• Thunderbird lost my Local folders


    Hi, I hope you can help. I am a senior and don’t understand much of the tech terms and need help in plain, simple English. I use Windows 8.1 with the most recent Thunderbird, or at least I did until recently.

    I have used Thunderbird for more years than I can remember – as long as I’ve been using email. Some years ago people told me about gmail and I switched to it, sort of. I linked TBird to gmail and used gmail for daily use. But I don’t like a lot of emails in gmail, so after I decide which I want to keep, I move them to the TBird Local Folders, then I delete them from gmail. They would still be in my TBird Saved Local Folders, so that’s why I know TBird isn’t dependent on gmail to access the Saved Local Folders. I usually have no more than 10 or 12 emails in gmail, 25 is way too many. But something happened a couple weeks ago. I opened TBird and it wasn’t linked to gmail and more importantly TBird had lost the Local Folders. Since I figured out how to to get link TBird to gmail I probably can do it again. The more important problem is TBird doesn’t have the Local or any other folders in it when I open it. When I used to open TBird, it would show the gmail Inbox etc. but below that it had its own folders including the all important Saved Local Folders. I have years of emails saved in that folder and good news it is backed up on a external hard drive, bad news it’s been a few months since I backed it up. How do I get TBird to find its Local folders back?



    Viewing 10 reply threads
    • #2289512

      Sounds like you had the Windows lost profile bug after an upgrade.

      It is slightly complex to perform the search with standard user settings so I’ve broken it down for you.

      1. Press Win R.
      2. Type: cmd.exe
      3. Press Enter. This will open a Command Prompt window.
      4. Type: cd \
      5. Press Enter.
      6. Type: dir prefs.js /r
      7. Press Enter.

      You should find two copies, one for you current Thunderbird and one for the “lost” one.
      e.g. mine is in “C:\Users\Paul\AppData\Roaming\Thunderbird\Profiles\6w2rvq91.default”

      Let us know what you find.

      cheers, Paul

      p.s. Can you do a backup without deleting your existing backup files? If so, do that first.

    • #2289629

      1. Paul T’s comment “the Windows lost profile bug after an upgrade” I think concerns Windows 10, not 8.1, so that specific doesn’t apply. However, ‘lost profile’ may have another application.


      But something happened a couple weeks ago. I opened TBird and it wasn’t linked to gmail and more importantly TBird had lost the Local Folders. … The more important problem is TBird doesn’t have the Local or any other folders in it when I open it.

      This looks like you inadvertently created a new TB profile. (Another more disastrous possibility is that the old profile, and its mail folders, were deleted.)

      3. Thus, do you recall ANY out-of-the-ordinary activity “a couple weeks ago.”?
      If not, then there is a very good chance that the old Profile (with its mail) still exists, and that TB just needs to point to it, rather than to the ‘new/empty’ one.

      4. Please RIGHT-click on the shortcut that you have (on your Desktop?) for TB, click on Properties, and post here the contents of the box labelled ‘Target:’

      5. If you don’t get interesting output from Paul’s sequence of commands, make these two changes:
      -> 4. Type: cd \users\bernadine <— [use your Windows logon-id here]
      -> 6. Type: dir prefs.js /s /a /r

      What you want to see, as Paul says, is more than one line that starts with
      If you have more than one line, the older one likely is your old TB Profile, and is easily re-activate-able.

      • #2292111

        I lost this in my foggy memory, somehow I didn’t see to check the “follow up by email”. Thanks for your replies.

        Paul T.   I don’t know what Win R is. I thought maybe you meant the button on the keyboard with the windows on it + the Shift key + R all at the same time, but that didn’t work.


        PaulK   2. I can find the profile folders and when I look in them the dates are recent. I do back it up but I lose track of time and hadn’t done it for longer than I plan on doing it. I had brought out the external hard drive to do it when this happened. No I hadn’t started with the backup.

        3. I try to be very careful not to close the computer before it is completely off. I don’t remember any electric outages when I had the computer on. Out of the ordinary around here was ordinary while the WiFi was so bad. Thankfully, it’s mostly better now. The only thing I can think of is TBird updating itself. It just occurred to me, maybe the WiFi was OK for a few minutes but in the middle of TBird’s update it went out. Could that mess it up, or would it start over the next time the WiFi was OK? Hmm, while doing #5, I saw TBird Crash Report and I’ve attached a copy. Then I found a second Crash File also attached. Or I think so, I can’t tell what has been attached.

