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Microsoft Windows XP or Vista Upgrade to Windows 7 Mail Import Conversion to Thunderbird Email


20091101su-microsoft-windows-7-logo-300x300Summary. Windows 7 is a significant improvement over previous versions of Windows. However, when upgrading from Microsoft Windows XP or Vista to Windows 7, you’ll soon discover that all of your email messages are missing as a result of the migration. This page explains how to recover your email messages using Mozilla Thunderbird and a special Thunderbird Windows Mail import and export utility available from Nic-Nac-Project.de as a free download. The step-by-step instructions are found at the bottom of this page, following some general information about email clients and why Windows no longer includes one. There is also information about best practices for upgrading to Windows 7. If you’ve not yet upgraded to Windows 7, it would be wise to install Thunderbird first and import your information before the Windows based mail programs are removed. Exporting your address book from Outlook Express or Windows Mail would be a good idea also. More about Windows 7 can be found on Microsoft’s What Is Windows 7 page.

Missing Mail Client Program. Windows 7, like previous releases of Windows, eliminates features that were included in previous versions. For many years, Windows has included email software such as Outlook Express or most recently Windows Mail with Vista as an email client. Windows 7 doesn’t include an email client. This isn’t the first time a software upgrade resulted in lost functionality. Windows 95 included Fax capabilities as part of the installation, but Windows 98 did not. Microsoft Office 2003 lacked utilities and functionality available in previous versions. When Microsoft adds and later removes features from their products, it appears they are making an effort to avoid antitrust action.

Benefits of Email Client Software. Many people use web-based email services such as Google, Hotmail, and Yahoo. The benefit to web-based email services (not using an email client) is that your entire collection of emails are easily accessible from any computer. You don’t need to worry about losing your e-mail if your computer crashes. Also, it’s one less program to install when you upgrade from one computer to another. However, despite the advantages of using only web-based email services, many people choose to use email client programs such as Thunderbird, Outlook, or Apple Mail for the reasons and benefits listed below. It’s also possible to use both systems (client and web-based) simultaneously through IMAP configuration (or POP). Here are some of the advantages to using an email client instead of (or in addition to) your web-based email.

  • Archive. Online email services allow some archiving. However, mailboxes can quickly fill-up if messages contain large attachments. Email client software allows you to store many years worth of emails on your computer and quickly search, sort, and export based on a variety of criteria.
  • Consolidation. Email clients can help with the consolidation of schedule, contacts, tasks, and other information. Programs such as Outlook help organize schedule, contacts, and emails all in one system. In Apple computers, the Address, Mail, and Calendar programs work together.
  • Features. Email client programs typically offer a more diverse set of features and formatting controls, email rules, signatures, and spam filtering.
  • Multiple Accounts. Online email services are primarily for accessing email from a single account, though some offer the ability to check other accounts.
  • Off-line Access. Online email services require an Internet connection. Perhaps the biggest reason for using an email client is the ability to read and compose email while not connected to the Internet – such as during air flight, riding in a car, or traveling in a remote area.

Windows 7 Upgrade. Assuming you have an existing copy of Windows Vista that is stable and problem free, the best upgrade path to Windows 7 is probably to purchase the $120 Windows 7 Home Premium Upgrade DVD. This will retain your programs, settings, and user data.

Windows 7 Clean Installation. If you have several days of free time, there may be a benefit to performing a clean installation of Windows 7. This will required reinstalling and configuring all software programs, as well as drivers for printers and other accessories. For users with only a few data files, who need only Word Processing and Internet access, a clean installation is fairly easy. For users who have numerous programs and hardware devices, and gigabytes of photos, music, and videos, a clean installation will be quite time consuming.

20091101su-mozilla-thunderbird-icon-logo-300x300Importing Windows Mail Messages. Below are instructions for importing Windows Mail messages into Thunderbird.

  1. Download and configure Mozilla Thunderbird.
  2. Download the Nic-Nac-Project import export plug-in for Thunderbird.
  3. In Thunderbird, go in Tools > Addons (or Extensions) and click on Install, then pick the xpi file you downloaded and follow the instructions. Restart Thunderbird.
  4. Before importing, you’ll need to configure at least one email account in Thunderbird.
  5. From the Tools menu find Import / Export Tools. The Import options include the ability to import all the eml files (email message files) from a certain directory, including the subfolders in that directory. Choose to do this, and navigate to Users > Yourname > Application Data > Microsoft > Windows Mail. Or, alternatively, you could probably just click on your user folder and allow the import to search for any email files in your user account. This may result in importing from multiple programs if you had previously used Outlook Express and then later began using Windows Mail.
  6. After importing, a folder structure will be added under the Inbox of the Thunderbird account you created. You may need to review the emails that were imported. There may be some email messages with no date, subject, sender, or contents. Delete these or any other messages you don’t need.

Windows Live Essentials Mail. As an alternative to Thunderbird, some users may prefer the free Windows Live Mail email program bundled with Windows Live Essentials from Microsoft.

Document History. This document was originally posted on 20091101su2300. It was revised and republished on 20091120fr0900.

By Greg Johnson

Greg Johnson is a freelance writer and tech consultant in Iowa City. He is also the founder and Director of the ResourcesForLife.com website. Learn more at AboutGregJohnson.com