Personal Backup

Personal Backup Version 5.9

© 2001 − 2018, Dr. J. Rathlev


Backup and Restore of Thunderbird mail data

This program will help the less experienced Thunderbird user to backup and restore his/her mail data. It is part of the Personal Backup program package. Because the location of the mail data is a rather confusing and by default not visible to the user, problems can occasionally arise. In particular, a restore of mail data frequently fails.
Using the TbBackup program provided, backing up and restoring of Thunderbird user data becomes child's play. After selecting the directory to which the data is to be saved, just a single click is required. Further settings are unnecessary since these are taken care of by the program. The actual backup or restore is performed in the background by Personal Backup.
If present, multiple Thunderbird profiles (more information). are supported. In such cases the desired profile must be selected prior to starting the backup.

Important note: The program can only be used if all mail data is located at the original location or was moved by the user manually in conjunction with an adjustment of the file profiles.ini (see this description). If you instead changed the paths of the mail folders in the account settings of Thunderbird, TbBackup can not be used. In this case the Backup must be performed using a task in Personal Backup. The same applies to a Restore.



The following functions are provided (see above screenshot):

Basic settings

After starting the program for the first time, the user will be prompted to perform the basic settings:

Edit settings

Mail profile

Select profile If Thunderbird is being used with multiple profiles, the desired profile can be selected by clicking this button. Otherwise the profile of the default user will always be used automatically.

Backup directory

Select directory

The backup directory should preferably be located on an external drive. Click the button to select a directory.

Backup mail data

Start backup By clicking this button, the backup will be started. For this purpose, a Personal Backup task with all required settings will be created and started automatically. A progress window will be displayed on the screen.
If the option Include calendar data is selected (default setting), all events and tasks from the Thunderbird calendar Lightning will be included in the backup.

Additional functions

Desktop shortcut Create a desktop shortcut: A new shortcut for starting the mail backup will be created on the desktop. Double-clicking this icon will immediately run the backup.

Command line Automatic backup using the Windows Task Scheduler: Clicking this button will create a new task in the Windows Task Scheduler to backup your mail data. The task name will be generated automatically using the name of the mail profile for later identification. The other settings are similar to those for general backups (see more).
If the task has already been registered, clicking this button will either run the task immediately or will open a dialog to change the settings.

View log Show backup log file: Clicking this button will display the log of the last mail backup.





Status window

Status display

You can adjust if and how the status (progress and result) during backup will be displayed. There are the same choices as for automatic backups. If one of the options is selected that will close the status window automatically, additionally the waiting time can be set.


Restore mail data

Restore If your mail data was backed up using TbBackup as described above, a Restore is very easy, because all information required to restore the selected profile will have been stored together with the backup. The user will only be prompted for confirmation before Personal Backup is started to perform the Restore (more information).

Restore from another backup

If the mail data was backed up using a conventional Personal Backup task or by simply by copying the files, the information about the mail profile mentioned above will not be available. However, a Restore of the selected profile can still be performed but in this case the backup directory of the profile must be selected manually, whereupon the program will check that the selected directory is a valid backup of Thunderbird data.

Additional notes

Before starting a Restore, the user can choose to delete all current mail files (even those not backed up). This is useful when for example indexing issues are present in the mail directory. When Thunderbird is next started, all required files will automatically be rewritten.

Before starting a Restore, the program will check that the mail directory to be restored is assigned to the selected profile and actually exist. Usually the remedy for this is to install Thunderbird anew before trying Restore again.
A running Thunderbird application must be closed prior to a Restore. If not already done, the user will be prompted to do this.


Move mail data

Move profile By default all Thunderbird mail data is located within the user's Application Data. This is an area of the file system that is usually not visible to the user in Windows Explorer. In my opinion, this choice is less than optimal and a directory within the user's Documents would be more appropriate. Users who share this view can move all the mail data assigned to the selected profile to another location by clicking this button. The Thunderbird settings will be adjusted automatically.
Important: before undertaking this action, backing up the mail data is strongly recommended.

Background information

Thunderbird settings

By default Thunderbird stores its mail data within the User's Application Data:

Usually this area is hidden to the user. To make it visible, change the Windows Explorer setting via Tools ⇒ Folder Options ⇒ View ⇒ Show hidden files and folders. However, this is not necessary for backups made using TbBackup.

In the directory mentioned above you will find a profiles.ini file in which the assignments of the mail directories to the Thunderbird profiles are saved (more information). TbBackup will read the profile information from this file. If there are several profiles specified, the user must select the one whose data he wants to backup. A single profile (usually named default) will be used automatically.

TbBackup will create a file bu-profiles.ini in the destination directory that contains the required information for restores.

How TbBackup works

TbBackup uses Personal Backup for backup and restore. It will automatically create a backup task for each profile called tb-<profilename>.buj (e.g. tb-default.buj) with all required settings. Note that only those files that contain user settings and actual mail data will be selected. There are many files created by Thunderbird only for administrative purposes that do not need be backed up. Thunderbird will recreate these files automatically if necessary. You can open this task in Personal Backup to make additional settings or to start the backup directly from there.
The same applies to a Restore. In this case a restore task called tb-<profilename>.rsj (e.g. tb-default.rsj) will be created and executed by Personal Backup.

J. Rathlev, 24222 Schwentinental, Germany, April 2018