Import from Outlook Express

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This article was written for Thunderbird but also applies to Mozilla Suite / SeaMonkey (though some menu sequences may differ).

There are two simple ways to migrate from Outlook Express to Thunderbird:

  • If you are starting up Thunderbird for the very first time, the Import Wizard will pop up, and you can then select the "Outlook Express" option to import your mail, address books, and settings. (With Mozilla Suite, you may not see the Import Wizard when starting up for the first time.)
  • Subsequent to launching Thunderbird for the first time, you can also go the the "Tools" menu, select "Import...", and then individually import your mail, address books, or settings from Outlook Express.

You used to be able to import from Outlook similarly though many times there are less problems if you import the messages from Outlook into Outlook Express, and then import them from Outlook Express into Thunderbird. Importing from Outlook and Eudora in the built-in import wizard was disabled in version 38 as they broke. You can work around this by using an older version of Thunderbird. Version 17.09 is probably your best bet as version 24.* and 31.* sometimes crash when importing. See Go back to an old version of Thunderbird for links to those setup programs.

Bug report about disabling import
Bug report about actually fixing the problem

Another solution would be to sign up for a free IMAP account (such as Gmail), add the account to both Outlook and Thunderbird, and then use the IMAP account as a intermediary to transfer your mail (without importing or forwarding it). This works because IMAP supports remote folders (on the mail server) that you can access just like they're local folders. Its sort of like copying a file between two PC's by copying it from the hard disk to a file share that both PC's use, and then copying it from the file share to the second PC's hard disk, except that you're copying messages. See Migrating messages using a mail server for more information.

Importing more than one Outlook Express identity

The above procedures should work fine if you have only one identity in Outlook Express. However, if you have more than one identity (home, work, school, etc.), Thunderbird will only import the information from the identity set as default in Outlook Express. To import the information from other identities:

  • Start up Outlook Express, select "File -> Identities -> Manage Identities" and change your default identity to another one which you wish to import. Close and restart Outlook Express for the setting to take effect, then close Outlook Express completely.
  • Next, run Thunderbird's import function ("Tools -> Import..."), and when finished verify that the information has been imported properly.
  • Repeat the process for each identity in Outlook Express.

Note: When changing your identity, under "Manage Identities", make sure the Identity you want to import is selected in the two options: Under "Use this Identity when starting a program" and under "Use this identity when a program cannot ask you to choose an identity"

Advanced alternatives

  • Some Windows users have had success using MailStore Home to import mail from Outlook and then export it using Thunderbird's format. The program supports Microsoft Outlook 2003, 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, Windows Mail, Windows Live Mail and Thunderbird, among others.
  • Use either DbxConv or dbx2mbox to convert the .dbx files used by Outlook Express to mbox files. Then import the mbox files using the ImportExportTools extension. This extension used to be called the mboximport extension.
  • Export the messages as .EML files and then use the ImportExportTools extension to import them. One way to export them is to drag and drop them from Outlook Express to a folder in Windows Explorer. The trial version of Outlook Express Repair also lets you export folders as .EML files.
  • If you have the *.dbx files from Outlook Express but no longer have Outlook Express itself you could import them into Windows Mail using File -> Import -> Messages -> Microsoft Outlook Express 6. Press Next and browse to where the *.dbx files are stored. Windows Mail will import them and store them as .EML files. Then use the ImportExportTools extension in Thunderbird to import the .EML files.

Windows 7

If you are running Windows 7 you may not be able to install Outlook Express. If you wanted to install Outlook Express to work around problems migrating messages from Outlook you could install either the Windows Live email client (easiest) or the Windows Mail email client and use the ImportExportTools extension to import the .EML files. Both store messages using .EML files and support dragging and dropping messages to Windows Explorer as .EML files.

See Also