Software

How do I...Migrate from Outlook Express to Mozilla's Thunderbird?


This blog post is also available as a TechRepublic download.

With the launch of Windows Vista, many users are missing Outlook Express. Microsoft replaced Outlook Express with Windows Mail in its Vista operating system. Spokespersons for Microsoft have claimed that Outlook Express is a static program -- meaning that it is not capable of transforming to meet the needs of today's computer users. However, Microsoft may have overestimated people's tolerance for change. Windows Mail does not work in quite the same way Outlook Express does, and many people feel frustrated by having to learn new e-mail client software.

Mozilla's Thunderbird is proving to be a terrific stand-in for Outlook Express. The user can configure it to mimic Outlook Express' user interface, making for a smoother transition. The fact that Thunderbird is an open source project means that security updates are prompt, and Thunderbird can download and install those updates without slowing the user down. Plus, it's free, safe software -- and everybody loves that.

Obtaining Mozilla's Thunderbird

Going to the store won't help you obtain Mozilla's Thunderbird, as it is a freeware program, available for download from Mozilla's Web site. Once you have the page open, simply follow the prompts for Thunderbird and save the executable to your desktop. Once Thunderbird is installed, you can delete the file Thunderbird Setup.exe from the desktop.

Installing Mozilla's Thunderbird

Start the install simply by double-clicking on the Thunderbird Setup.exe file (Figure A), and following the prompts

Figure A

Installation
You will need to read and accept the End User License Agreement, and most users will choose the Standard setup (Figure B). You can make setup changes to Thunderbird from inside the program once it is installed.

Figure B

Setup type

Once the installer does its thing, go ahead and let it start Thunderbird, and click Finish.

Importing your Outlook Express address book, saved e-mail, and settings the easy way

The first time you run Mozilla's Thunderbird, you should be asked upon startup what program, if any, you would like to import address book information, saved e-mail, and settings from. Just choose the appropriate program. In this case, we will choose Outlook Express (Figure C) and click Next.

Figure C

Import
Thunderbird will take a few minutes to complete the import, and once it is finished, you will find that all of your e-mail information and settings have been set up for you by Mozilla's Thunderbird. You will then be asked what, if anything, you want Thunderbird to be the default client for. (Figure D)

Figure D

Default client
Now you will be asked to enter the passwords for each of your e-mail accounts. While it would be nice if Thunderbird imported these for you, they are encrypted information, and no program should ever automatically get passwords from another program -- it's a safety feature. Thunderbird will then give you a Master Password Notice. (Figure E) Read it carefully -- if you share your computer or are not behind a firewall, you may want to set a master password. Either way, you will now click OK.

Figure E

Master password

The tricky password portion

It is possible that Thunderbird will not actually import your outgoing mail server passwords. You more than likely will not realize this until you are trying to send e-mail -- an inopportune moment for such frustrations to occur. You may want to send yourself a test e-mail to prevent future frustrations when you are in a hurry and need to get an e-mail sent on your way out the door.

The first time you attempt to send e-mail using Thunderbird, it will prompt you to enter your outgoing mail server password. This is usually the same as your incoming mail server password. If you do not share your computer and do not want to have to enter passwords every time you send or receive e-mail, check the box allowing Mozilla's Thunderbird to remember the outgoing mail server password for you. Problem solved; you should never have to worry about it again.

Moving your Outlook Express address book to Thunderbird from inside the program

If you did not import your Outlook Express address book, saved e-mail, and/or settings using the easy prompt during installation, or you need to import this information from more than one e-mail program, Mozilla's Thunderbird makes it simple to complete all your importing from inside the program.

Once Thunderbird is open, find the Tools button on the top toolbar. From the Tools menu, choose Import. (Figure F)

Figure F

Import from inside
Thunderbird displays a menu with Address Book already selected; all you need to do is click Next. Now, select the program you want to import from. In this case, we are importing from Outlook Express, so highlight Outlook Express and click Next. (Figure G)

Figure G

Import address book

Thunderbird will now convert your Outlook Express Address Book -- this may take several minutes. When it is done, click Finish.

Moving your Outlook Express saved e-mail to Thunderbird

The process to import saved e-mail from Outlook Express to Thunderbird is the same as above. Again, you will use the Tools | Import menu. This time, select the Mail option. (Figure H)

Figure H

Import mail

Again, choose the program you want to get saved e-mail from -- in this case, it's Outlook Express again -- and Thunderbird will move all your saved e-mails, and their folders, to the new program.

Moving your Outlook Express settings to Thunderbird

Thunderbird is so easy to use and so very well conceived that moving your e-mail settings is an almost identical process to moving your saved e-mail and address book. Again, go to the Tools | Import menu, and this time, select the Settings option and then click Next. (Figure I)

Figure I

Import e-mail settings

Again, you will choose the appropriate program to import from, in this case, Outlook Express, and click Next.

