Here’s a few Handy Tips on Moving FireFox and Thunderbird Profiles

Here’s a few Handy Tips on Moving FireFox and Thunderbird Profiles

One of the dangers / side effects of being in business over the course of several years is that soon you find yourself forgetting more than you know. You begin to notice once you outlive two or three (or four or five) laptops. Before too long you realize that that project you once could recite in your sleep is now some 8 or 9 years in the distant pass and you can’t even remember the user id you used to get into the system in the first place. Trust me – it’ll happen.

That being said, there are some practical things that this every 2-3 year “migration of the machines” teaches you about what is important. Namely, travel light and carry only what you must.

In real life, we have moved 5 or 6 times since 1999. In each move, we have discarded more and more stuff that once seemed vital, until we realized that it was just stuff that we had moved several times, and never used in a real sense. Bye-bye useless stuff.

Over time, one winds up with only the things that are really needful.

The same is true with your digital life. That application you wrote in comp sci is never gonna be used. Get rid of it. The cool app you wrote two employers ago and sitting on your keychain drive is never gonna make you the next Kevin Rose, Mark Zuckerberg, or (name your favorite uber geek). Get rid of it.

Before we throw all the babies out with the bath water, there are important items that we must / should / need to carry forward as we move from that old doorstop to the new hotness. Namely, our browser settings and that modern equivalent of race memory, our email data store.

Me – I use Firefox and Thunderbird. So, I’ll show you how to relatively painlessly move your Firefox Settings and Thunderbird Settings, along with all of your email, to a new machine. Ready?

First, setup your new laptop and install Firefox and Thunderbird, but do only the minimum to get the software up and on its feet on the new box.

You will need to be logged in with Administrator Access in order to do the following.

Somewhere on your old Windows machine (OK, Apple fan boys – stop your snickering), there is a directory named Documents and Settings. Sometimes this is on C, I mostly find it on D drives. Change the folder view properties so that you can see all hidden directories and files. You will see folders for each user defined on your machine. Find the folder for your user credentials and open that folder.

There are two directories that we are interested in – Application Data and Local Settings.

Under Application Data, there will a Mozilla folder and a Thunderbird folder. You will need to copy both of these directories to their counterpart areas on the new machine (under its Documents and Folders/User Profile/Application Data folder).

Navigate back to the Local Settings folder. Notice that it also has an Application Data folder. Drill down, and copy the Mozilla Folder and the Thunderbird folder to the new laptop’s corresponding areas for these folders.

That is the abbreviated methodology.

In practice, if you have two or three years of email, you’re probably talking about a few gigabytes of email. This may involve an intermediary machine to offload the data first – your mileage will definitely vary. For me, it took a few hours to first offload my email to my wife’s Apple iMac (it had the big hard drive that wasn’t being used, Apple boys, so it made the perfect thumb drive) and then from the iMac to my new-ish laptop.

I would be interested in hearing a similar methodology for (a) Outlook or (b) Apple Mail.

And I hope this helps some poor soul wondering how in the hell they’re gonna make this happen.