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XP to Vista, migrating Thunderbird and Firefox

Email, address books, bookmarks, and browser settings are some of the more important personal data that needs to be moved when you upgrade or change computing platforms. The Mozilla products Thunderbird and Firefox make this rather easy. All you really need to do is to copy their applications data folders from one platform to the other.

The trick is in finding these folders and the copying them to the right place.

Both XP and Vista define the location for these folders with the ‘%appdata% symbol. Each user will have their own applications data so you need to be logged on as the proper user before you can find that user’s applications data.

You can open an Explorer Window to see the applications data in XP by ‘Start -> Run’ or in Vista by the Windows key plus ‘R’ then typing %appdata% and then OK

You may need to show hidden files. These are Explorer menu items, not file or folder property items. In XP it is ‘Tools -> Folder Options -> View’ and in Vista ‘Organize -> Folder and Search Options -> Folder Options -> View’

Make sure that Firefox and Thunderbird are not running and there is no ‘quick start’ active for them before you do any backup or restore of their applications data.

You will want to copy two folders, the Mozilla and the Thunderbird folders. If you select the folder, click the right mouse button, choose ‘Send To -> Compressed Folder’ you will create a zip file for the folder. Zip files (a.k.a. compressed folder) provide a convenient way to moving file collections between machines. You can move the zip files to a USB drive that can be moved from machine to machine or to a shared file area that is accessible via a local area network.

On the destination machine, you first need to rename the Mozilla and Thunderbird folders that are created when you installed Firefox and Thunderbird. Right click on each, choose rename, and add ‘original-‘ to the front of each name, for example.

Copy the zip files (compressed folders) to the %appdata% folder on the destination machine. Right click on the file and choose ‘Extract all’. A prompt comes up to indicate where to extract the files. You will need to remove the last part of the path shown because, if you don’t, your Mozilla folder filles with be extracted to Mozilla\Mozilla rather than just Mozilla. You want to extract the compressed folder directly to your applications data folder top level.

Check your extracted files folders. If you open the Mozilla folder in %appdata% and see another Mozilla folder, for instance, you will know you messed up and didn’t remove the end of the extraction destination. The extraction prompt tends to default to the folder you are viewing (%appdata%) plus the name of the zip file and that extracts the files down a step too far.

For background and more detail, see the Mozilla Zine articles on Where is my profile folder -|- Transferring data to a new profile -|- transferring bookmarks and passwords (discussion) -|- and Profile folder – SeaMonkey.

After you get the applications data migrated to your new machine, fire up Mozilla and make sure it shows your starting home page and has your bookmarks. Then start Thunderbird and check your mail to make sure it has your email archive and mailbox settings.