Fix for Thunderbird not opening links

Martin Brinkmann
Jan 20, 2013
Email, Thunderbird

I have configured the Thunderbird email client to block links from being opened when I click on them. This may sound strange to some as it makes it less convenient to open links posted in emails but it improves the security of the system.

Some Thunderbird users may on the other hand experience issues opening links in emails even though they'd prefer that to be available to them. If you are one of them read on how to fix the issue in the email client. Note that this is just one of the solutions and that it may not be the one working for you. I suggest you check out the Mozilla Zine article for additional solutions that may help you resolve it if the one published here does not resolve the issue for you.

  1. Open the Thunderbird email program and wait until it is idle.
  2. Click on Tools > Options to open the settings. If you only have a single Thunderbird button click on the button and then on Options there.
  3. Switch to Advanced > General and click on Config Editor here.
  4. Filter for the term network.protocol-handler.external-default by copying and pasting it into the search field at the top.
  5. A value of false indicates that Thunderbird won't open links in external clients.
  6. Double-click the value to set it to true.
  7. Keep the editor open for now.

thunderbird open links

The change takes effect immediately and you should be able to open links in the default browser from that moment in time on. Note that this will only fix the issue if the value of the parameter was set to false initially.

If that is not working, try the following option.

  1. Go back to the editor
  2. Filter for the term network.protocol-handler.warn-external.http and set it to true with a double-click (it is false by default)
  3. This displays the "open with" dialog when you click on a link for the first time which you can use to pick a program for the protocol. If you want to always open links in the application check the remember my choice for http links at the bottom of that screen.
  4. Repeat the procedure for network.protocol-handler.warn-external.https and network.protocol-handler.warn-external.ftp to display the prompt for http and ftp links as well.

launch  link thunderbird photo

The parameters should be enough to resolve the links not opening issue in Thunderbird.


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  1. Em said on August 1, 2022 at 11:49 am

    Thanks that put me on the right path. In my case though i needed to correct: network.protocol-handler.external.https

    maybe add that?

  2. mprimrose said on April 5, 2022 at 6:46 am

    Thanks Martin! I have been racing up down rabbit holes for the last week trying to get my Thunderbird emails to open up hyperlinks, but to no available and with increasing levels of frustration. One of my DuckDuckGo search strings finally turned up a reference to this article and the function of “network.protocol-handler.external-default”, which had not been mentioned elsewhere in other articles.

    I can only think that I set it to “false” years ago for the same security reasons that you mention above and then it has been sitting there blocking direct clicks on hyperlinks. As I normally right-click on a link to copy the web address and then paste into a browser, this has not been an issue.

    It became a problem when I couldn’t click on a re-new button and open a browser with the renewal web page. The button didn’t respond to a right click, so I could not copy and paste the relevant link.

    However, this article has now solved the problem and the hyperlinks work. It was bound to be something simple, of course, but I will bookmark this page for future use.


  3. B. Ed said on December 2, 2021 at 2:09 am

    Doesn’t seem to matter what problem I am having, the options listed in comments are NEVER present. There is no Option tab in Tools, therefore no config editor to follow any of the steps. So frustrating.

  4. David said on October 12, 2020 at 1:09 am

    Thanks Martin! Setting network.protocol-handler.warn-external.https to TRUE did the trick.

  5. Debbie said on July 21, 2020 at 6:15 pm

    This still happens for me every other month or so, and though I’ve followed all the instructions in this and other solution threads, they don’t help. It just seems to fix itself randomly then start happening again randomly.

    Finally leaving Thunderbird and looking for other mailbox options, it’s too frustrating to deal with now and I’ve spend too much time trying to fix it over and over.

  6. Wayne Greathouse said on May 9, 2020 at 10:47 pm

    Can someone find a BUG fix for the latest Thunderbird 68.8.0 (64-bit) for Puppy Linux 4.19.23 kernel.
    I’m having the same trouble as everyone else, I’ve got thunderbird set to check for new messages every three (3) hours while it’s up and running and if I go into the tools menu and look for the options it’s not there…

  7. Joel Krugler said on April 21, 2020 at 4:56 pm

    Thanks. I set all the links you mentioned to True (some already were true) and it worked. Big help!!

