key and the arrow keys at the same time to bring my window back into view. Worked like a charm.

  20. Rochelle said on March 6, 2017 at 11:59 am

    Thank you, this worked !!!!

  21. anom1234 said on May 20, 2018 at 11:20 pm

    Man, you are a fucking god. Thanks a lot, what an annoying bug!!

  22. JC said on October 12, 2020 at 2:14 pm

    Awesome, this post solved the issue. Many thanks!

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