        4. My TBird icon is actually on the bar at the bottom of the desptop, next to the Start button. In the Properties section, the address is: “C:\Program Files (x86)\Mozilla Thunderbird\thunderbird.exe”

        5. Oh, I recognize “C:\Users\bernadine\AppData\Roaming\Thunderbird\Profiles\” it’s in File Explorer (yes, I guess not many people use it anymore, but I still do. I learned with whatever was before XP and would only switch to 8.1 because I could still use it. It’s the way my mind works for whatever that says about me.) I know the default file is important and I’ve attached it here, or I think it’s attached.

        Oh dear, I think I should have mentioned that file before. I’m sorry if I caused a lot of trouble and time writing explanations for me. I try so hard to explain what I’m seeing and then I miss a major piece of info.

        After a number of tries, I finally was able to link gmail and TBird, it even worked when I closed and opened it again. But (the inevitable but), TBird doesn’t have the Saved folders. Attached picture.

        I’ exhausted and this much feels like a huge accomplishment. I have a glimmer of hope, I’m feeling I’m getting close, of course with your help that I so appreciate.

        Thank you ,




        • #2292210

          5. Oh, I recognize “C:\Users\bernadine\AppData\Roaming\Thunderbird\Profiles\” it’s in File Explorer … I know the default file is important

          Good. We DO use File Explorer; and you are making good progress.

          Now, how many folders are there inside this “… Thunderbird\Profiles\” folder? Is there only the one that has ‘default’ as part of its name? Or is there also another one (or more)?

          I ask this because you wrote

          2. I can find the profile folders and when I look in them the dates are recent.

          [emphasis added]
          Twice you write in the plural.

          • #2292242

            Thanks PaulK for the encouragement.

            Someone who should know told me a while back that File Explorer wasn’t available in Windows beyond XP except for the change in 8.1 from 8. Good to know if I ever have to move on from 8.1

            The Profiles folder is one I tried to post, I’ll try again. The Saved folder that is open has the most recent dates and is the one TBird used to have when I opened it. Now down at the bottom there is a Local Folders-1, I think it is what TBird is using now that I was again able to link it with gmail yesterday. I couldn’t show both at the same time but all it has in it is: filterlog.html, msgFilterRules.dat, Trahs, Trash.msf, Unsent Messages and Unsent Messages.msf, all dated yesterday, with 0, 1 or 2 KB. Above in Mail, there are Local Folders 2011 and 2012, that’s old stuff from a backup before I invested in a external hard drive. They didn’t seem to be bothering anything and since I don’t feel like I know enough about this stuff I’ve never forced myself to get really brave and delete them.

            Paul T,

            I was so close! Ctrl instead of Shift – one key away makes all the difference. I’ve not used the keyboard much to move around in the computer.

            It’s strange to me that only one attachment is allowed at a time when there are more Select File buttons on the screen below Attachments:. Oh well.

            I appreciate your help. Since I’m following PaulK replies now and I can’t follow more than one instruction at a time, let me see where they take me. I do so appreciate your time and effort to help me.

            Thanks to both of you for your patience,


        • #2292261

          I think that we’re close!

          But before that – the rumor that File Explorer is dead – is false. The appearance may change, but it is alive and kicking.

          Paul_T and I were both suspicious that you had more than one Thunderbird Profile, hence that line of questioning. (See Note at the bottom)

          BUT – It appears that what really has occurred is that the (inside Thunderbird) pointer to the “Local Folders” has been changed. Thus, your analysis is correct.

          This is a very easy fix. But first: Is there anything that you want/need to retain from what is in the current Local Folders? Probably ignore Trash, since anything there was intended to be discarded anyway. If there is anything in ‘Unsent Messages’ that you want to save: move it/them temporarily to another existing mail folder.

          The Fix is in —
          With Thunderbird open, up on the Menu Bar at the top:
          – – – [if you don’t have a Menu Bar, see Note-2 at the bottom]
          – click on Tools,
          – then on Account Settings,
          – then on Local Folders (on the left side)
          In the right panel, in the box ‘Local Directory’, you see
          C:\Users\Dovee\AppData\Roaming\Thunderbird\Profiles\ry5uutos.default\Mail\Local Folders-1
          This needs to be changed to . . . .\Mail\Local Folders [without the dash-1]
          But you cannot just remove that dash-1 [ -1 ]directly in the panel.
          You must click on the ‘Browse’ button at the right end. This will put you into a familiar File Explorer presentation. And in the left panel, the highlighted (probably in gray) line is ‘Local Folders-1’. (You may need to scroll down or up to see this.)
          Now, in the left panel, click on ‘Local Folders’; the highlighting may change to blue. In the bottom-right corner, click on Select.
          See that the ‘Local Directory:’ box no longer has the ‘-1’ at the end.
          Click on OK.
          You will get a message that Thunderbird has to restart. Click on OK.
          Are you now back to what you expect to see?

