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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  • JB

    Thanks for this. I’m unfortunately enough to be running Vista, which means I can’t use OE (and possibly this first tool).

    Do you suppose this song and dance would work with Windows Mail?

    Part of me thinks I should just tough it out until someone comes up with a decent export tool for Thunderbird, so we don’t have to deal with all this foolishness.

  • pipaman

    I think that it should work in Vista because OEAPI works in Vista also.
    I was waiting this tool to be developed but I got tired of Thunderbird and finally, I wrote this code by myself.

  • Thanks for that. Sadly, I also came to the conclusion that I have to make a move back to OE. Thunderbird is just too buggy – and the expectation seems to be that you have hack this and hack that in order for it to work properly. A pity, I love the calender functionality and the scan for duplicated functionality. But when message filters just keep disappearing and I struggle with getting the default fonts to work properly – well – I just give up.

  • Chuck

    Thanks! You’re a life saver. I just migrated over 8,000 emails in 45 folders/subfolders from Tbird to Outlook and at the same time from my previous machine to a new one.

    One additional step I would suggest for everyone:
    1.5 Make sure you have lots of disk space free. I filled my hard drive and Tbird2OE cranked away, silently failing to save anything. I didn’t discover what happened until I got everything all the way to Outlook and found that half my files were gone. I had to start over.

    I added my own step 2.5, “copy the exported directory to the new computer” and revised step 3 to set the directory I copied to. It worked great. Thanks again.

  • Mychelle

    Do you have to use Outlook Express to do the export? I seem to only have the full version of Outlook on my computer.

  • pipaman

    You need Outlook Express (or Windows Mail in Vista) to run this application. I thought that it comes installed in any Windows. Isn’t true?

  • Jackos

    Excellent! Thanks! Worked perfectly, shame and I feel a tad guilty, but the relief at being able to migrate back to outlook from thunderbird is enormous. 😀 😀

    Sorry tb, your just too buggy

  • pipaman

    I felt the same at the beginning but after receiving no response of bug my reports about the database, I felt free.

  • Calgary

    WOW! Almost too easy. I had tried the other methods (IMAP) without success. Follow these three easy steps and you’re done. The conversions take a while (15,000 messages) but no problems at all.


  • THANK YOU. I have been looking for an easy way to do this for months…. this was it! 1.5GB and 15 years worth of e-mail all transferred to Outlook.

  • Kliff

    Great work! I had an email mess between Eudora 7, Thunderbird, and Outlook. For a variety of reasons and personal preference, I had to get everything consolidated to Outlook 2007. Such a shame Eudora is gone. I tried T-Bird, but it just wasn’t working for me. Finally decided resistance was futile. It was a bit tedious, but your tools made it doable and worked exactly as advertised. THANKS.

  • Andreas


    unfortunately OEImportEml does not work for me. I just get an error message and the program terminates:

    I exported all my mails into the EML format. Then I start OEImportEml, select the directory where my exported mails are and press “Import” => a runtime error occures.

    I tried it with admin rights, I changed “Sent” from “Gesendete Objekte” or empty (I have a German OS but I use all programms in English) but it didnt work 🙁

    Any hints?


  • pipaman

    It’s weird because the application should be language independent.
    Are you sure that you have Outlook Express or Windows Mail installed?

  • Damiën

    Hi there,

    I also want to migrate my mail from TB back to Outlook (2007 in my case) and looked to use your tool and action plan. Unfortunately, I’ve seemed to encounter a problem.

    First I converted my TB mail folders (approx. 1750 messagg from 20 folders) using Tbird2OE to a new blank folder in which the new eml files should appear. After a while conversion seemed to have finished and the run button had turned green again, but I got no message from Tbird2OE that conversion had actually finished. How do I know it had successfully?

    Although I wasn’t sure the first step completed successfully, I also couldn’t find any exported files in my newly created folder.

    It was no surprise to me that running OEImportEML didn’t seem to work either. It hang for about 30 minutes analyzing before I shut the programme.

    I seems that I messed up step 3 and/or 4, but can’t figure out what exactly. Any help would be greatly appreciated! Thnx!


  • pipaman

    1) Tbird2OE is not very verbose so ‘no news’ means ‘good news’. If it took a while and then is not working and the button is clickable again, see the target folder if it contains the folders you had in Thunderbird. If the answer is Yes, it was successfully.

    Although I wasn’t sure the first step completed successfully, I also couldn’t find any exported files in my newly created folder.
    2) I think that you made a mistake when choosing the target folder. I found an issue while converting my messages with Tbird2OE in english. Then I choose default language and it worked fine for me. Try that or just download Filemon (www.sysinternals.com) and see where is writing the data.

    3) If you don’t see any data in the source folder you are using for OEImportEML, it won’t see it neither. You need to see data files exported in eml format using Tbird2OE before using OEImportEML.

    Hope it could help!

  • Damiën

    Hi Pipaman, thnx for your quick help. FileMon (now ProcessMonitor) worked after it took me an hour or so to understand the tool. Seems that the files/folders are being written somewhere I didn’t actually order them to be converted to, but I’m able to track them down now and I’ll get on it again tomorrow!

