Software & AppsOperating SystemLinux

How To Back Up Thunderbird Emails on Ubuntu

Ubuntu 7

In this article, we will provide a detailed guide on how to back up Thunderbird emails on Ubuntu. This is a crucial task for any system administrator or user who wants to ensure the safety and integrity of their email data.

Quick Answer

To back up Thunderbird emails on Ubuntu, you can manually copy the ".thunderbird" folder to a backup location or use the rsync command in the terminal. Regular backups are crucial for data safety and can be done using either method.


Thunderbird is a popular open-source email client that is widely used on various platforms, including Ubuntu. It stores all its data, including emails, contacts, and settings, in a profile folder. Backing up this folder will ensure that you have a copy of all your Thunderbird data, which can be restored if necessary.

Locating the Thunderbird Profile Folder

The first step in backing up Thunderbird emails is to locate the profile folder. This folder is usually hidden in your home directory. To view hidden folders, open your home folder and press “ctrl + h”.

Look for a folder named “.thunderbird”. This is the profile folder that contains all your Thunderbird data.

Manual Backup

To manually back up your Thunderbird emails, simply copy the “.thunderbird” folder and paste it to your desired backup location. This could be a flash drive, an external hard drive, or a cloud storage service.

Using Rsync for Backup

If you prefer using the command line, you can use the rsync tool to back up your Thunderbird emails. Here is the command:

rsync -rltgoDvz --modify-window=1 --delete ~/.thunderbird/ --exclude="**/global-messages-db.sqlite" --exclude="**/places.sqlite" --exclude="Crash*Reports/" --exclude="**/Cache/" --exclude="**/startupCache/" --exclude="**/OfflineCache/" /path/to/backup/thunderbird

Let’s break down this command:

  • rsync: This is the command that synchronizes files and directories from one location to another.
  • -rltgoDvz: These are options that tell rsync how to copy the files. For example, ‘r’ is for recursive, ‘l’ is for links, ‘t’ is for preserving modification times, ‘g’ is for group, ‘o’ is for owner, ‘D’ is for devices, ‘v’ is for verbose, and ‘z’ is for compress file data.
  • --modify-window=1: This option is used to handle slight differences in timestamps when copying files between different file systems.
  • --delete: This option deletes files that are not in the source directory.
  • ~/.thunderbird/: This is the source directory, i.e., the Thunderbird profile folder.
  • --exclude: This option tells rsync to exclude certain files or directories. In this case, we are excluding files that are not necessary for the backup.
  • /path/to/backup/thunderbird: This is the destination directory. Replace this with the actual path to your backup location.


Backing up Thunderbird emails on Ubuntu is a straightforward task that can be accomplished manually or using the rsync tool. Regardless of the method you choose, regular backups are essential to prevent data loss and ensure the safety of your email data.

Remember to safely eject your flash drive or external hard drive after the backup process is complete to avoid data corruption. If you are using a cloud storage service, make sure the upload is complete before closing the connection.

Please note that the provided information is specific to Thunderbird version 10.0.2 and Ubuntu 10.10. If you are using a different version or operating system, the steps may vary slightly. For more information, you can visit the official Thunderbird support website.

How often should I back up my Thunderbird emails?

It is recommended to back up your Thunderbird emails regularly, ideally on a weekly or monthly basis, depending on your email usage and the importance of the data.

Can I restore my Thunderbird emails from a backup?

Yes, you can restore your Thunderbird emails from a backup. Simply copy the backed-up ".thunderbird" folder to its original location or the desired location on your new system. Launch Thunderbird, and your emails should be restored.

Are there any alternative methods to back up Thunderbird emails?

Yes, apart from manual backup and using rsync, you can also use third-party backup tools or extensions specifically designed for Thunderbird. These tools offer additional features and automation options for backing up your Thunderbird data.

Can I use the same backup method for Thunderbird on other operating systems?

Yes, the same backup methods can be used for Thunderbird on other operating systems, such as Windows and macOS. The location of the Thunderbird profile folder may vary, but the general process remains the same.

Can I exclude additional files or folders from the backup using rsync?

Yes, you can modify the rsync command to exclude additional files or folders from the backup. Simply add more --exclude options followed by the file or folder path you want to exclude.

Is it necessary to close Thunderbird before backing up the profile folder?

It is not necessary to close Thunderbird before backing up the profile folder. However, it is recommended to close any applications that might be accessing or modifying the Thunderbird data to ensure the backup is accurate.

Can I use the same backup to restore Thunderbird on a different computer?

Yes, you can use the same backup to restore Thunderbird on a different computer. Simply copy the backup folder to the new computer and follow the same restoration process as mentioned earlier.

Can I schedule automatic backups for Thunderbird emails?

Yes, you can schedule automatic backups for Thunderbird emails using various methods. One way is to use a cron job or a task scheduler to run the backup command at specified intervals. Additionally, some backup tools or extensions offer built-in scheduling options.

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