Export messages and folders from Thunderbird to Outlook / Outlook Express / Windows Mail

I was tired of some problems I experienced with the Thunderbird database and the lack of support of Windows Desktop Search.  So I decided to migrate from Thunderbird to Outlook.

I found several tutorials explaining how to do it using the free tool IMAPSize.

The problem with this procedure is that email conversion using this tool requires you to manually select each Thunderbird directory that contains the messages of each folder. It is fine for a few directories but a very long task if you have more than a hundred.

In addition to this issue, I found some export problems using the tool: it works with most of the messages but there are some problems with certain messages that are created with a wrong structure or with problems in the header (e.g.: empty subject and wrong received timestamp) when importing into Outlook Express / Windows Mail.

Looking for another method, I found a free tool Tbird2OE from PractiSoft. It is rudimentary but it does the first job: it exports all the messages to eml format keeping folder structure and no errors.

To import messages into Outlook Express / Windows Mail, the tutorial suggests to drag them in each exported folder. Again, this is simple for small amount of folders but it could take considerable amount of time if you have lots of folders.

For that reason, with the help of our Custom Software Development and Outlook Plugin Development teams I wrote a tool to import the exported messages using our product OEAPI to store messages in Outlook Express / Windows Mail.

Here is the step-by-step tutorial:

  1. Compact messages (recommended but optional)
  2. Make sure you have lots of disk space free to store the messages (from Chuck).
  3. Use Tbird2OE to export messages from your Thunderbird profile:
    • Top edit box your mail root in the top edit box, usually something like this: C:Documents and SettingsUserNameApplication DataThunderbirdProfilesawfiwoeu.defaultMailLocal Folders
    • Bottom edit box: any path where the emails will be stored in eml format keeping folder structure
  4. Install OEImportEml:
    • Set the same directory that you specified in Tbird2OE as export path (the bottom edit box)
    • Set Thunderbird ‘Sent’ folder if your installation is not English (the folder specified here is forwarded to ‘Sent Items’ in Outlook Express / Windows Mail)
  5. If you want to use Outlook, run Outlook and select to import messages from Outlook Express / Windows Mail

Windows 7

User Edgar reported that the process works using Outlook 2007 and Windows Live Mail but no account set up.

Another option reported by Johnny Y.: To Migrate messages from an XP to Windows 7 PC, use Outlook on the original XP PC to import from Outlook Express. Then Export to a PST and transfer PST files to the new Windows 7 PC and import, since Windows 7 does not come with Outlook Express.

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  • John

    These programs worked flawlessly. thanks a ton!

  • Judy

    Hi Pipaman, have you managed to get the import for Windows Live Mail (for Windows 7) working? I like what you have done and I am quite tired of Thunderbird right now. I just lost a ton of emails and it is very upsetting.

    Unfortunately, I am not able to get your program or steps working properly. Maybe it is the way I am doing it.

    I have 6 folders for my Thunderbird email. So, I created 6 folders and use Tbird2OE and converted each of them seperately. All converted with no problems.

    Then I used your program to convert the first folder and tried to my emails in Windows Live Mail. I can see them all under Storage Folder (as I do not know how to create seperate physical directories for Windows Live Mail). I do not mind importing each folder at a time because I have only 6 folders.

    I then tried to import into Outlook (which is what I want to use as my mail software) but there is nothing to import.

    So, any idea where I went wrong?

  • Good show, Pipaman. Thanks very much for the tools. They worked O.K. – with some little exceptions below you might find worth noting. I was very surprised to find your tools within 20 minutes of searching for them. I migrated from Eudora 7.1.x Pro a few months ago to Eudora’s Beta series, ending with 8.x Beta 9. When yesterday Eudora Beta garbled some headers on an incoming e-mail, and it was already slow to begin with, I finally threw in the towel waiting for Penelope’s final release.

    On my machine, Windows Media Center 2002, I did notice some funny behaviors. Running Tbird2OE was especially slow – and the machine’s power supply would frequently peak and overwork. But I let it run anyway; I’m not one to complain about a free tool, right? Tbird2OE said after a few hours it had converted 16K e-mails and nearly 400 folders. I was impressed it left the directory structure intact.

    In using OEImportEml, the import into Outlook 2003 worked pretty well, and again left the directory structure intact. I haven’t yet checked the attachments to see if they’re all in good shape. But I did notice it seems that some of the folders which remained open while Outlook 2003 ran its conversion seemed to change the date of the e-mail in those folders. As long as it’s only a few folders that’s not a problem.