    Will let you know how I got on! Thnx again!


  • Damiën

    Hi again,

    Finally I got these tools to work the way they were dedigned to work; and what an easy way to fix my conversion from TB to Outlook it was! Thnx so much for the help, it saved me much work compared to manually dragging-and-dropping files & folders.

    I’ll enjoy my Outlook again!


  • Nvn

    I had some mail folder(physical folder) in my D : drive. I configurd my outllok today and need to configure this folder as my personal folder, since I have lot of mails I stored in that folder.
    I installed the tbird2oe and Outlook Express EmI importer also. executed the first step abut comes to Outlook Express part I donot know what to do.

    Please help me

  • pipaman

    I don’t understand you. You have Outlook today or Thunderbird. These tools are to export from Thunderbird to Outlook.
    Please, be clear specifying your current configuration.

  • Nvn

    I have Outlook now. I had used Thunderbord and have some personal folders on that. Need to attach that folder( i mean need to get that folder contents) in outlook.

    Please help me. I am using Outlook 2003.

  • pipaman

    Start in step 3. In the folder that contains Thunderbird folders should only that.
    After converting to eml using Tbird2OE continue with step 4 and your Thunderbird folders will be added to OE (you can check that your data is there running Outlook Express).
    Then import emails from Outlook Express using Outlook and you’re done.
    Hope it can help.

  • Nvn

    Hi. I converted and stored the same in one folder (d:Convert). after that installed I couldnot understand next steps you have mentioned. Please clear about the steps.


  • Jason

    AWESOME!! Thank you so much for posting this! Everything worked exactly as you described! I had been using Thunderbird for years for work and personal email. Recently, I had come to the conclusion I needed to move back to Outlook. Finding a simple method to preserve my folders and emails was essential. I now have moved over 13,000 emails perfectly into Outlook Express and just need to run Outlook now to finish the job! Thanks again!

  • Thanks a bunch pipaman! I just converted 250+ folders and 4200+ emails in couple of hours (my pc is little slow). I also would like to propose a minor modification in Tbird2OE prg. that it’d be helpfull to inform user when all the files are converted. Because in my case percentage bar was around %70 eventhough all files are converted (I think) and I kept waiting to see a 100% but I couldn’t.
    Anyway thanks again for saving our time.

  • flyboy

    My .eml files were created on a Mac using OS 10.3 (I think. Will this still work? I am trying to convert to OE 2007 (Win XP SP2)

    • pipaman

      I didn’t test it in that platform but if Mac uses the same .eml format it should work.
      You don’t loose anything just trying… Please, tell me the results of your experience.

  • hoanikai

    aloha pipaman
    found your postings. am attempting to transfer my thunderbird mail and addresses to outlook via OE using the software you identified.
    have loaded the tbird2oe and clicked run…but there doesnt seem to be any action….should i notice something different

  • pipaman

    You have to complete the paths of your database as indicated in the tutorial. If you are not able, tell me what part you don’t understand.

  • Baftap

    I installed tbird2oe without problem, but when I try to run it the green “run” button stays green and does nothing when I click it. Any idea what I’m doing wrong?

  • Baftap

    I shoould have added that I did fill in the path to my Thunderbird email (“…..useridMailLocal Folders”) as well as to the folder I created for the exported files.

    The “run” button does not act as if its clickable.

  • Baftap

    One more update:

    I had been pasting in the paths to the two folders when it didn’t work. I just browsed to each of them and the run button became active. Its in the process of converting now.

    If it goes as smoothly as everyone has said, I should be all set.


  • pipaman

    It looks as you have more than one root. If that is the situation you should select each root to export it.

  • Julia

    Thanks for your tutorial, but I do not understand one thing and namely, “Set Thunderbird ‘Sent’ folder if your installation is not English (the folder specified here is forwarded to ‘Sent Items’ in Outlook Express / Windows Mail)”. What does this mean?

    • pipaman

      I mean that in each language the ‘Sent’ folder would have a different name in Thunderbird. I can identify the ‘Sent’ folder in Outlook Express through the API but I cannot tell which is the sent folder in Thunderbird. You should fill that field with your ‘Sent’ folder. Just go to the Thunderbird and see the name of the folder where the sent messages are stored and put that name.

  • Derek Gauger

    This application is amazing…thank you so much for providing this when no one else could.

  • Baftap

    I’m back to this and it looks like I’m the only one still having problems. Pipaman – I know its not your app but do you have any insight into Tbird2OE that you can share? Here’s my issue:

    Its not that I have a lot of Tbird folders (only 26) but I do have a lot of msgs stored (~ 31K). Tbird2OE does exactly the right thing with 25 of the folders, but the last one doesn’t make it. The failing one has 3829 msgs in it, but the program ONLY converts 167 of them. Every time.

    I’ve stripped out all the other folders, I’ve compacted the one with the problem, and I’ve rebuilt the index. Doesn’t matter – it always converts 167 messages then stops. No error messages – everything looks normal.

