What is the best way to synchronize Thunderbird 3 across multiple machines?

Oaken March 20, 2010
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I love my Thunderbird set-up, it’s way faster than Outlook, and I use various extended functionality on an hourly basis which I cannot achieve via other clients.
The Achilles heel of TB is the lack of synchronization. Presently I am using the portable version in Dropbox. This ‘works’, however I’m getting “conflicted copy” folders appear now and again.

I have five machines on various versions of Windows, from XP to Seven x64.

Is there a way to avoid this, or a better way to achieve syncing, that does not require an outright degree in Rocket Science?

All help gratefully received, thanks.


  1. Tina
    April 19, 2012 at 7:02 pm

    Thank you for sharing!

  2. Mapeze
    November 3, 2011 at 6:42 pm

    IMAP is not the solution. The space in the server is always limited so you cannot set your mail as IMAP and enjoy all the benefits for all your life. Periodically you will have to download your old emails (and delete from the server) to a local location. And then, if you want to access this old emails from different machines, and/or if you want to use any machine to download the old emails to have free space on the server, you need to have your local mail folders synchronized.
    Or better... have this emails on a single network location and configure Thunderbird to use this remote location... but unfortunately this does not work!

  3. Oaken
    June 15, 2011 at 1:44 pm

    So... it's a year later and I've just received email notifications for every single comment in this topic.

    Is there something wrong with your system or has this been done purposefully to get me to visit?

    I visit nearly every day.

    • James Bruce
      June 15, 2011 at 1:46 pm

      Apologies Oaken, we had some problems and have been forced to resync the database. I'm very sorry about the notifications.

  4. Kenneth Griffith
    July 28, 2010 at 12:33 am

    One reason I like dropbox is that it also backs up the data in case one or both computers are lost or destroyed. I'm going to try that.

  5. Steve
    May 21, 2010 at 1:14 am

    For 2 years I have happily kept my TBird profile folder on a USB stick drive. I use 3 machines - each with XP and Linux. The 6 profiles exist on each OS's drive and point to the external USB. On my wish-list is a faster micro-sd drive transfer speed in my USB GSM modem; I connect to the net using this anyway, so it would mean one less item to swap.

    • Ayorofrance
      January 14, 2011 at 11:32 am

      Hi Steve,
      I see this is an old thread but just in case you are reading.. instead of having to carry a USB stick everywhere you can use Gmail as an IMAP server and have all of your email synchronized automatically on all your computers - this doesn't mean you have to use Gmail as the interface, you just use it as a free server! Check out [Broken URL Removed] for detailed instructions.
      Also for those interested - on your point re. Thunderbird Settings, this article shows how to copy your settings across to another computer https://ezinearticles.com/?How-To-Copy-Your-Thunderbird-Settings-To-Another-Computer&id=4974903

  6. Anders Vinther
    May 14, 2010 at 3:55 pm

    With the Gmail/Thunderbird combination you can keep your email and contacts in sync automatically on an unlimited number of computers and phones too.

    AtEasy-Email we have written detailed guides on how to set this up, so just about anyone can do it for themselves.

    The Essential Guides, which detail how to get this working for one email address are available to download for free.

    Currently we have guides for Thundebird 2 and 3, Windows Mail and Windows Live Mail. Outlook 2003 and 2007 Guides will be released very soon.

    Happy emailing,


  7. Oaken
    March 22, 2010 at 6:29 pm

    Thanks for the replies everyone.

    I absolutely do not want to use a web based client, and don't care for Gmail very much either.

    There are about a dozen busy email addresses for which I require to sync mail, accounts, folders, contacts, filters, the lot. Of which around half can be set to IMAP.

    The Dropbox set-up has worked pretty well for the best part of two months, other than one or two instances as detailed in my original post. Although these have not resulted in lost mail or similar, as far as I can tell.

    Thanks for the suggestions, links, etc.

    To Oron - can you give more detail as to why you advise NOT using Dropbox?

    • Aibek
      March 24, 2010 at 12:39 pm
    • Ryan Clover
      January 30, 2012 at 10:49 pm

      Hi Oaken,

      I'm struggling to find the best way to manage my e-mails and have a similar situation to you.

      Although gmail does a good job of organizing multiple accounts online (I have five different e-mail accounts), I don't like gmail and would prefer to use Thunderbird.

      I'm curious how you've adapted and what you've learned. Do you use labels/tags? Have you gotten thunderbird trained with filters?


  8. Oron Joffe
    March 22, 2010 at 4:40 pm

    As others have said, if you want to synchronise your e-mail messages, use IMAP which was designed precisely for that purpose. It WILL slow down your TB, but that's the price you have to pay for keeping two sets of email in sync.

    You can synchronise your contacts by using an add on. I use ZIndus, which works with GMail and Yahoo and does the job quite well, but there are other products which will sync with other providers.

    I would NOT use Dropbox for synching any TB stuff other than small settings files. As you have observed, the chance of getting file-version conflict is just too high, and you would have a hell of a job piecing together your precious data if things go seriously wrong.

  9. ænon1mus
    March 21, 2010 at 2:22 pm

    OK, seems like others have jumped in as well. The reason I asked is because there may be other aspects of Thunderbird that you'd like to keep in sync like notes, to-do's etc. but if you're only looking to keep your mail synchronised then yes, use IMAP -- it's the easiest way.

  10. Aibek
    March 21, 2010 at 12:53 pm

    Few links that will help you with that:

    1. See how to setup GMail IMAP on Thunderbird here

    2. A while ago Lifehacker published an article on Turn Thunderbird into the Ultimate Gmail IMAP Client. Check it out as well.

  11. Jack Cola
    March 21, 2010 at 12:28 am

    On each computer, you can setup thunderbird to use IMAP. This ensure consistence of what's been read.

    Or you just use Gmail and ditch thunderbird and access your emails online.

  12. tomas
    March 20, 2010 at 11:47 pm

    use a Gmail account, set it to IMAP, you get 8Gb of space for your mails.
    You can then forward your mails to gmail, or set gmail to read your mails of any account.
    This will make all inbox folder the same in any machine. If you don´t use gmail to send a mail, be sure to place cco in every sent mail so it shows in gmail, and in all your other PCs.
    Zindus add on will sinc your address book as well.

  13. ænon1mus
    March 20, 2010 at 8:14 pm

    What exactly do you need to keep synchronised? Your emails?

    How do you have your email set up? IMAP? POP?

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