Running from a USB drive - Thunderbird

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This article was written for roaming users with a USB drive. However, you can also use the same syntax to run a profile on your desktop that that the profile manager doesn't know about, without a USB drive.

Beginning with version 0.7, Thunderbird can now be run from a USB memory stick. In order to do this, you need to install Thunderbird (the application itself) on the USB stick, create a profile on the USB stick, and launch Thunderbird using the correct parameters so that it can find the profile on the USB stick. This can be done using a command prompt, a shortcut, a batch file, or a JScript (.js) file. See this MozillaZine forum thread for some possible ways to get this to work.

The key difference between setting up and running Thunderbird in this way and doing so in the "normal" way is that Thunderbird 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 parameters discussed in the linked thread, above, thus provide Thunderbird with a way to find your profile without relying on information normally stored on the boot drive.

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.

Portable Thunderbird (Windows only)

For Windows users there is 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 to the root directory your USB drive.