    Any ideas? If I can’t move this over, I’ll have to rethink the whole conversion!

  • pipaman

    It looks as you should workaround the problem. Try using IMAPSize with the folder with problems and see if you can do that part of the job by hand. IMAPSize could have problems with certain emails but most will be converted. Then you can just drag & drop the results of IMAPSize convertion to the Outlook Express.

  • Ryan

    I too had a few speedbumps working with tbird2oe. I’m using Windows 7 64-bit. I couldn’t get the RUN button to work just like Baftap. Turns out it’s true (at least for me) that you can’t paste the path into the source and the Output boxes. You must use the browse buttons. The reason I didn’t use the browse is because initially they only worked on the first click. After that they didn’t work. Secondly I was unable to get it to display the folders under the C drive other than ‘Program Files (x86)’. To get additional folders to display I had to reselect the C: drive under “DRIVE” to get the window to refresh properly. At this moment it seems to be converting ok. Looks like it will take about 10 minutes on my computer.

  • Ryan

    Ok. Since Windows 7 doesn’t have Outlook Express, am I stuck with using IMAPsize?
    I just installed Windows Live Mail to temporarily make this work.
    I’d like to use oeapi. I installed it but it doesn’t seem to do anything after the install. The OEAPI folder just has documents, demos and an uninstaller.
    There doesn’t seem to be any executable application. Does it only run within Outlook Express?

  • pipaman

    As you say Win7 doesn’t include OE so you cannot use my tool to import emails.
    OEAPI is a library to access to the storage and UI of Outlook Express and Windows Mail so you cannot use it for this job.
    We are developing a product similar to OEAPI for Windows Live Mail. The first release will be next week. Then I can make something similar for Win7.

  • Hank

    I can’t use the browse function to navigate past the ‘ek08cduf.default’ folder to select the ‘xul.mfl’ file. I tried typing it into the path without success. What should I try next? Thanks…

  • Linda

    Thanks! I was an Eudora user for many years, and an Eudora 6 user since it came out. I really liked that program, it was quick and streamlined, and I liked it’s file system. Then last year my webhost beefed up security and I needed individual settings/options that that program didn’t have. I then downloaded Eudora 8 which is Thunderbird based. Which allowed me access to those email accounts again. But it was buggy, the spam killer sorted/worked better in the old Eudora 6. And there were other annoying issues. Improvements, upgrades I haven’t seen any the past year. So, I switched to Windows Live Mail desktop. Which is much more stable. But I had to open my Eudora8/Thunderbird each time I needed to reference past messages there, which is several times a day.

    After compacting my in and sent messages. Using the system/steps above, I copied over 2,368 folders with 72,910 messages from Eudora8/Thunderbird, into a folder in My Documents, followed next into Outlook Express 6 (which I had empty).

    Then from Windows Live Mail desktop, I used that email programs “import – messages” to import from Outlook Express 6 into the Windows Live Mail “Storage Folders” all these important folders and files for business, clients, non-profit groups, personal. I did a number of spot checks on a number of folders, and the messages look good!

    Thank you for providing this option, and making email life bearable. I just could not take the time to transfer all these folders and files “one at a time” with other options that are available on the Internet.

  • Bien LeBonjour

    Run on Win7 64-bit.
    Seems to be OK.
    Thank’s a lot !

  • Francis

    I find it ridiculous that I am having to go through two intermediate mail clients to get my e-mails from one Microsoft product (Entourage, Mac) to another (Outlook 2007, Mac).

    So angry!

  • Francis

    Err… Outlook 2007, PC.

    (So angry I got confused!)

  • peapea

    thanks somuch …………..

  • Alfonso Medina

    Excelente utilitario, realmente funciona, yo tenia una base de datos de mas de 15000 mensajes en thunderbird y lo pude pasar exitosamente gracias a estos datos

  • walterbyrd

    Same problem as Damiën. I have no eml files. TBird2OE ran for half a day, and created numerous folders in the target directory, but all of those folders are empty.

    Before I realized the folders were empty, I looked in OE. The folders were in OE, but all of the folders were empty.

    Tbird2OE would not allow me to navigate anywhere near the Thunderbird 3.0.1 directory, so I copied the directory to the same directory as the Tbird2OE program – there was nothing else I could do.

  • Tails

    Windows 7 user here, the program seems to hang too. It creates the folder structure but doesnt convert any mail. When I run the procedure one folder at the time (i.e., first inbox, then personal folder #1, #2, etc) it does generate the email. Perhaps it has to do with the fact that there are a few big .msf files in the ‘Local Folders’ (around 80MB).

    How does the program work technically? What does it use to convert the files?

  • Tails

    Never mind, it does work 😉
    Just needed some patience.

  • Vishal

    Thanks pipaman,
    I have migrated mails/folders from ThunderBird to Outlook as per your instruction, they migrated successfully.
    I have one problem is that all those mails are in folder, are also available in Inbox, means get duplicated. Advise me is there any mistake i did on import process?


  • pipaman

    Thank you. If the emails are in 2 places, they will be located in both places in Outlook as well.