Let your e-mails take flight

At this point, Thunderbird should include all of your settings, address book, and saved e-mails. On the left of the program window, you will find all your e-mail folders lined up neatly, just the way you had them in Outlook Express. Congratulations! You have migrated from Microsoft's Outlook Express to Mozilla's Thunderbird and are now ready to enjoy the ease and utility of this freeware program.

About

Nicole Bremer Nash is Director of Content and Social Media for HuTerra, where she uses SEO and social media to promote charitable organizations in their community-building and fundraising efforts. She enjoys volunteering, arts and crafts, and conduct...

19 comments
redbaron342
redbaron342

It's not all as easy as you make it look. The import function does not work if your Outlook Express mail is on one PC using Windows XP and your Mozilla Thunderbird application is on another PC using Windows 7. I have not yet found aworkable solution to this problem.

jaimyrson
jaimyrson

After having a successful migration and setted the mail accounts, how do i fixed the standard text message formatting? It seems that all the messages i received was not on its proper text formatting, the paragraphs are scattered and untidy to look at. Any one can help me?

jaimyrson
jaimyrson

Nice Tutorial, great work... Thanks

llandaffboy
llandaffboy

I agree - I need to know how to do exactly as in the pevious post by med1939

med1939
med1939

How do you make Thunderbird look like OE on new netbook with no previuos OE. I want to set up Thunderbird to look like OE and migrate all my settings manulaly. Rgds

dbl
dbl

The real article should be how do I gt the hell OUT of Thunderbird and over to any other client. Not a task for the faint of heart as Thunderbird does not play well with others. ;-)

lrKbJQtgpJljPH15
lrKbJQtgpJljPH15

but in Vista how do I change default mail (changed options in Control Pannel alreaady) to T-Bird - example I am using Word 2002 and cannot send my document to recipient now that T-bird is default program. all options are greyed out. copy me at deepbluegirlca@yahoo.ca Thanks!

Jim
Jim

Be sure to compact your mail folders prior to ANY migration of OE, even if you are staying with OE and moving your stuff to a new computer. File>Folder>Compact All Folders

Wrolf
Wrolf

Big problem from experience converting my wife: the old WINMAIL.DAT problem. Yes, I know that the problem is really the sender, but that doesn't help when she cannot read the attachment!

Lei Fan
Lei Fan

Technically speaking, this post is pretty good, however, I have a question. You mentioned OUTLOOK EXPRESS, I believe people could use OUTLOOK2007 which is much more dynamic and from the business process perspective, it is not only about Microsoft's concept of UC(Unified Communication), but also about the optimized business work flow. It could fully integrated with SharePoint Server 2007. Well, I admit, the downside is, it is not free...and you need to setup your server side properly in order to fully utilize it.

chkchkchk
chkchkchk

Use a thumb drive or CD to transfer the OE files from the XP computer to the Win 7 computer.  This also works when you update your OS from XP to Win 7 if you save the OE files before you update the computer.

I found the following procedure at:

http://answers.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/forum/windows_7-desktop/does-windows-7-support-outlook-express/dc29af4a-5e81-4387-945e-7ee3155599ab?page=2

Tools | Options | Maintenance | Store Folder will reveal the location of your Outlook Express files. Write the location down and navigate to it in Windows Explorer or, copy and paste it into Start | Run.

In WinXP, the OE user files (DBX and WAB) are by default marked as hidden. To view these files in Windows Explorer, you must enable Show Hidden Files and Folders under Start | Control Panel | Folder Options Icon | View, or in Windows Explorer | Tools | Folder Options | View.

The address book is a .wab file.

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

to post your email address in a public forum with global reach. Invites webcrawlers to find you and SPAM you to a degree you may not be able to imagine. You might think about editing out your email address. You can allow peers to message you by configuring your profile to allow peer contact.

The Flaming Maiden
The Flaming Maiden

My Outlook was frequently changing attachments to unreadable .dat files-- that's why I migrated to Thunderbird! The problem is certainly with the sender, if you know a repeat offender, you might want to suggest Thunderbird to him or her ;) -Nicole Nash

NaughtyMonkey
NaughtyMonkey

the article was geared towards home users with pop email accounts, not companies that should have there own servers. If you are a small company that has your email hosted, then Outlook and all its collaboration is probably out of your league. And then if you don't like Microsoft and you need collaboration, there is always Domino.

pennatomcat
pennatomcat

buttons in T-bird 2.0.0.6? Mine are grayed out.

The Flaming Maiden
The Flaming Maiden

The Back and Forward buttons (found on the top tool bar both in the program and when each individual e-mail is open) will be grayed-out until you have opened more than one email, either in the viewing window or in their own windows. These buttons are designed to move you backward or forward among e-mails you have viewed, not among all the e-mail in each folder. If you play around with opening emails, the buttons should un-gray and you'll see what I mean. If that doesn't do it for you, let me know and I'll try to find another solution.

The Flaming Maiden
The Flaming Maiden

Try right-clicking on each button and go into the customize menu. You can reset the buttons in there, and it should 'heal' the broken buttons. If you have a chance, please let me know if it works. Thank you, Nicole Nash

pennatomcat
pennatomcat

I know what you're talking about. It worked in the older version.