          Clean Up – Now that ‘Local Folders-1’ has been abandoned, you may just Delete it (in File Explorer, of course).

          If you wish to dialog about the Local Folders from 2011 and 2012, it would be good form to start a new topic.

          Note – What we thought was that, in addition to your Folder
          – you also had one or more folders
          That was the thrust of the questions. But you apparently don’t.

          Note-2 – If you don’t have a Menu Bar:
          – on the keyboard, press Alt-v
          – put the cursor on Toolbars; wait a half-second; put a check mark on Menu Bar


          1 user thanked author for this post.
          • #2292314

            I would want to see if there are other prefs.js before proceeding with changes. And have a full backup as well.

            cheers, Paul

          • #2292431

            Hi PaulK,

            The fix is in.

            I followed your instructions, (thank you they are very clear) it no longer has the -1.  After I restarted TBird, it did have the Local Folders but it didn’t have the Saved file that is in the Local Folders. I tried again following the instructions only this time there was no -1 and it didn’t require me to restart it. (Now you have to understand, this is me, Bernadine, and nothing ever goes right the first time and probably not the second or third times either.) Do I need to include the Saved folder? But then will it know to open the folders in the Saved folder? I attached a picture that I think covers the whole problem.



            • #2292460

              You should change the screenshot to hide your email when posting publicly.

              cheers, Paul

            • #2292562

              Oh, I see what I did. I was concentrating so hard on getting it copied right I didn’t think about that showing. Oh well, too late for this time, I hope to never have to do this again.



            • #2292461

              it didn’t have the Saved file that is in the Local Folders

              Assuming you have a full backup, try creating a new folder called Saved.

              1. Right click on “Local Folders”
              2. Select “New Folder”
              3. Type “Saved”, without the quotes.

              Let us know what happens.

              cheers, Paul

              1 user thanked author for this post.
            • #2292560

              Forgive me if I’m a little confused here. Do I make a full backup of the computer or a full back up of the Saved local folders? I was going to wait to do the full backup of the computer until I got this sorted out. I’m guessing it’s a backup of the Local folder with all the Saved files. Sorry for being so dense.


            • #2292649

              A full backup of the computer.

              You should have done one before starting this process – you should do one every time you are making major changes, .e.g Windows updates.

              Backups are not exclusive, you can have dozens on one USB disk.
              How are you currently backing up?

              cheers, Paul

            • #2292816

              First I use a defrag program. The I”ve used a program called DriveImage XML to back up to my external HD. I don’t know exactly what it does but then I also do FireFox bookmarks and TBird default files, or maybe I just copied TBird’s whole Profiles and then all my personal files. So, I’ll start on it and let you know when I’m done. I have some other things to do today, so it may be a couple days.



            • #2293428

              OK, I did the backup. Should it take over an hour for the backup program to do its thing? Then I did my part of the back up. Then I went back to your instructions and in TBird, I created a Save file in the Folders file…….. wait for it!!!! the folders in Saved are back all 49 of them!!! I even closed TBird  down again just to be sure and opened it and there they are just like before. AMAZING! I am so excited. Whew, what a relief!

              TO MY PAULS – THANKS SO MUCH FOR YOUR PATIENCE AND ENCOURAGEMENT. And thanks to the others who chimed in.

              Anything else I need to do now that I have my Saved files back before I say bye on this one?

            • #2293453

              In the top left corner of the .PNG at 2292242 there is another Mail folder, with two Local Folders for 2011 and 2012.

              Is this (top) Mail folder something that was saved/archived from back then?
              Do you want to get access to these older mail folders?

            • #2293465

              Yes, it’s an old folder that I saved when I backed up then. Not needed anymore but I’m basically a chicken for deleting things when I’m not sure of what I’m doing. Especially when I am using only 104 GB of 918 GB. ?



    • #2292115

      I don’t see the other attachments, only the last one. If you need to see them, do I need to attach one at a time and send it or how do I send more than one?



    • #2292130

      “Win R” means pres the Windows key, next to the Ctrl key, and the “r” key at the same time. This opens the Windows Run box.

      Step 6 is wrong, you should type dir prefs.js /s

      Attachments need to be added one at a time.
      Make a full backup, run my commands and then we’ll see if you need to post the logs.

      cheers, Paul

    • #2292713

      “Win R” means pres the Windows key, next to the Ctrl key, and the “r” key at the same time. This opens the Windows Run box.

      Step 6 is wrong, you should type dir prefs.js /s

      Attachments need to be added one at a time.
      Make a full backup, run my commands and then we’ll see if you need to post the logs.

      cheers, Paul

      One further note: There is a new version (78) of Thunderbird. Do NOT update to it unless you enjoy fiddling with everything to get it to work right. It does NOT recognize the existing TB profiles or their contents.

      Wait until 78 is debugged, and an upgrade is available that updates the existing profiles without destroying their contents. Thunderbird programmers massively rebuilt it to conform to a new framework underlying all Mozilla products and it cannot yet upgrade existing profiles.


      • #2292996

        I am on V68.12.0 and it’s showing as up to date. Is 78 a typo?

        cheers, Paul

      • #2293005
        • #2293636

          I went to the link and there is a new version but when I tried to read it there were a LOT of words I don’t understand. The few I did understand said, “As has been the case with previous Thunderbird 78 releases, installations that are still on Thunderbird 68.x won’t be upgraded automatically. A manual update is required at this point in time to upgrade earlier versions of Thunderbird to the latest.” I’m relieved about TBird not automatically installing the new version. I tried to read more but it turned into a bunch of jibberish. Once again something that I have used for years, and until this time where it lost the place where my Saved Local Files were at, have had good results with is being changed to something incomprehensible.
          Why do “improvements” always make things more difficult?

          1 user thanked author for this post.
          • #2293659

            Regarding the Mozilla products Versions:
            For granular details:

            This ‘non-automatic upgrade’ is not new; both Firefox and Thunderbird have had version changes that had this constraint. The products are constantly evolving (Darwin?), and some internal changes (which affect multiple files) are incompatible with previous versions. Once the improvements are stable, the programmers insert an implicit upgrade function. This type of change may/probably-does mean that there is no direct version downgrade. (Speculative example: Once one is on 78, probably one should not use the [now changed] Profile with 68.)

            Hence, before one accepts one of these one-way upgrades, one is advised to do a backup of the existing Profile. Note that the ‘user data’ most likely IS version-independent (FF Bookmarks, TB Mail, etc.), but some associated files are not interchangeable.

            WS, you are a senior. Do you remember when the US changed the power from 50-cycle to 60-cycle? (Yes, I’m using the terminology then in use; younger folk here pronounce it as Hz.) Everybody had to buy new clocks; there was no such thing as a Converter (as in Analog TV to Digital TV) box. And synchronous motors ran 20% faster.

    • #2292795

      Like you Bernadine, I’m a long time user of TB. At least since XP Days.
      There are three tips that were put about 12 years ago.
      !. TB allows you to have as many Accounts as you need. I have three different Accounts on my TB, a BT one, a gmail one and one for a website that I run. You just open the Settings and give the Account a new name of the email allocated to that account, fill in all the details required including the password,edit the SMTP Server to that account and you’re done. No more logging in and out to switch between email sources.
      Each account has it’s own set of Folders created by TB: In, Draft, Sent and Deleted. Unforunatly gmail likes to mess in and creates more folders of it’s own!

      2. The other special ‘trick’ is that TB allows you to specify where these folders are created! I always use a space that is outside that of Windows so that if Windows crashes and needs re-installing, your files are protected as User Files. The allocated space can either be in partition C:/ or anywhere else, like a D:/ or even external. C:/ or D:/ will be faster of course.
      3. TB allows you to create as many Local Folders as you like using it this way. About every 6 months I create two new folders with their date in the title (ie RX Sep1-Mar30 2020) covering the span of the messages, one for Sent and one for Rx. This can be done in Explorer since these files are now User Type. Then I just Bulk Transfer (after editing the files to remove unnecessary files) to the new folder.
      Doing it this ways I have email archives going back to May 2008 which have been transferred through XP, Win7 and now Win10, mostly via USB. I have 31 files including some of my wife’s, transferred before Win10 broke the Network connection! Bring back the Home Group!
      Hope these are of some use to the TB world in general.

      • #2292820

        Thanks oldpaul, once I get my TBird back, I’ll look more closely at your info.