    Thanks again, and this is a product for which I’d pay. I know other users who need it.

  • Alex

    Thanks Pipaman – excellent piece of software. Worked fine with Thunderbird 3 running on XP as needed to revert to Outlook for business purposes.

    All I would add is that choosing “Local folders” will not automatically pick up all your different email addresses so go into your Thunderbird profile directory first to see what lives where and then choose each email account accordingly. Also, check your junk mail settings; I had set all junk to be deleted and sent to local folders which I then remembered after a very long conversion process, so clear out as much of this as possible before conversion… But after doing this it worked very quickly so thanks again – this has made life considerably easier!

  • SiKacak

    To those who wants to export to Outlook 2007,
    first you import it all via Outlook Express,
    Then use the button Export under File

    tq pipaman

  • cornfused

    I am a bit confused about OEImportEml does it not work on Win7 x64 and Windows Live Mail so that I can get Thunderbird email to Outlook 2010?

  • pipaman

    OEImportEml doesn’t support Windows Live Mail. I’ll port it using WLMailApi but I didn’t have time to do it.
    Another option is to use an XP to migrate to Outlook, you can use any virtualization tool.

  • Jeff

    Pipaman – thanks for an awesome tool. This has worked for me in most cases.

    I have a couple of machines that are throwing a runtime error that I’ve been unable to resolve. WinXP Pro, 32bit… Runtime error! Program: C:OEImportOEImportEml.exe / abnormal program termination

    Can anyone offer up a suggestion on fixing this?

    Thanks!

  • pipaman

    Does this issue happens in all the tested computers or only in some specific. If the issue is presented in specific computers see the configuration of those computers and ensure that Outlook Express or Windows Mail is working fine.

  • Jeff

    Pipaman

    Wanted to let you know that we’d made a stupid assumption… that OE was actually on the machine. Once we installed OE, everything started working properly.

    Thanks again for this program. I will be sure to add it to my arsenal of tools.

  • Joseph

    Pipaman,

    This is awesome!! Thank you so much pipaman, I’ve been struggling with this for months. Almost too easy – had some issues initially, but once I figured how it worked, went off without a hitch!!

    I feel bad for leaving Thunderbird, but it wasnt working for me anymore……it was a great relationship, but I needed to move on. Unfortunately, we all live in a Micro$oft world 🙁

  • Veerappan

    I just wanted to know the format of the file it will be in when it moves all .eml files to outlook express. There is no .dbx files. Also, which path does it copy the file?

  • pipaman

    The format that uses Outlook Express / Windows Mail is independent of this application because it uses the database API.

  • Affar

    Finally I got my Outlook back. Thanx man, if it wasn’t for your util or I would have spend 50 bucks for one time app.

  • Ram

    hey, how do i export my sent items from thunderbird to outlook

  • Thunderbird is an excellent application as far as size limit, compacting and other feature and addon is concern. I have switched over to TB some 3-4 years back and I have used TB for all these years without any problem but now my requirement has changed and I need some additional feature which TB is not supporting so planning to switch again back to MS Outlook. I have some 200000 mail in more than 200 folder. I dont know whether I will be able to do but I will give it a patience try. Now I realize that I made a blunder while deciding a email client. I am fixed. If you have any suggestion please advice

    I am really surprise to see that TB does not support other email client as far as exporting is concern

  • pipaman

    Ram, in point 4 you can find:
    Set Thunderbird ‘Sent’ folder if your installation is not English (the folder specified here is forwarded to ‘Sent Items’ in Outlook Express / Windows Mail)

    In OEImportEml there is a edit box to fill your Sent folder in Thunderbird for those that has a non-english version. Copy & Paste your Sent folder name and you’re done.

  • pipaman

    B.R.Singh, I had a similar volume of emails when migrating and I coded this application because the IMAPSize generated lots of invalid emails.
    OEImportEml process worked smoothly.

  • Kapil Joneja

    I have gone thru the various blog postings which have been quite helpful. I am on TB moving to OL due to my corporate needs. I am able to export emails from TB to eml files. But stuck on importing into OL as I can’t setup OL Express on my machine due to my company’s IT policy. Do you have any alternatives? Appreciate any solution.

