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Running from a USB drive - Thunderbird

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Revision as of 14:37, 7 November 2005; view current revision
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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, even 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.

Startup command

In short, you need 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.

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 -profile "path" syntax thus provides Thunderbird with a way to find your profile without relying on information normally stored on the boot drive.

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.

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.