  8. Debbie Campbell said on March 24, 2020 at 3:24 pm

    This doesn’t work – the first value was already true. When I make the network.protocol-handler.warn-external.http and https ones true, I click a link, it opens the popup and locks up completely as soon as I click Open Link.

    1. Debbie Campbell said on March 31, 2020 at 6:01 pm

      No, it’s not fixed. Today again links won’t open even if right-clicked. All the settings mentioned above in Config are set to True and Chrome was the default browser. What do I do now?

    2. Debbie Campbell said on March 24, 2020 at 3:33 pm

      Okay – got it working. In the popup it had Chrome as the default browser. I clicked to change that and picked chrome.exe and now it’s working again.

  9. Ross Henderson said on February 16, 2020 at 1:13 pm

    Thanks. This fixed my problem between Thunderbird and Opera, which was compounded by the fact that I deliberately run an obsolete copy of Opera (58.0.3135.90) because I refuse to upgrade my Windows7 installation. The chaos created while I managed to stop Opera updating itself probably confused Thunderbird.

  10. Joe said on February 6, 2020 at 8:38 pm

    These didn’t change the issue. I still can’t open links in Tbird

  11. k3nt said on October 22, 2019 at 12:56 am

    Here’s another possibility. I had three Firefox windows open, one of which was in private mode. After running through all the above possibilities I closed Firefox and reopened it. The private window didn’t reopen. Clicking links in Thunderbird work again.

  12. Bruce C. Anderson said on October 2, 2019 at 1:57 am

    Your instructions did not work for me, BUT ……..

    When the launch application window came up it gave me the choice of “Firefox, Web Browser, and Chromium”. If I selected Firefox a new incidence of Firefox started at the default home page. Same with Chromium. When I selected “Web Browser” Firefox would open a new tab, and go to the link.
    Problem solved.
    YMMV Good Luck

  13. JMH said on August 13, 2017 at 2:58 am

    This worked for me. Tools, Options, Attachments, then you should see under “Content Type” http and https.
    If it says under “Action”, “Use Firefox (default)” click down arrow and click “Use other…”, then in Select Helper Application window click “Browse…” goto your Mozilla Firefox folder then click on “firefox.exe”, then click open and boom, Bob’s your uncle. Do it for both http and https and you’re all set. Anyway this worked for me and it’s relatively simple. Good Luck.

    1. scylla said on July 10, 2018 at 6:49 pm

      Thank you for that tip, which I’m pretty sure is working for me too. Thunderbird seemed to think that Firefox.exe was in ProgramFiles(x86), since I changed it to ProgramFiles my links are working – so far ;)

  14. Milton said on June 29, 2017 at 8:49 pm

    It worked on my debian system which for any reason lost this feature.
    Thx for the tips!!

  15. Sue said on April 26, 2017 at 11:53 pm

    Thank you, the second solution worked for me. Chrome was listed in the default when I clicked on the link, but I went and re-added it as Chrome.exe, and now all is good again. For how long, I don’t know. But thank you. Not sure what broke, that is, a Thunderbird update or a Chrome update.

  16. D said on April 25, 2016 at 4:02 am

    Thank you very much! Have been pulling hair out trying to fix this since last update.

  17. Dan said on March 24, 2016 at 12:45 pm

    This worked or me! The problems began when I tried to install Windows 10 in my HP notebook. The HP security program wouldn’t let me install Windows 10 and in the process must have changed some of my internal settings (just a guess.) Thank you for your help.

  18. jtw said on February 18, 2016 at 1:37 am

    none of this works for me in TB 38.6.0. I can make it ask me for the program to use to open the attachment; it kind of blinks, and then nothing happens. it’s always copy and paste, which gets annoying and seems to defeat a lot of the purpose of having these fancy programs

  19. Joe said on January 17, 2016 at 7:32 pm

    Unfornately non of the proposals worked on both of my Windows 10 systems. Tried reinstallation of Thundbird and and and. The result is the same: click on link never works – not even the Launch Application popup appears. Right click and open link in browser works neither. More ideas?

  20. Jay Lepore said on December 25, 2015 at 6:27 pm

    Nailed it.