  • B.R.Singh

    Kind Attention: pipaman
    I have successful migrated all mails from Thunderbird to Outlook Express and then to MS Outlook in all windows XP Machine but I am having problem in migrating in windows 7 machine while I am following the same procedure i.e converting TB data to eml using Tbird2OE and then using OEImportEml to transfer all eml data to MS Outlook. I have transfer some 45GB of data in three machine simultaneous. It took around 36-40 hours to transfer 20 GB of Data. Two machine are pending. These machine are having windows 7 OS. Using OEImportEML it shows data is transferring but god knows where is goes. PLease also tel where I can find this data Please help

  • pipaman

    Windows 7 doesn’t come with any email client installed, neither Outlook Express nor Windows Mail.
    OEImportEml insert messages in these email clients. In Windows 7 you could try installing Windows Live Mail to see if that email client recognize the old messages.
    If so, then you can import to Outlook after.
    Please tell me the results.

  • Todd G Baker

    OK I can see all my folders and email in Windows Live mail on my WIN 7 PC…but when in Outlook 2003 I can’t import anything. What am I doing wrong??

  • B.R.Singh

    after trying 360 degree I came to the conclusion the windows 7 (Windows Mail does not recognize the file format imported by OEImportEML. I have tried to search all drive to know where all these mail goes but could not succeed. PLease suggest me some other method. Other wise I will create one virtual machine on win 7 and load windows xp and do it with the same methot as I have done earlier

  • I used TB for quite some time but due to the enormous sync problems with mobile phones i decided to go back to Outlook (2007).
    I used Tbird2OE and placed everything on the desktop.
    Than used OEAPI annd after some time it was finished.
    Now the most exciting moment, will outlook 2007 be able to import all these files under windows 7 without OE?
    It worked seemlessly and no mails are lost as far as i can trace the hughe amount of emails.

    SO, it does work under windows 7 and outlook 2007, but i think the trick is to compress your mail in TB before using the tools.
    Also I do have Live Mail installed but no account set up, just run it once and don’t create any account. Cancel from that moment. Apparently windows than created the files neccesary for OEAPI to do it’s trick.

    Anyway, million thanks for this.

    Pipaman, hopefully this info is usefull for you and ofcourse other users.
    This is by far the easiest way to switch from TB to Outlook or OE.

  • Pablo Yabo

    Thank you Edgar, I’ve added your comment to the article.

  • Welcome, this is truly the easiest way to do the transfer.
    Can i use this to publish in Dutch?

  • sanjay

    thanks..very useful and workable

  • Pablo Yabo

    Edgar, you can translate the article but you cannot link directly to the binary, link to the article and it’s ok. This is because we want to keep people visiting our blog, it’s the only we ask for free staff. Thanks.

  • RJ

    Hi Pipaman,

    I really need some urgent help.

    I have been using OE6 since ages. I now have OE6 emails worth almost 15-20 years of my professional life. (9.82GB, 2045 files, size between 2KB ~ 527,629KB)

    Requirement : Need to convert OE6 emails, rules, addresses in Outlook 2010 .pst format.

    Tried using the following:
    OE6 to Outlook XP (which I could import into Outlook 2010) incomplete email conversion (about 22,000 or my 88,000 emails)

    OE6 to Eudora or Windows Live Mail (crashes half-way through)

    OE6 to Thunderbird (seems to convert the emails (not rules).

    Tried IMAPSize – doesn’t work.

    Please help!!

  • Pablo Yabo

    RJ, I suggest to post your problem in Outlook forum. Microsoft MVP should help you because this is a normal migration task that is supported by MS products.
    To do an ad-hoc migration you should code an add-in that get messages from OE6 and create them in Outlook. I think rules cannot be migrated if Outlook doesn’t support such migration. I mean, everything can be done but coding that will take much more time than doing it by hand.

  • Pete

    Worked like a dream for > 6000 emails in 40 sub folders. Thanks to get me out of the Thunderbird bind.

    Pete

  • Harold

    using Windows 7 and Office 2010 – did not have to actually import into Windows Live Mail first – simply ran tbird2oe, then the Outlook Express eml Importer, then ran Outlook 2010/File/Open/Import/Import Internet Mail and Addresses…

    The only problem was that Outlook Express Eml Importer seemed to be spinning its wheels forever – green bar continued to pulsate, yet every folder in the list said complete – finally took my chances and closed it – everything was there. Only other issue, and maybe because I jumped a step, each folder had a ghost folder appear in the final import that had a mosilla msgs tag – had to delete those, but otherwise smooth!

