Recovery of erased emails from Thunderbird might include a lot of hoops you have to jump through. In the best-case scenario, you accidentally deleted the messages and they’re readily waiting to be dug from Trash – literally. Slightly harder is getting emails that were hidden or corrupt, but that’s where convenience leaves the picture. Anything further requires a deeper manual investigation of your internal storage or using external services or software. Luckily, you’ve got us by your side, whether you’re tech-savvy or not. With the encouragement of the way, this is how to recover deleted emails from Thunderbird.
Relevance of POP3 and IMAP on Thunderbird
Without going into details, Thunderbird can use both POP3 (Post Office Protocol) and IMAP (Internet Message Access Protocol) but uses the latter by default. So, if you haven’t touched your settings, other devices that had access to Thunderbird can contain emails you thought were gone. Additionally, you might have success by going for e-mail provider services directly. For example, restoring Inbox on Gmail or getting removed Yahoo emails back. Otherwise, you must rely on the methods below.
1. Recover deleted Thunderbird emails from Trash
Thunderbird has a Trash feature you are likely familiar with. Therefore, you can retrieve accidentally erased emails from Thunderbird Trash like this:
- Launch Mozilla Thunderbird and sign in.
- Expand the option under the name of your e-mail account in the left sidebar.
- Click on the Trash.
- You’ll now see a list of erased emails. Highlight one or more.
- Right-click, then select Move To.
- Select your e-mail account or any other you’ve used to sign in.
- Choose the folder where they’ll be moved – presumably Inbox.
- Check your Thunderbird’s Inbox for newly restored emails.
2. Restore erased emails from Thunderbird by repairing Inbox
If you tried to log off and log back and still can’t see the emails, there must be something wrong with your folder inbox file. Do this to repair your email folder in Thunderbird:
- Right-click on the folder where emails were. We’ll use Inbox.
- Choose Properties.
- Make sure you’re on the General Information tab in the “Folder Properties” window.
- Click on the Repair Folder button, then OK.
- Tip. Remember the data path under “Location:” We’ll use it in a moment.
3. Repair Thunderbird profile or restore it from a backup
The information displayed in Thunderbird GUI is stored somewhere. We not only know where it is but also how to reset the software to display read and deleted emails as if they were never erased or marked as read. Here’s what to do:
1. Get to the Thunderbird AppData folder
This is where the files that make up your email account profile are:
Open Windows Explorer, and then:
- Visit the following file path:
C:\Users\<Windows user name>\AppData\Roaming\Thunderbird\Profiles\<Profile name>\
- Tip 1. If your Windows isn’t set to show hidden files, you can’t find the “AppData” folder. To fix that, click on View in the top menu, then tick the box in front of Hidden files.
- Tip 2. We recommend initially going to Profiles, because <profile name> consists of 6 random characters followed by .default, such as “a1g5f6.default”.
Things are identical on Mac, except that you’ll use a different text editor in place of Notepad. You’ll also find the folder in a different location:
- In Thunderbird, click on the Help option in the menu at the top.
- Switch over to the Troubleshooting Information tab.
- Scroll down and find the Profile Folder row.
- Click on Show in Finder and it’ll open to that location.
Note. You can also go there directly, but take note of Tip 2 (step 3) above when entering this file path into Finder:
~/Library/Thunderbird/Profiles/<Your profile name>/
2. Repair or replace your Inbox
Now that you’re inside of <Profile name> folder, open ImapMail. Then, do the following:
- Open the folder with your e-mail account name such as “email-username.gmail.com”,
- Right-click on the INBOX file.
- Tip. It won’t be recognized by the system nor have an extension.
- Open it with a text editor such as Notepad.
- Find the line that goes something like this: X-Mozilla-Status:0009.
- Change it to X-Mozilla-Status:0000.
- Save changes, quit Thunderbird, then open it and log back in.
Tip. Made a manual backup of the ImapMail folder or the “email-username.gmail.com” in the past? This is a prime opportunity to relocate the current one for safekeeping and replace it with your old backup. Follow step 7 afterward.
4. Recover deleted emails from Thunderbird via MBOX extraction tool (Optional)
We talked about MBOX when discussing the recovery of removed emails from Roundcube. Although it doesn’t have a file extension, INBOX from step 2 above is an MBOX file. A reputable third-party software can scan Mozilla Thunderbird for corrupt or deleted emails and repair a damaged MBOX file. We have no affiliation nor can we guarantee for them, but we’ll demonstrate one of many such tools. First, download, install and open Recovery Tool for Mozilla Thunderbird by EmailAdepts. Then, use one or both methods:
1. Search for deleted emails
Click on the HDD tab in the upper left corner and then:
- Select the installation drive for Thunderbird such as “C:/”,
- Click the three rotating arrows icon in the left corner of the top toolbar (Find and recover lost emails).
- The search for emails begins.
- You’ll get a list of recovered files, with columns for “Sender”, “Recipient”, “Subject”, “Date”, etc.
- Tick the box in front of emails you want to retrieve.
- Click on the floppy drive icon (Save recovered emails).
- Select a location on any drive except the one Thunderbird is installed on.
- Optional. Click on Rename *.emi files and choose a naming method.
- Click on Save.
- Open Thunderbird and either create a new inbox folder in the left sidebar or pick an existing one.
- Drag the recovered files to Thunderbird and they will appear in GUI immediately.
2. Repair an MBOX file
Switch to the MBOX file tab in the top left corner before doing this:
- Explore the folders in the sidebar until you reach the INBOX file we mentioned in method 3.
- Click on INBOX to highlight it. Now, click the icon we mentioned in step 2 above.
- After the scan finishes, click the icon as described in step 6 above.
- A “Save MBOX file” dialog box will open.
- Click the empty circle in front of Save messages as a single MBOX file and choose a location.
- Click on Save.
- Rename your old INBOX file to something like INBOX-old.
- Copy the new one, then restart Thunderbird.