  21. Johhny said on November 25, 2015 at 7:08 pm

    Changing the about:config settings worked for me, but only after restarting windows.

  22. Alikhat said on October 13, 2015 at 10:59 am

    I just found another fix that might work for those who’ve been getting no change from the above instructions.

    Filter for “network.protocol-handler.warn-external.http” and “network.protocol-handler.warn-external.https” and change both to True.

    Chances are, both these will be bolded in the list. Changing these and clicking “okay” should bring up the dialog box asking to set a default browser. I was not getting this until I changed these settings. Now my Thunderbird links are opening just fine. Hope this helps for others as well.

  23. David said on October 1, 2015 at 5:07 am

    Did the trick!!!! Thanks!!!! ;)

  24. david said on June 23, 2015 at 9:10 pm

    worked for me

  25. Carmen said on April 5, 2015 at 7:22 am

    I can’t open HTTPS links from Thunderbird. When I try, my cursor blinks steady. I go to task manager and Thunderbird is bouncing all over and my processor time jumps around sometimes as low as 40%. I have to chase the Thunderbird task all over the screen and hopefully make it to the End Process button before Thunderbird jumps again. After about 20 or 30 tries I have to shut down to get back to normal. If I catch it right I’m ok but that is rare. I have tried everything from reloading to you name it.

    Using Win XP pro. If anyone has this exact problem and knows a fix I would appreciate finding out what it is. Thanks!

  26. Chris Copland said on March 31, 2015 at 9:17 am

    I got sick of windows mail and switched to Thunderbird “Again” I used it before but it lacked a couple of features I had become accustomed to. that was years ago. This time everything seemed fine except those damn links being un-clickable.
    So I turned to Google and found this clear precise explanation into the Dragons Den of Thunderbird.
    Keep up the good work and for your solution… a big big Thanks!

  27. Thor said on January 10, 2015 at 3:45 am

    Mozilla does not offer any good solutions to this problem, which obviously quite a number of us have. It’s a real nuisance and all the more irritating that Mozilla doesn’t come up with a proper fix for it.
    I have an additional problem, too, the “contents” option (F1) under the Help tap doesn’t open up either. Nothing happens when I click at “contents”.
    I’m beginning to wonder whether I should quit using Thunderbird altogether.

  28. JodieG said on December 3, 2014 at 11:58 am

    I tried your fix (was able to follow the instructions easily), and it looked like it was going to work, but even when I selected Chrome as the default, and ticked the box to remember the setting, the web page still didn’t open in Chrome. Right clicking didn’t work either. The only way I can seem to get links to open in Chrome when this happens is to shut Thunderbird down and open it up again.

    What do I do now?


  29. Michael Wilkinson said on September 15, 2014 at 1:33 pm

    Mike McCarthy,
    You say
    “In Thunderbird click on Tools then Options, changed my HTTP and HTTPS settings.”

    You have missed a step.
    What tab do you go to after opening options ? There are 9 initial tabs to choose from then some tabs have multiple options
    Tbird works fine for me but anyone new with problems wont find your solution explicit enough.
    Thank you

  30. Mike McCarthy said on September 12, 2014 at 10:50 am

    I messed around with links not opening in Thunderbird for ages – tried many of the online solutions given, to no avail until I done the following:
    In Thunderbird click on Tools then Options, changed my HTTP and HTTPS settings from “Use Internet Explorer” to “Use Google chrome” (Under the headings CONTENT TYPE and ACTION) didn’t take long, easy to do and works like a charm!

    1. David said on January 2, 2016 at 11:40 pm

      This is what fixed it for me. I was set for Firefox as default but I set them both to IE and then back to Firefox and now clicking on links work. Strange…

  31. peter wassink said on August 20, 2014 at 8:50 pm

    I have the same problem with the added fact that none of the:
    network.protocol-handler.external -preferences are in the list.

    Could this fact be causing my problem?
    And if so how to get them to appear in the list?

  32. Jonathan said on June 1, 2014 at 4:30 am

    The second fix worked! I reset the values to true and after they asked me for the default handler, my browser opened. Thanks for posting the fix. The other articles I saw only had the first suggestion. I’d click the thumbs-up icon if you had one.

