How to fix (Windows) Thunderbird issues?
July 10, 2012 4:44 PM   Subscribe

Someone I know recently asked me to do a couple of hours of work on her (Windows) laptop and such to help sync up things like calendars with her new iPhone and various and sundry little tasks. Most of this went perfectly well. However, I've encountered two major issues both to do with Thunderbird (which I've never really used). Details within.

The first issue is pretty straightforward. She uses Lightning for Thunderbird for her calendar. I exported the calendar, imported it on her Google calendar, then used Provider for Google Calendar to allow her to access the Google calendar from Thunderbird and deleted the local calendar. This is great, everything works, but it hangs for a good 15-20 seconds now and again. I suspect this is the constant synching of the very large calendar. She's willing to forget about Lightning and just use Google's web interface, but surely there's a way to synchronize less frequently or for Lightning not to choke on the very large calendar?

The second issue is very messy.

She has a work email address (she's self-employed) and the format is: For simplicity's sake, let's say it's

Up until recently, this was an actual pop account and so she had a Thunderbird account for her regular email (the one that came with her ISP) and a Thunderbird account for her work email (the address).

Recently, a tech friend of hers (not me) decided that all she really needed was a forward, where pointed to her ISP account (format is

As such, every time Thunderbird checked mail for, an error message would crop up, because the is just a forwarding address. She asked if we could fix that, I said sure.

I created a new identity for her in Thunderbird under her ISP mail account so she can send mail from and then made the mistake of deleting the account within Thunderbird.

Apparently now all her email is gone, even though much of it is coming in through her address.

a) What the hell did I do? I mean, I know I deleted the account, but did the mail actually get deleted?

b) How likely is it that this recovery process will work? Has anyone had this issue and recovered from it via this method? I don't have the laptop accessible to me at the moment, but will hopefully get back to it tomorrow/Thursday.

c) How do I remove the account without deleting all of the mail? Or get it to just stop checking for mail?

I'm reasonably computer savvy but my experience with Thunderbird is next to nothing and while poking around I didn't see any option to stop checking mail for all accounts even by unchecking "check for new messages automatically" and anything else along those lines.

Bonus gratitude in it for you if you can help me figure out how to make up this error to my client, because I feel really crappy about this error and she's not very technical so she was extremely trusting about the whole process.

Thanks for any help you can provide!
posted by juliebug to Computers & Internet (3 answers total)
I can't help with the first question, but a few thoughts on the second.

As you know, POP email downloads each message to the hard drive and then deletes it from the server. So when you deleted the account within Thunderbird, you told Thunderbird you no longer wanted those emails. I would've thought the emails were gone for good, but it's great to see Thunderbird apparently has a process for restoring them in case of accidents. Definitely give it a go.

If it were me, I would remove the mail forward her friend set up and keep the two separate accounts. Forwarding is a hassle if your friend ever changes ISPs, her ISP's mail servers go offline for a bit, etc.

You might also consider switching your friend to IMAP. POP is great for casual users, but unless your friend is also running regular backups (and most people don't), it's very vulnerable. One mistake or failed hard drive and years of emails are gone. For somebody running a business, as your friend is, I would always recommend IMAP.
posted by Georgina at 6:47 PM on July 10, 2012

The old mail should still be in her profile folder. If she has a backup, the KB article should give you an idea of what you're looking for and what to do with it. You shouldn't need the backup, though. I just checked, and Thunderbird still doesn't remove the old account folder. In the profile folder, you should see a folder called Mail. Under that there will be a folder with the name of the mail server for The mailboxes for that account live in there. Make sure they're intact, make a backup by copying them elsewhere on the hard drive, and follow the instructions in the KB article and you should be good to go.

To get it to not check for new mail, go to Tools -> Account Settings, then select the Server Settings for the given account, and untick the "check for new mail on startup" and "check for new messages every x minutes" boxes. If you want to delete the account, move the mailboxes to the local folders hierarchy.
posted by wierdo at 5:40 AM on July 11, 2012

Hi folks, thanks for the responses. I finally ended up getting my hands on her laptop today.

Georgina, we're looking at migrating her to Gmail due to the backup issue and such, because yes, it's very important to have recent backups in case things go to crap. I completely agree that POP isn't the way to go for her business mail. If I were the person she'd turned to in the start, we likely wouldn't have had to deal with this mess. ;)

wierdo, the old mail was still in her profile folder and I was able to fix things up pretty easily, although it involved turning off the email forwarding and creating a pop account in order to recreate the account. I also turned off the check new mail option, so that's awesome. Thank you so much. :) As I said to Georgina, I think we're going to migrate to Gmail, but if we don't, I might move the folders and delete the account. For today, the goal was to recover the mail, which we have, so thank you very much for the reassurance as I waited impatiently to see if I could recover her stuff. Your instructions were very helpful and I definitely made a backup! :)
posted by juliebug at 6:38 PM on July 16, 2012

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