Move Thunderbird Email Profiles To Another Location

Martin Brinkmann
Apr 15, 2009
Updated • Jan 18, 2018
Email, Thunderbird

The email client Mozilla Thunderbird uses a similar structure for storing data as the Firefox web browser. It uses profiles directories that are saved by default to the Thunderbird folder of the user directory of the operating system.

There are some reasons why some users may want to move the data from the Thunderbird folder to another custom folder.

Some that instantly come to mind are running out of storage on the primary hard drive which you could resolve by moving the profile folder to a different partition or hard drive. And if you like security, you could move it to an encrypted folder or an encrypted hard drive instead to protect email access.

Whatever it may be it turns out to be very, very easy to move a single profile or even all profiles from the default location to another one.

Recent versions of Thunderbird make it even easier. Here is what you need to do:

  1. Locate the Thunderbird profile folder that you want to move to another location or computer. The easiest way to do that is to open Thunderbird, select Help > Troubleshooting Information, and click on the open folder button on the page that opens. If you don't see the menu bar tap on the Alt-key to display it.
  2. Copy the entire profile folder including the root folder to the new location or a USB drive.
  3. Paste the profile folder to the new location, e.g., another drive on the same computer or a new computer.
  4. Start Thunderbird with the -p parameter to open the Profile Manager. Find the Thunderbird shortcut, right-click on it and select Properties. Add -p to the target field if you are on Windows. This opens the profile manager.
  5. Select Create Profile from the menu. Enter a name for the profile and select the "choose folder" button. Navigate to the profile folder and click on it so that its files and folders are displayed. Click the select folder and then finish.

Thunderbird should now display all emails and accounts of the profile when you run it (using the profile manager). If it is the only profile, remove the -p parameter from startup again to speed up the start.

Move Thunderbird email profiles

thunderbird profiles directory

The first step is to close the Thunderbird email client so that it will not write data to the profile folder anymore. The default location of the Thunderbird profile folder depends on the operating system in use, below is a list of common locations:

  • Windows XP/2000, Vista, 7, 8 and 10, %AppData%\Thunderbird
  • Windows 95/98/Me, WINDOWS\Application Data\Thunderbird
  • Linux, ~/.thunderbird/
  • Mac OS X, ~/Library/Application Support/Thunderbird/

Copy one or several of the Thunderbird profiles to the new location. Now open up the file profiles.ini in the original folder and edit the path pointing to the new profile folder locations accordingly.

thunderbird profiles

You also need to change the parameter IsRelative=1 to IsRelative=0. What this does is change the path value that Thunderbird accepts for profile links from the relative format to full format. So, instead of something like Profiles/xyu.default, you have to point to the full path, e.g., c:\profiles\xyu.default instead.

Please note that this is valid for all profiles which means that you need to add the full path (e.g., c:\thunderbird\profiles\profile.code\ in the Windows operating system) to profiles that are kept in the default location. Start the Thunderbird, email client. If everything worked well, it should display the emails and other data as usual for the profile.

If that did not work, retrace the steps and make sure you have set the correct new profile directory in the profiles.ini file listed in the user folder.

There is a second option that you can make use of. Instead of editing the profiles.ini file, you can also create a symbolic link between the new location of the profile and the old. You can use a program like Symbolic Link Creator for that.

Move Thunderbird Email Profiles To Another Location
Article Name
Move Thunderbird Email Profiles To Another Location
How to move one, some or all Thunderbird profiles to another partition or hard drive on the computer using easy to reproduce steps
Ghacks Technology News

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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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