  33. Miguel said on May 23, 2014 at 7:00 pm

    Thanks a lot. At last I found what I was looking for!
    This solved the lack of response of hyperlinks that I was having for more than a week, since I moved my TB profile to OwnCloud so as to share it between computers. I was starting to think something was wrong with sharing config files …or whatever. I had run through the recommendations in the official Mozilla site without success (how surprising!).
    Very hepful! Thanks again.

  34. Jon said on March 17, 2014 at 10:15 pm

    Thanks for the solution. It helped me fix my email link problem in a couple minutes.

  35. Pablo said on October 26, 2013 at 12:35 pm

    I wonder what I did that stopped the links working in the first place. Anyway, sorted now. Thanks

  36. Mikey said on September 11, 2013 at 4:10 am

    Solution with simple workaround.

    None of the posted solutions from any site worked for me and the registry hacks had no effect.
    Judging by the many people having this problem,it seems to be a real unsolvable epidemic fro most.

    What does work:

    (1) install a Thunderbird app. called Thunderbrowse,which will restore all or some linkage.
    In my experience it was a bit hit and miss and untidy,but mostly worked.

    (2) Install Thunderbird Portable.
    This definitely works normally,when no add ons have been installed which suggests the problem could be add on related,but I have not experimented .

    (3) Ditch Thunderbird as default client.

    Install instead PostBox,which is Mozilla based and has a similar but cleaner,simpler feel.
    Install eMClient,different layout,but just as effective as both are faster and don’t seem cumbersome like Tbird.

    Both will import settings and profiles, including all mail from Tbird,so are very simple to set up.

    This is what I have done,as it seems futile hanging around with TBird .
    The developers have shown no interest in fixing the glaring fault and development will cease soon in any case

    1. Gisle Vanem said on February 26, 2016 at 10:32 am

      > (1) install a Thunderbird app. called Thunderbrowse,which will restore all or some linkage.

      Wow! Works perfectly. I had big troubles with using Chrome as the external protocol-handler in TB 38.6. None of the other tips here worked. All I got in the “error-console” was:

      NS_ERROR_FILE_NOT_FOUND in some obscure .js file.

      Contrary to all the comment on “Reviews for ThunderBrowse” at,

      this extension works fine in TB 38.6.

      Thanks man.

  37. David said on September 9, 2013 at 2:59 pm

    Still doesn’t work. Got the dialog “this link needs to be opened with an application”, chose FF then nothing happens when I click on links. So frustrating.

  38. Roger said on August 18, 2013 at 9:43 pm

    Thank you, Martin! It’s nice to have the links working again. :-)

  39. Ken Saunders said on January 21, 2013 at 11:32 pm

    I once read somewhere that my issue may have something to do with the fact that I have multiple versions of Firefox installed (Release, Beta, Aurora, Nightly, UX, Firefox MSN version) and the order in which they were installed.

    One recommended fix was something like making another browser the default one, then switching back to Firefox, but that didn’t work.

  40. Drew Dawson said on January 21, 2013 at 5:16 pm

    ..and if you just use network.protocol-handler.warn-external. all four show up.

  41. Beach Bouy said on January 21, 2013 at 4:37 pm

    I have two FF profiles (default and test), and I don’t get the profile manager when I click links in Thunderbird emails.

  42. Michael Wilkinson said on January 21, 2013 at 3:21 pm

    Or just right click on the link and say open in browser.

    1. bitjocky said on October 8, 2016 at 1:16 am

      …the broken piece is deeper than this, in my case, no joy…

  43. Ken Saunders said on January 20, 2013 at 10:49 pm

    My problem is that I have to open Thunderbird first, and then open Firefox from a link in Thunderbird to get things to work. If I open Firefox first, then Thunderbird, clicking on a link in Thunderbird brings up the Firefox profile manager.
    If I close Thunderbird and leave Firefox running, then reopen Thunderbird and click a link, the Firefox profile manager opens again.
    Not ideal, but it is what it is.
    Now I just drag links to Firefox.

    I’m guessing that this probably wouldn’t happen if I only had one Firefox profile.

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