Running from a USB drive - Thunderbird

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Beginning with version 0.7, Thunderbird can be run from a USB memory stick or other portable drive. In order to do this, you need to install Thunderbird (the application itself) on the USB drive, create a profile on the USB drive, and launch Thunderbird using the correct parameters so that it can find the profile on the USB drive.


Portable Thunderbird (Windows only)

For Windows users, the easiest way to do all this is with Portable Thunderbird, an official build of Thunderbird that has been repackaged "as a complete, removable drive-friendly email client." One of its key features is a special launcher to make your Thunderbird extensions portable. To install, all you need to do is download the ZIP file and unzip it anywhere on your USB drive.

-profile "path" command line argument

Even without Portable Thunderbird, it is fairly easy to run Thunderbird from a portable USB drive. The key is to launch Thunderbird using the -profile "path" command line argument, where "path" is the location of the profile you want to use. The path should be in quote marks if it includes any spaces. For example, on Windows if the Thunderbird program is installed on drive F in a folder called "Mozilla Thunderbird" and your profile is located in a folder called "My TB profile", you would use this syntax:

"F:\Mozilla Thunderbird\thunderbird.exe" -profile "F:\My TB profile"

You can launch Thunderbird this way using a command prompt, a shortcut, a batch file, or a JScript (.js) file. See this MozillaZine forum thread for further information and examples.

The key difference between setting up and running Thunderbird in this way and doing so in the "normal" way is that Thunderbird's Profile Manager normally keeps track of your profile(s) by accessing a file stored on the computer's boot drive ("registry.dat" and/or "profiles.ini"). For Thunderbird to be used effectively on a USB stick, in a completely portable mode, it obviously cannot rely upon a file stored on one computer's boot drive in this way. The -profile "path" syntax thus provides Thunderbird with a way to find your profile without relying on information normally stored on the boot drive.

Note that you can also use the same syntax, even without a USB drive, to run a profile on your computer that the Profile Manager doesn't know about. This can be useful, for instance, if your file happens to get corrupted or accidentally deleted but the profile itself is intact. It would also be usefull for roaming users whose profile was on a file share.

Compacting folders

If you set up Thunderbird to store messages on a USB stick, make sure to compact folders periodically. Otherwise, you may find that your mail files on the USB stick are filling up with deleted messages that have not actually been erased from the mail files. Compacting folders will keep the size of your mail files to a minimum.

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