How to Switch From Outlook to Thunderbird Email

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Microsoft Outlook to Mozilla Thunderbird Message Import

My Outlook has been a real annoyance recently. It would not download any emails and then all of a sudden would receive a batch of 1-2 hours worth of emails at once. In the end, the only solution I saw was switching email programs to Mozilla Thunderbird. It’s very easy to install but importing email from Outlook is another story.

Install Thunderbird and Setup Email Account

  1. Download and install Thunderbird
  2. File > New > Existing Email Account
  3. Thunderbird should autodetect the POP3 connection information
    • Server Type: POP Mail Server
    • Server Name: secure.emailserver.com
    • User Name: xxxxx@domain.com
    • Connection Security: SSL/TLS
    • Authenticate method: Normal password
  4. Email from the server will start to download
  5. Tools > Account Settings. Under Server Settings, change “Check for new messages every” to 1 minute.

To actually import the mail, we’ll have to use two third party programs. The Outlook import method has been disabled in Thunderbird since version 31. Even after downgrading to version 31, I could not get it to work. The below method did work after some trial and error.

First, we need to export the emails from Outlook in the correct format.

MailStore Home

  1. Download and install MailStore Home
  2. Open MailStore Home
  3. Click on Archive E-mail
  4. Select Microsoft Outlook under E-mail Clients
  5. Double-click Microsoft Outlook which is now under Saved Profiles. This will run the backup and process each email.
  6. Click on Export E-mail
  7. Click on Directory (File System) under E-mail Files
  8. Select EML Files and ensure “All Folders” is selected
  9. Click Next
  10. Click Browse and select your Desktop as the Target Folder
  11. Once you’re done, double-click on Directory (File System) under Saved profiles. This will create the EML folders on your desktop.
  12. Close MailStore Home

Second, we’ll need to use another third party tool to import our backup into Outlook.

ImportExport Add-On

  1. Download ImportExport Tools add-on and save to desktop
  2. Open Thunderbird
  3. Click on the Menu icon, then Add-ons to open the Add-ons Manager
  4. Click the gear next to the search bar and select Install Add-on from File. Select the downloaded .xpi file on your desktop.
  5. ImportExport will now show under Extensions. You may have to restart Thunderbird.
  6. Tools > ImportExportTools > Import all messages from a directory > also from its subdirectories
  7. Select the Outlook directory from your desktop
  8. The import will run and create Outlook folders under Local Folders

Finally, I wanted to move the recently imported folders to a new location in Thunderbird. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a way to drag and drop the entire folder but this method did the trick.

Move Folders

  1. Under your account, right click and select New Folder. Type in the folder name.
  2. Under Local Folders, go into the matching folder.
  3. Click on the first email, then hold shift and press End. This will select all emails.
  4. Drag and drop all the emails into the New Folder under your account at the top.
  5. Do this process for each folder.

Since the move, Thunderbird has been an amazing tool. The search features have really helped me stay organized and find past emails within seconds. I’m also happy to report that I don’t have to change my font from the default Outlook blue each time.

If you can make it through the export and import from Outlook, I highly recommend Mozilla Thunderbird as your next email client.

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20 Responses to How to Switch From Outlook to Thunderbird Email

  1. david
    4:31 am on July 7th, 2016

    this is just perfect, I’m moving all my company to Open Source and this is what was needed

  2. viragored
    11:23 pm on July 8th, 2016

    Great resource! I successfully made my switch from Outlook 2016 to Thunderbird following your steps. Here’s a couple of minor comments:
    1. My Thunderbird (45.2) has the path to Account settings / Server settings in Options, rather than Tools
    2. I found that creating the target folder for ImportExport, and ensuring it was selected before starting the import, directed the tool to deliver the import to that folder (saving the extensive drag and drop in your final step). I tried it with a single folder (later deleted) to check the import would go to where I wanted it before committing to the full import.

    Excellent blog page – thanks!

  3. LuisRogers
    3:26 am on September 30th, 2016

    I am a non-technical user so prefer to use the third party automated software. One of my friends is suggested to use Stellar PST to MBOX converter. But, I will decide after reviewing its free demo version.

  4. Gary
    6:59 pm on April 19th, 2017

    Amazing help, thank you !

  5. siddhant
    12:58 am on April 28th, 2017

    AMAZING!! thanks a ton.

  6. eduard adolf
    10:15 am on July 6th, 2017

    Thanks you sharing information.

    I have used KTools PST Converter software, it helped me to save all my .pst files in .mbox format and after that import them into Thunderbird email account.


  7. jason brize
    1:53 am on October 23rd, 2017

    You can use many available tools in market to convert mail to thunderbird am using Softaken .pst converter

  8. Bella Swan
    5:47 am on December 29th, 2017

    You may try Outlook Converter – A well-defined utility for you to export mail from Outlook to Thunderbird with all data like emails, calendars, contacts, notes, tasks, briefcase and attachments. The utility can also efficiently works even without Outlook installation.

  9. H.Owens
    6:02 pm on January 14th, 2018

    this procedure was absolutely fantastic. everything worked perfect.

  10. Mike Woodward
    12:42 pm on January 20th, 2018

    Great article. Worked for me. Thanks

  11. Jim Facteau
    7:04 pm on January 26th, 2018

    Mike Woodword: problem I am having is Mailstore is converting my .pst file to a .dat file. The addon for mozilla ImportExportTools does not see that format. Any suggestion?

  12. Ron
    10:38 pm on February 28th, 2018

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! This was awesome! I now have all my Outlook messages working quite nicely in Thunderbird and I don’t have to spend a fortune to upgrade from Office 2010. FWIW, if anyone needs Word and Excel alternatives, I highly recommend Softmaker.

  13. jim rohn
    4:08 am on April 3rd, 2018

    use gaintools pst to mbox converter software https://www.gaintools.com/pst/mbox/ this will help you to convert database from ms outlook application to mbox file format

  14. Babak Ohadi
    6:20 am on May 10th, 2018


  15. mark
    10:56 am on May 21st, 2018

    Brilliant, the instructions were clear — and worked, have been messing about on other sites for hours trying to figure out how to escape from the clutches of Microsoft and their usurious licence fees.

  16. Geeta Malik
    1:53 am on June 27th, 2018

    I tried this method for importing Outlook to Thunderbird with successful results. But on of my friend was switching from Thunderbird to Outlook that time he used a tool (MailsDaddy Thunderbird to Outlook Converter) for doing the migration.

  17. Jon Zee
    4:44 pm on February 16th, 2020

    god bless you for putting this together!

  18. JR
    8:37 pm on October 13th, 2020

    Worked perfectly! Thank you very much!!

  19. Ashraful Alam
    3:42 am on October 29th, 2020

    Thanks. Its works

  20. Jay Dee
    11:33 pm on November 11th, 2020

    Your step-by-step instructions for moving my folders from Outlook 2010 to Thunderbird were almost perfect. Thank you! Much easier than other methods I had looked into.

    A few points that caused me a bit of a delay in getting the conversion completed:

    The link you gave for ImportExport Tools showed as corrput when I tried to install it but I found the latest version relatively easily.

    At Step 20: “Tools > ImportExportTools > Import all messages from a directory > also from its subdirectories”: It didn’t specify exactly where to go, and I was looking at the right-hand menu. I eventually went to my account folder at the top left-hand side, right-clicked and it was all smooth from then on.

    Unfortunately, most other companies in this area are not nearly as clear in their instructional material. You’re a rare exception! Congratulations!

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