How to successfully migrate from Outlook in Windows to Thunderbird in Ubuntu...

Friday, December 11, 2009

How to successfully migrate from Outlook in Windows to Thunderbird in Ubuntu...

Outlook to ThunderbirdI had started writing this post in June 2009, but stopped in the middle... now I am going to complete it... maybe... it has been 6 months and I don't remember all the steps...

CAUTION!!! Don't use Thunderbird 3 for this migration! We need an add-on (Outlook PST import) which is not yet supported in TB 3 (TB = Thunderbird). Use some version of TB 2. After importing is finished, we can upgrade to TB 3...

Yep, I did that... I migrated from Outlook 2003 in Windows XP to Thunderbird in Ubuntu 9.04... it works... it took me almost a day to figure out how and to fully migrate... total of 13 email accounts and about 13 thousand emails!, also 300+ calendar events...

Actually, this was the main reason I was sticking with Windows even though I liked Ubuntu... I needed my mails always with me... now I can spend more time with Ubuntu...

The exciting part is, I can use Thunderbird in Windows and Linux, sharing the same Mail folder, only one copy of mails... saving a lot of space... you check mail in Windows, you boot to Ubuntu, the new mails are there for you... one problem with Gmail POP3 download is, even if you say 'keep in Server', once you download using an Email client, the mail will not be downloaded again by another Email client...

Funny thing, I am creating this post as a mail item in Thunderbird... I write a little in Linux and I save... when I go to Windows and open Thunderbird, the incomplete mail is in my Drafts folder, I can write more and come back to Linux and write more and so on, isn't it cool... :)

The main steps in the process are...

1. Setting up Thunderbird in Windows
2. Copying Mails from Outlook to Thunderbird
3. Migrating to Thunderbird in Ubuntu (this step is too simple...)
4. Optionally, migrating Calendar entries from Outlook (this step is a little complicated...)

I think it is gonna be a very lengthy and tedious process for me to illustrate it all... so I will split the steps across posts... 4 posts will do... after that maybe I will compile it into a PDF Guide, maybe :)

In this post, I will just give an introduction to the whole process...

Alert: I am not going to say anything about Calendar until the last step, everything until then is just for the mails :)

What you need... (excluding those needed for setting up Calendar)

1. Outlook 2003 (obviously)
2. Mozilla Thunderbird for Windows
3. Mozilla Thunderbird for Linux
4. Lot of disk space for the mails to jump around :)

How much time it will take?

That depends one various factors, number of email accounts you are maintaining, bulk of mails you have, your expertise with Windows (and Linux), etc... For a normal user with only one email id, and a 1000 mails, this will take around 1 hour... correct me when you do it... this doesn't include Calendar!

Is it safe?

Better backup your mails folder before continuing... not because it is risky, but for making you feel better :)

Will it work?

Good question... you will know...

We are in Windows XP... we will stay in Windows XP for steps 1 and 2...

Step 1: Setting up Thunderbird in Windows

1. The facts

- Outlook 2003 is installed.
- There are two email accounts - &
Emails -

|-- First Mail
| |-- Personal
| `-- Professional
`-- Second Mail
|-- First Mail
`-- Second Mail
2. What you will need...

- Mozilla Thunderbird (I used version

3. Installing Thunderbird in Windows

- Download Thunderbird free from Mozilla website.
- Install Thunderbird, let it be there, don't bother to start it yet, we will come back...

When you start Thunderbird, you will get your default profile created at %APPDATA%\Thunderbird\Profiles\xxxxxxxx.default (Eg. C:\Documents and Settings\User\Application Data\Thunderbird\Profiles\n1xwufxq.default), xxxxxxxx will be replaced by 8 alphanumeric characters. We will refer to this as the 'default profile folder'.

4. Create directories

- We will create some directories for keeping Mail and other settings...
The directory structure looks like this...
|-- Add-ons
`-- Mail
|-- Local Folders
Create these directories.
Downloaded Thunderbird add-ons will go into the 'Add-ons' directory.
All mails will stay in 'Local Folders'.
The other two directories will contains settings and filters for the specific Email account.

5. Setting up Email Account

- Start Thunderbird...
- Automatic Import - No: It will ask whether to import data from Outlook Express or Outlook... say NO. I tried importing Settings from Outlook, but it gave me some error, so we will do it manually...

- Create the new email accounts for '' and ''...
- Got to "Server Settings" for ''
- Click "Browse" to the right of "Local directory:"
- Select the directory we created at 'Thundebird\Mail\'
- Click on "Advanced"
- Select "Global Inbox (Local Folders Account)"
- Enable/Check "Include this server when getting new mail"
- Click "Ok" (we are still inside 'Account Settings'...)
- Set the same settings for, use the directory 'Thundebird\Mail\'
- Go to "Local Folders"
- Click "Browse" to the right of "Local directory:"
- Select the directory 'Thundebird\Mail\Local Folders'
- Click "Ok" (now we are exiting 'Account Settings'...)

Now Thunderbird will store account related settings in corresponding directory and all mails will be stored in 'Local Folders' directory.

Step 2: Copying Mails from Outlook to Thunderbird

1. Outlook PST import

We will be using a add-on for importing the email from Outlook to Thunderbird.

- Download "Outlook PST import" add-on from
- Install 'Outlook PST import'
- Restart Thunderbird (if you haven't already done)

2. Importing...

- Start Outlook 2003, keep it there, we won't use it...
- In Thunderbird, go to "Tools -> Import"
- Select "Mail" and click "Next"
- Select "Outlook" and click "Next"
It will list all the folders you have in Outlook
- Select the folders you want to import and click Import... this process will take some time depending on the number of emails...
If you have a lot of mails in the folders, then it is better to import each folder one by one... there is possibility of some mails being missed out...

3. Verification

After import is complete, manually verify the process by comparing the number of emails in each folder...

Now, you have all the mails from Outlook in your Thunderbird...

To be continued...

Comments please...

See also... » Lightning in Thunderbird 3.0

» Install Thunderbird 3.0 Official Release in Ubuntu

» gccgo mini-HOWTO

» Google Go - A First Look

» Booting Ubuntu 9.10 - Part 1 (The Downfall)

» Effective Use of VIM - Part 1

» Ubuntu 9.10 Karmic Koala on the move

» Install Firefox 3.5.1 Official Release in Ubuntu

» Internet Explorer in Ubuntu

» Yahoo Messenger! in Ubuntu

ATOzTOA : Latest Headlines


Namith said...

---"one problem with Gmail POP3 download is, even if you say 'keep in Server', once you download using an Email client, the mail will not be downloaded again by another Email client"---
Well, this is the expected behavior of 'keep in Server'feature, I suppose. When one client downloads a mail, it marks the mail as read, that's why. If it doesn't mark as read for your second client to be able to download it, then the first client (infact all clients) will also keep downloading same mails repeatedly on each sync!

Namith said...

13 email accounts? Means 12 personal ones? I wonder why u need so many!
I started with Rediff, tried Hotmail, moved on to Yahoo, and finally now settled with Gmail!

atoztoa said...


Some emails allow different mail clients to download the same mails... the clients will keep track of the mails which were downloaded...

The email id's are for different purposes :)

stock tips said...

Wow this blog is magnificent i like studying your posts. Stay up the good work! You already know, many individuals are searching around for this information, you can help them greatly. Thank you for this fascinating post!

Post a Comment