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Importing Outlook Express Emails Into Thunderbird And Evolution

This tutorial shows how you can import Outlook Express emails, contacts, and account settings into Mozilla Thunderbird and Evolution. This is quite useful if you want to switch from Windows to Linux but don’t want to lose your mails and address book. The procedure should be similar if you use Outlook instead of Outlook Express.

I do not issue any guarantee that this will work for you!


1 Preliminary Note

To export the mails and contacts from Outlook Express, we will install Mozilla Thunderbird on our Windows system. We can then use a wizard in Thunderbird to import the Outlook Express emails/contacts/settings. Once we have done this, we can move the Thunderbird directory that contains the imported files to our Linux desktop where we can “feed” the files to the Thunderbird installation on our Linux system. In an additional step we can import the mails and contacts in Evolution, but even then we need Thunderbird.


2 Install Thunderbird On Windows And Import Emails/Contacts/Settings

If Thunderbird isn’t already installed on your Windows desktop, download the latest version from and install it.


2.1 If This Is The First Time You Start Thunderbird…

Then start Thunderbird. If this is the first time that Thunderbird is started, it will come up with an Import Wizard. This is exactly what we need to import mails from Outlook Express into Thunderbird. Select Outlook Express and click on Next:


In the next step your Outlook Express account settings, contacts, and emails are imported into Thunderbird:



Click on Finish to leave the Import Wizard afterwards:


Now start Thunderbird. You should find that your emails, email accounts, and address book have been properly imported (you can get a list of your email accounts under Tools > Account Settings…):




2.2 If This Is Not The First Time You Start Thunderbird…

If this is not the first time you start Thunderbird, no import wizard will come up. In this case, go to Tools > Import…:


Now you can select what you want to import (address book, emails, settings). If you want to import more than just one type of material, run the import wizard as often as you need.


Next, select Outlook Express:


Your data will then be imported into Thunderbird.

3 Copy Your Thunderbird Profile Directory To Your Linux Desktop

Next we have to find our Thunderbird profile directory using the Windows Explorer. This is the directory where all emails, contacts, and settings have been stored.

Usually, the folder is in something like C:\Documents and Settings\<username>\Application data\Thunderbird\Profiles. In my case, the folder is named d6xdvysg.default:


Now copy that folder over to your home directory on your Linux desktop (e.g. /home/falko). To copy it over, you can use a USB stick, an external hard drive, a network share, burn it onto a CD, use WinSCP, etc.


4 Thunderbird On Linux

After you’ve copied over the directory, start Thunderbird on your Linux desktop. This makes sure that the directory .mozilla-thunderbird is created in your home directory (e.g. /home/falko/.mozilla-thunderbird) in case you haven’t used Thunderbird on your Linux system before. If a wizard comes up and asks you questions, you can cancel them and close Thunderbird afterwards. The sole purpose of starting Thunderbird was to make it create the directory .mozilla-thunderbird in your home directory.

Now that the directory exists, open a terminal and copy the profile directory from your Windows desktop to the .mozilla-thunderbird directory:

cd ~
mv d6xdvysg.default/ .mozilla-thunderbird/

(Replace d6xdvysg.default with your profile directory.)

Next we must tell Thunderbird that it should use the d6xdvysg.default directory as the default profile (instead of the one it created when we first started it). To do this, we must edit the file ~/.mozilla-thunderbird/profiles.ini. Before we do this, we make a backup of it:

cp ~/.mozilla-thunderbird/profiles.ini ~/.mozilla-thunderbird/profiles.ini_bak

Now we open ~/.mozilla-thunderbird/profiles.ini and comment out the Path line and add a new Path line (that holds the new profile directory), like this:

gedit ~/.mozilla-thunderbird/profiles.ini



Save the file, and start Thunderbird afterwards. If nothing went wrong, you will now see all your emails, contacts, and account settings in Thunderbird:


If you want to use Thunderbird as your mail client, you’re now finished. If you want to use Evolution instead, read on…

5 Evolution – Importing Emails

Evolution can read the format in which Thunderbird stores its emails (mbox format), so we can use Evolution’s import wizard and point it to Thunderbird’s mbox files. As you know these files are in subdirestories of ~/.mozilla-thunderbird. The dot before mozilla-thunderbird makes that .mozilla-thunderbird is a hidden directory. To be able to navigate to that directory and pick mbox files, we must tell our file browser (Nautilus if you use GNOME) to show hidden files.

Open a file browser and go to Edit > Preferences. On the Views tab of the File Management Preferences window that pops up, select Show hidden and backup files:


Then close the file browser and open it again. You should now be able to see files and directories that begin with a dot. If this doesn’t work, log out and in again.

Now start Evolution. If you haven’t used Evolution before, the Evolution Setup Assistant will come up, and you must use it to set up your first email account in Evolution (I’m sorry, but email accounts cannot be imported into Evolution – they all have to be set up manually):



Now that you are in the main program, go to File > Import…:


The Evolution Import Assistant comes up. Click on Forward:


Select Import a single file:


Now click on the folder icon and go to the Mail/Local Folders directory within your ~/.mozilla-thunderbird profiles directory.


In that directory you can find all mbox files from which you can import emails. There should be one mbox file for each mail folder you had in Outlook Express. These mbox files do not have an extension, so don’t pick those .msf files you see there.


If you had subfolders in Outlook Express (e.g. subfolders of the Inbox folder), you can find them in extra directories in the Local Folders directory. These extra directories have the extension .sbd:


Of course, you can import mbox files from these subdirectories, too:


Now that you’ve chosen an mbox file to import, click on Forward:


The default destination folder is Inbox. If you want another folder, click on Inbox:


A new window pops up. Either select an existing folder as the new destination folder, or click on New to create a new one:





After you have selected the destination folder, click on Import:


The selected mbox file is being imported into Evolution:


Afterwards, you can find your Outlook Express emails in Evolution:


To import the address book into Evolution, we must open Thunderbird on our Linux desktop again. Open Thunderbird’s address book and go to Tools > Export…:


Select a location to store the exported address book:


Afterwards, you can close Thunderbird.

In Evolution, go to File > Import… again:


The Evolution Import Assistant comes up again:


Choose Import a single file:


Then pick the address book file you’ve just created with Thunderbird (it should have the extension .ldif):


Select On This Computer > Personal as the import location:


Then click on Import:


The contacts are being imported:


Afterwards, all your Outlook Express contacts should be listed in Evolution:


  • Mozilla Thunderbird:
  • Evolution: