How To Recover Deleted eMails in Thunderbird

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Within my last post I mentioned that deleted eMails can be recovered in Thunderbird, even if the Trash can was emptied. The only prerequisite is, that the incoming folder was not compacted.

Here is the post that will shed light on how to recover deleted emails in Thunderbird. So if you have recently deleted an important eMail and accidentally emptied the Trash, you may still be able to recover it. Just don’t compact your folders, yet!

Before you start, close Thunderbird and best perform a backup. At least make a manual backup of the files you are going to work with!

Open your Thunderbird profile folder. Generally this folder can be found under C:\Documents and Settings\YOUR USER NAME\Application Data\Thunderbird\Profiles.

By default, the Application Data folder is hidden. To make it visible go to C:\Documents and Settings\YOUR USER NAME\ and click Tools > Folder Options and open the View tab. Scroll down to Hidden files and folders and check Show hidden files and folders. Click OK to save and you should be able to see the Application Data folder.

how to recover deleted emails in thunderbird

You should know under which account and to which folder the deleted eMail was originally delivered. Otherwise you will have to apply trial and error and search through different accounts and folders.

Let’s say we’re looking for an eMail that was delivered to the Inbox, subsequently deleted and emptied from the Trash. The traces of this eMail should still be found in the Inbox folder.

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Go ahead and open the folder for the respective eMail account, then launch the Inbox file without the .msf file extension in a text editor, such as Notepad.

how to recover deleted emails in thunderbirdIf you’re unsure, click on one of the files and expand the file details in the bottom left of the folder. For the correct file type it should just say “file”, rather than “MSF-file”.

Opening files can take a few seconds or a few minutes, depending on how many eMails have survived termination in that folder. Make sure the text editor you choose can handle large file sizes. Some of my files were up to 300MB!

For my example, I picked an eMail I received from Stumble Upon this morning. I had deleted it and before attempting to restore the eMail I also emptied the Trash for this account.

When I looked into the Inbox file I indeed found that eMail along with all details and contents in my Inbox text file.

To recover the eMail and make it reappear in its original folder, change the X-Mozilla-Status to 0. In the example pictured below it says “X-Mozilla-Status: 0009″. The result should say “X-Mozilla-Status: 0″.

how to recover deleted emails in thunderbird

Save the file, close it and launch your Thunderbird client.

Lo and behold, my test eMail magically reappeared in my inbox.

how to recover deleted emails

Now to everyone who have been getting rid of secret or compromising eMails simply by deleting them, there is no need to suffer from a nervous breakdown now.

There is a way to remove those eMails forever. Simply compact your folders. My previous post on How To Terminally Deleted eMails In Thunderbird by Compacting Folders thoroughly explains the steps you need to take.

Did I save your day? Your feedback is appreciated, please use the comments!

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14 Comments - Write a Comment



I had to try this to see if it would really work, and IT DID! I haven’t had to “salvage” an e-mail very often, but this method is so much easier than what I was doing! Thanks Tina! More articles like this would be great!



thanks a lot for the positive feedback!



A good one to put in the toolbox of useful technical bookmarks. Thanks, Tina.



Can I use the same method to recover a whole folder? I had a folder in my trash that I accidentally deleted. Any thoughts?



I’m afraid I don’t know how to retrieve deleted folders. This method will certainly not work if the folder can no longer be found.



Thanks for this walkthrough. I attempted to follow it and managed to find the Inbox file and changed X-Mozilla-Status to ‘0’, but I can’t seem to get the messages to show up again.

I initially set up the account as a POP3, deleted the account, and set it up again as IMAP. When I did that, my inbox was deleted both in Thunderbird and on my server. I’m wondering if this is the file from the deleted account or is misplaced.

Do you have any ideas about this? Thanks again.




I’m not very experienced with IMAP. Doesn’t it create a copy of the folders you have online on your computer?

Afraid I can’t answer your question.


Fair enough. Thanks for the article and for getting back to me. I really think I’m close to a fix with your instructions, but there must be something I’m not accounting for.

IMAP lets you manage the actual content on your email server from a client like Thunderbird or Outlook, ie, if you delete something in the client, it will be removed from the server.

Chris Heintz

jgan, did you ever find a fix for your problem? I did the same thing and couldn’t figure out a solution.



Hey, I found a method to recover Thunderbird email folders. And I wrote it here:



Well, I’m going to try it, but cannot comment yet.

What I would like to know is how to stop Thunderbird automatically deleting my Trash folder every two weeks. Is there some control I can exercise over this?



Hi , thanks for your tip, unfortunately I cannot seem to get it to work. I made a folder in thunderbird and unknowingly it was made it the trash folder ( i didn’t know you could do this). I then put several emails around 100 in the said folder. It wasn’t until I came back to the folder a week later did i realise that all the emails were gone and I noticed the folder I had made was in the trash! I have tried your method but for some reason it doesn’t seem to work. If you have any advice I would be eternally grateful, these are really important emails and if I don’t get them back there are serious repercussions. Am freaking out a little. Thanks



Oh my gosh, I love you. This just saved my bacon. Thanks!!!



Thank you very much this actually worked!

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