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How to make your Thunderbird email profile portable on Linux

Are you sick of having to set up your Thunderbird email account on each Linux computer you use? Wishing you could have one mobile email profile? If so, follow along as we demonstrate how to make your Linux Thunderbird email profile portable!

Note: this method only works with Linux systems. The Windows version of Thunderbird is capable of this too. However, it will not work with the Linux instructions. For info on how to accomplish this in Windows, click here.

Before we begin

Generally speaking, Thunderbird email profile folders can be pretty big. This fact is especially true if you use Thunderbird in POP3 mode and download every single message to a local disk.

In this guide, we’ll go over the steps involved to port your Mozilla Thunderbird email account to a USB flash drive for ultimate portability. However, please note that you will need a decent sized USB flash drive for this to work.

An average user can get away with a 4 GB USB flash drive. However, if your profile folder is huge, we highly recommend a USB flash drive that is 16 GB or larger.

Moving your profile to USB

The default directory in which Thunderbird stores profile information on Linux is the ~/.thunderbird folder. It is a hidden folder, and it is automatically created the first time you launch the app.

Since we are making the profile portable by placing the profile information onto a USB, the files need to be moved. To move your Thunderbird profile information to a USB flash drive, plug in the USB, and follow the step-by-step instructions below.

Step 1: Launch a terminal window on the Linux desktop by pressing Ctrl + Alt + T or Ctrl + Shift + T on the keyboard.

Step 2: Using the terminal, execute the lsblk command.


Step 3: Once the lsblk command is run, it will show an output of every hard drive (USB, SATA, etc.) on the system. Look through the output to find your flash drive.

Unsure about where the flash drive is? On almost all Linux operating systems, it is the device with /media next to it.

In this example, we are using a 4 GB flash drive. The lsblk command says the drive label is /dev/sdd, and it is mounted at /media/derrik/31FE26A751763BBC.

Note: some Linux operating systems do not mount USB devices to /media. If you are running an OS that doesn’t mount to this directory, please follow our guide to learn how to use lsblk. It will help find the mount location of your USB device.

Step 4: Now that you’ve got the directory of the USB device, copy it to your clipboard by selecting it with the mouse. Then, paste it below the CD command below.

cd /media/path/to/usb/

Step 5: Run the ls command on the ~/.thunderbird directory on your Linux PC, and locate your email profile folder. The email will have a label containing random numbers and letters, followed by “.default” or “.default-release.”

ls ~/.thunderbird

Step 5: Copy the profile directory to the USB flash drive using one of the commands below. If your Thunderbird email profile folder ends in “.default” use the first command. If it ends in “.default-release,” use the second one.

Note: The commands below are examples. They will not work if you paste them into the terminal prompt. Be sure to change the command below to suit your needs.

cp -r ~/.thunderbird/thunderbird-email-folder.default /media/path/to/usb/


cp -r ~/.thunderbird/thunderbird-email-folder.default-release /media/path/to/usb/

Step 6: Verify that the email profile folder is on the flash drive by running the ls command.


Once your Thunderbird email profile is on the USB flash drive, move on to the next step in the guide.

Editing profiles.ini

Now that your Thunderbird email profile is on the USB flash drive, it is time to edit the profiles.ini file. The reason this file needs to be edited is that your profile is now on the USB flash drive.

To edit the profiles.ini, you must open it up in Nano with the command below.

nano -w ~/.thunderbird/profiles.ini

When you’ve opened up profiles.ini in the Nano text editor, find your profile information. If you can’t find it, look for Path. It should point to a folder in the ~/.thunderbird folder with the same name as the one on your USB flash drive.

Change the line after Path so that it points directly to the email account folder on your USB flash drive. It should look like the bold text in the example below.

Name=Derrik's Personal Email

Following changing Path you must change the IsRelative line from a 1 to a 0. When changed, it should look like the bold text in the following example.

Name=Derrik's Personal Email

Finally, after editing IsRelative, you must edit Default. Locate Default at the top of the profiles.ini file and paste the full location of the email account folder on your USB flash drive. If you’ve done it correctly, it will look like the bold text in the following example.


Name=Derrik's Personal Email


After changing Default in the profiles.ini file, save the edits with Ctrl + O, and exit with Ctrl + X.

Once you’re done editing the profiles.ini file, copy it to your home folder. Then, paste it in the ~/.thunderbird folder on each Linux computer you wish to use Thunderbird from USB.

Using Thunderbird

To use Thunderbird via USB, follow the step-by-step instructions below.

Step 1: Plug in your USB flash drive into the computer and ensure that it mounts automatically. If it doesn’t, click on it in the file manager to access it.

Step 2: Launch Thunderbird. It should automatically load up your profile from USB as the default.

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