Importing Email from Netscape 4 to Thunderbird

This is a little tale about importing email from Netscape 4.x into Thunderbird when you're experiencing problems with the import function — and a tip for getting those darned NS email folders into Thunderbird.

As a note, I've used Netscape (from NS1? to NS4.x) for email in the ten years I've been on the 'Net; it works, even on Windows XP, does what it's supposed to do, and never messes up. And, since I'm an adamant record-keeper (I probably still have the first email anyone sent to me), I was loath to switch to anything that might cause a problem, especially since what I had was working.

I'd futzed around with Thunderbird a bit, but was alarmed at the idea that all of my profiles would be in one window; seemed like an accident waiting to happen. But after Adrian called my use of Netscape 4.x for email hardcore old skool, and mindful that, one day, I might not be able to import from such an old email program, I slowly moved the email from this site and our other websites to Thunderbird.

So far so good, But I was wary of importing my DianeV.com account (that's 2+Gigs of email, given all the clients and the sending of images and screenshots since the 90's); that account just must work no matter what.

But I attempted to import the DianeV.com email into Thunderbird. It didn't work. Tried again; no go. So I searched the Web and found something at VelocityReviews.com:

First, set up the accounts in TB. Then close TB, and locate your Mail section of your Netscape profile. Rename the file inbox to inbox1. You only want to rename the file without the *.msf extension. Now, copy all the files (again, those without the *.msf extension) and copy it to the mail section of your TB profile. Now, open TB and everything should be there.

Well, that'll work, but .msf is a file extension for folders in later versions of Netscape, so I tried it without copying the .snm files, which are NS4's folder files. It worked — the emails were there but without the subfolders, which is rather messy. I managed to solve it by doing this:


  1. Set up a user profile in Thunderbird.
  2. Close Thunderbird.
  3. In your NS mail folder, select and copy *all* of the files except for the .snm files (you don't need to open folders to do this).
  4. Locate the Thunderbird folder for your email and paste the files into it. The folder will be something like this (in XP):
    • C:\Documents and Settings\yourusername\Application Data\Thunderbird\Profiles\somenumerical.default\Mail\yoursite.com
  5. Reopen Thunderbird — your files should be there.

I have to say I'm tickled with Thunderbird. And while I wouldn't describe myself as "hardcore old skool", I'm almost embarrassed to admit that I like the skins (themes) and how easy they are to view and install. But I guess that embarrassment identifies me as hardcore old school. <Who knew?>

Importing your NS4 address book into Thunderbird: by the way, I had trouble importing my address book from NS4, as it appears that TB was not recognizing it. I solved it by exporting it from NS in LDIF format (whatever that is) and importing that into Thunderbird. Nice.

2 Comments to "Importing Email from Netscape 4 to Thunderbird"

  1. Dsw says:

    Why not use the latest Netscape ? does it work the similar way?

  2. DianeV says:

    Thanks DSW. That would have been another way to go. However, I don't know how much the latest Netscape(s) (which I haven't tried) might have been affected by the ownership of AOL — and, at any rate, I wanted to use Thunderbird, since I've used it for the email from our other websites.

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