  • Paulo Neves

    Harold,
    I am also using Windows 7 and Office 2010 and it did not work! OEImporteml worked for 10 minutes, all the folders were done but couldn’t find any files and when I tried to import in Outlook 2007 (or 2010), nothing was imported! Do you have windows Live Mail Installed? I have Windows 7 32bit and did not install Windows Live Mail. Do I have to install it first?

  • Pablo Yabo

    Paulo, a user reported that using the tool with Windows Live Mail installed but no account setup -> it worked fine.

  • Antonino Benigno

    Hello,

    I got this problem: my computer’s motherboard gone, I had to change the hardware and I copy all the files in the new one, very easy, the problem is: in the outlook I was using I create personal files that now are completely gone and I don’t have any idea how to got them back. I am not an expert, as you can imagine, but any help will be very very appreciate!!!!
    Thank you
    Antonino Benigno

  • Pablo Yabo

    You should look for a crash recovery tool for Outlook.

  • Neil

    Just wanted to thank you for the Thunderbird->Outlook guidance and tools. It worked a treat. I was amazed to find my folder structure preserved.

    I took some time to make a copy of my T’bird profile, then went through and deleted all emails prior to 01/01/10 frm that copy. I then migrated the reduced file (800 Meg rather than 2 Gig)- I can always go back to T’bird and the original file for old stuff if I really want it.

  • Neil

    ps…I should have said that this was under Vista, with T’bird 3.1, Windows Mail and Outlook 2007.

  • Tivadar

    Hello,

    I have problems. I thought I copied my profile, but finally after 4 hours when I checked the profile at the destination folder it was only the empty folders, without any massages,and any diskspace.

    What did I make wrong?

    Thanks in advance

    Tivadar

  • k70

    Thank you for this tool! Just moved 9GB/23000 emails from TB to Outlook 2010, via Live mail in win7 x64.

  • Johnny Y.

    To Migrate messages from an XP to Windows 7 PC, use Outlook on the original XP PC to import from Outlook Express. Then Export to a PST and transfer PST files to the new Windows 7 PC and import, since Windows 7 does not come with Outlook Express.

    Thanks for the writeup. It helped alot!

  • Pablo Yabo

    Thank you! I’ve added this way to the article.

  • Chris

    Thank you! This made the job of going back to outlook from Thunderbird so easy!

  • Jani

    k70 – how did you do that? I am running Windows 7 x64 and want to export from Thunderbird into Outlook 2010.

    I compressed all my folders in Thunderbird, and closed Thunderbird down. I then opened Tbird2OE – it starts converting to a folder I created under Program Files(x86). It converts 40 off folders and 10 000+ emails, and then abruptly disappeared. I assumed it was done.

    I then opened OEImportEml and it brings up one line that says “Done” – although the green bar still pulsates.

    I then opened Windows Live Mail – couldn’t figure out how to get the folders and mails in there – it only received today and yesterday’s emails.

    I then closed that down and opened Outlook 2010 and went File/Open/Import/Import Internet Mail and Addresses and it imported only 359 messages but no folders?

    Please please please help me??

  • Jani

    Do you think perhaps it could be causing problems because I have 2 email accounts running simultaneously in Thunderbird?

    Also, I don’t mind copying folders across one at a time even though there are approx 60 folders – but I am desperate, so I will do it if someone can tell me how?

  • CM

    Thanks a lot for this!
    I had a very big problem because of my Thunderbird; I was a Thunder’s fan until that I had to change to OU.
    I used W7 and Windows Live Mail to export more than 10K mails. It was not easy but, finally, it worked.
    Thanks again.

  • Kristina

    How will this work if I am also switching computers?

  • BB

    I can’t get the first step in #3 to work — when I go to select the correct folder for the top edit box (my mail root) Tbird2OE doesn’t show all the folders in my Application Data folder (it stops halfway through the alphabet). I tried renaming the Thunderbird folder so it shows higher up in the alpha listing, but Tbird2OE doesn’t seem to like that — it wouldn’t react to clicks to open folders after that. Crashed my system in the process, too. Help?

  • BB

    Used another method — all set now. Thanks anyway.

  • Doc

    Nice work. Once I figured out that I didn’t tell it to do my regular inbox it worked flawlessly. Nice work.