AAM: Migrating from Mail 2.0 to Thunderbird 1.5

by Aaron Wright Nov 21, 2006

Whilst Mail 2.0 is a beautifully simple program to use, it can sometimes be a little too simple for many. Firefox 2.0’s recent release will no doubt draw attention to other Mozilla products, such as Thunderbird 1.5 and entice users into trying out the open source e-mail program. This week, user Jackd has decided he wants to make that switch but has discovered that migrating all your e-mails over from Mail 2.0 isn’t at all easy, especially as the migration wizard within Thunderbird doesn’t allow you to do this. There’s a reason behind it and it’s no ones fault in particular.

With the introduction of Spotlight, Mail 2.0 had to change the way e-mails were stored in order for Spotlight to correctly index individual e-mails so that they would be brought up in a search - e-mails are therefore stored as individual e-mails using the .emlx extension and not as a group of e-mails using the .mbox extension. As with most older e-mail clients, Thunderbird uses the .mbox format which stores all e-mails in one folder.

In order for e-mails to be migrated over to Thunderbird, users will need to convert all e-mails in Mail 2.0 using an application called emlxconvert and then move the e-mails over to Thunderbirds local folders. Of course, this weeks AAM answer was delivered by me, so continue reading for more in depth steps.

Question of the Week

Migrating Mail 2.0 to Thunderbird 1.5

Question by: Jackd

I have decided that i no longer wish to use mail 2.0. there’s no real reason behind this other than thunderbird (my replacement choice) offering a few more features that tickle my fancy. however, as with most e-mail applications, the migration wizard within thunderbird doesn’t allow you to transfer over e-mail accounts along with e-mails from mail 2.0. it has a couple of other e-mail clients in there, but not mail 2.0.

does anyone have any idea how to migrate e-mails (at the least) and e-mail accounts (not as big a problem) from mail 2.0 over to thunderbird with as little hassle as possible please? im sure it is possible, right?


Answer by: Aaron Wright

There’s another alternative, not to overshadow your way, WAWA.

Without complicating things, Mail 2.0 has changed the way it stores e-mails from previous versions, this is so Spotlight can index them better and individual e-mails can be found. Rather than storing all e-mails in one file called a .mbox as most e-mail applications do, Mail 2.0 stores e-mails as individual e-mails with the .emlx extension. Because of this, it’s not to so easy to import e-mails from Mail 2.0 into Thunderbird 1.5.

There’s some information on the Thunderbird website about this but it’s out of date, in that it only tells you how to import/export mail with earlier releases of Mail. Anyway, here’s how to do it:

1) Download a program called emlxconvert.dmg.

2) Locate your Mail 2.0 messages. To do this, go to Yourusername/Library/Mail/[email protected] - you’ll find all your received items in the ‘Inbox.mbox’ folder, all your sent items in the Sent Messages.mbox folder and so on. Now, open up the relevant folder, i.e - Inbox.mbox, highlight all the e-mails within (use Command+A) and drag them to the emlxconvert program. The next step is to save all your e-mails as a .mbox file. To do this, click on ‘Save mbox…’ and store it on your desktop. Once done, rename the file to anything you like, for example, (Inbox_Googlemail).

Repeat the same for other mailboxes (including sent items, outbox, junk etc.)

3) Locate your Thunderbird mail messages folder. This is in Yourusername/Library/Thunderbird/Profiles/*******.default/Mail/Local Folders/ . Making sure Thunderbird isn’t running at this point, copy over your newly converted .mbox files (mine being Inbox_Googlemail) into the Local Folders folder and then relaunch Thunderbird. At first nothing will appear, this is normal. Thunderbird will move a few files around and the next time you relaunch Thunderbird, you’ll see your .mbox folders sitting there all snug as a bug in a rug. All you have to do is open up the required folder, highlight all the e-mails and copy them over to your Inbox, then delete the .mbox folder.

Simple really!

Note - if you have more than one account, you can follow the same steps as above and put all your .mbox e-mails into the Local Folders folder.

View thread=

Have a technical question? Drop by our dedicated forums and leave a message. You’re sure to get a reply from one of regular readers or even a member of staff.


  • Thanks for this.

    You clould also use Emailchemy which is a swiss army knife of Mac email conversion (cheap shareware).

    Been using it a long time,works good.

    Chris Goss had this to say on Nov 21, 2006 Posts: 2
  • I would love to support open source by using Thunderbird. I like most all the features and feel it is the way to go. My only reason for not switching and staying in Mail 2.0 is how you view photos. I share many photos with my family and my family sends me many photos. To view them as a slide show and to directly add them to iphoto is heaven for me in that situation. Is there anything out there that will give Thunderbird the same functionality as in Mail? If there is. Goodbye Mail2.0!!!!

    Enrique Mayoral had this to say on Nov 22, 2006 Posts: 1
  • I moved from TB to Mail.app only a few months ago because of the lack of support for Apple’s Address Book. If I didn’t use the default iCal and Address Book for a lot of what I do, I would consider moving back. I do not like having multiple copies of the same information.

    chigh had this to say on Nov 22, 2006 Posts: 7
  • A still unsolved problem regards the possibility to archive email messages on disk. When exporting a message, by saving or dragging and dropping, the timestamp of the exported file given by Thunderbird is that of the moment in which the file was exported. For archiving reasons it would be necessary that exported file had the timestamp corresponding to the moment in which it was sent or received.-Jonathan Berkowitz

    Ana had this to say on Aug 23, 2011 Posts: 76
  • Page 1 of 1 pages
You need log in, or register, in order to comment