How to Import a PST File in Thunderbird

Written by wolfram donat
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How to Import a PST File in Thunderbird
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There are many different e-mail clients available. One popular freeware client is Thunderbird, produced by Mozilla, the authors of the popular Firefox web browser.

The most common e-mail client is probably Microsoft's Outlook. Outlook allows you to create a backup file of all your e-mail messages and contacts. This backup file is in a .pst format, and can be used to move your files from one computer (or e-mail client) to another.

When switching to Thunderbird, you may experience difficulty in importing a standalone .pst file, since Thunderbird uses .mbox files instead and does not recognise .pst files. Workarounds do exist to import a .pst file.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Flash drive

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  1. 1

    Use Outlook to decode the .pst file. If possible, install Outlook on the computer with Thunderbird and the rogue .pst file. Once Outlook is installed, select "File" > "Import and Export" to import the .pst file into Outlook. Once the messages/contacts have been successfully imported, open Thunderbird and select "Tools" > "Import" > "Mail within Thunderbird." Choose "Outlook" as the default client from which to import.

  2. 2

    Install Thunderbird onto another computer. If you can't install Outlook onto the desired computer (referred to here as "Computer 1"), install Thunderbird onto a machine with a compatible version of Outlook (referred to here as "Computer 2").

  3. 3

    Open Outlook on Computer 2. Copy the .pst file onto Computer 2. With Outlook open, select "File" > "Import and Export." In the window that pops up, choose "Import from another program or file" and click "Next."

  4. 4

    Choose "Personal Folder File (.pst)" and click "Next." Use the "Browse" button to navigate to the location of the .pst file and click "Open." Everything in the backup file--e-mails, contacts, etc.--will be imported into Computer 2's Outlook.

  5. 5

    Import the files on Computer 2's Outlook into Computer 2's Thunderbird. Open Thunderbird and select "Tools" > "Import." Click the "Mail" button and click "Next."

  6. 6

    Click on "Outlook" and click "Next." When the import is finished, click "Finish."

  7. 7

    Close Thunderbird. Click "Start" and navigate to "Your-username\AppData\Roaming\Thunderbird\Profiles**.default" (where the ** is a string of random characters). Copy all of the included files and folders to a flash drive and move the flash drive to Computer 1.

  8. 8

    Navigate to "Your-username\AppData\Roaming\Thunderbird\Profiles**.default" on Computer 1. Copy the files and folders from Computer 2 into that directory. All of the email info will now be available on Computer 1's Thunderbird.

Tips and warnings

  • Try using the Thunderbird PST Import plug-in (see Resources). This is an open-source plug-in that purports to make the Thunderbird client recognise and import .pst files. It is not clear whether or not it works; many of the comments on the download site state that it is both unclear how to use it and that it does not work as advertised.
  • Always back up your data. When importing files, there is always the possibility that the files may become corrupted or illegible by the computer.

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