        • #2293639

          I just have one TBird account. I don’t use it all the time, it’s a backup for gmail so I can save emails instead of having a lot of emails in the gmail inbox. I have one Saved folder in the Local Accounts and in that Saved folder I have 49 folders covering a bunch of different topics. When I back up my computer, I copy/paste the TBird Profile file and put it in the backup file (current date of backup) on my external hard drive. I figured that out all by myself! And when TBird lost the Saved files with the 2 Pauls help, I was able to get it to find them again. And all is well. I hope I never have to activate the backup Saved Files.

          I’m glad TBird is well and happy again.

    • #2293466

      The I”ve used a program called DriveImage XML

      Over an hour for 100GB seems too long – I do a full backup of about 300GB in about 30 minutes – but it depends on many factors.

      How do you run the backup?
      What do you backup to, USB disk?
      Do you have a recovery boot CD/USB for DriveImage?

      cheers, Paul

      • #2293607

        I connect the external hard drive to the computer shows as g drive. I open the backup program and click on the backup button. It shows the c and g drives, I pick c to backup. It asks where I want to back it up to, I click g drive. It goes to a wizard and I just keep clicking the buttons until it starts.

        It is on my computer. When I open it to backup it also has a Restore button. I’m not sure if that’s what you are asking.

        DriveImage is made by RunTime software, it’s their free version. I don’t know when or how I got it, don’t know if someone recommended it to me. It seems easy to use but I don’t have anything to compare it to. I like easy to use. One reason I don’t backup more often, it takes a lot of time.


      • #2293692

        I connect the external hard drive to the computer shows as g drive

        Does G: contain lots of backup files from the different backups you have done? You can view it in Explorer to check.

        When you follow the prompts to backup, what sort of backup does it do? Image, File etc. Does it say?

        When the backup is running you can still do other things, or make a coffee while it runs. Backup more often, backup is good, m’kay.

        cheers, Paul

        • #2293824

          It has the one I just did and the one before that. Looks like I have room for one more backup and then I’m going to have to delete something.

          I almost sent an attachment which I think answers your question. And for good measure I’ll send another just to be almost sure.

          When the backup is running you can still do other things, or make a coffee while it runs. Backup more often, backup is good, m’kay.

          I wish there was a red faced emoji-I would be it. I always plan on doing it more often, then I realize a whole lot more time has passed than I thought. Thanks for your gentle reminder and encouragement to do better.

        • #2293826

          And the other.

    • #2295072

      Each backup should take up less than 200GB so you can store 5 backups on a 1TB USB disk.

      Make sure you compress the backup on the fly.

      cheers, Paul

      • #2295710

        Been distracted by fires in Oregon some friends had to evacuate but I cleared my head long enough to read this. So, I guess that’s that, unless you have something else. Thanks for the help. Bernadine

        Send good thoughts to the half million Oregonians who have had to run from fires, and California and other western states laid to ashes.

    • #2296070

      WSBernadine:  Personally I use two external USB 1TB platter-driven hard-drives for each laptop to make bi-monthly or sometimes weekly backups of my C-partition, which many call the C-drive.  And, I use two more such external hard-drives for D[ata]-partition backups.

      Later on, possibly explore using the free version of Macrium Reflect as a 2nd backup/restore.

      Whatever you do, using the software and hardware you are familiar with, please do weekly backups, or, at least bi-monthly.  Yes, even when done at night or when you’re not on the computer, it takes a lot of time.  However, consider this:  how much time, how much effort, how much resource material — would you need to recreate your documents, papers, spreadsheets, etc., stuff for school?

      "Take care of thy backups and thy restores shall take care of thee." Ben Franklin, revisted

    • #2308733

      I am having the similar problem. After TB auto upgraded to version 78.4.0, I lost all my emails in archives/local folder. The most unfortunate part is I can’t find more than two folders under profile, only one current folder found which didn’t contain any old emails. Is it means forever I can’t recover all my email in archives/local folder anymore? Those emails are so important for my business. I am totally so depress now. Who can help me? Please. Thank you.

      • #2308931

        Open Windows Explorer.

        Go to the location of your TB mail store.
        In TB, select Tools > Account Settings.
        Look in “Local Directory”.
        Choose the path up to and including “Profiles”. e.g. “C:\Users\Paul\AppData\Roaming\Thunderbird\Profiles”

        Search for “archive”.

        You should have a list of the archive folders you may have used. Check the dates for the correct folder / messages.

        cheers, Paul

        p.s. backup up before changing anything.

    • #2308940

      Besides backing up, does anyone have advice for the best way to upgrade to avoid the lost folder situation?

      Thank you for this discussion – I had no idea updating from 68+ to 78+ was fraught with danger.

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