IMAP for migrating from OSX Mail to Thunderbird

There is a common online question about migrating from Apple’s Mail app (Using .emlx format mail files) to Thunderbird (or any other non-Mail app). I looked at a few options and have decided, as strange as it may seem, that installing an IMAP service was the best solution.

IMAP is normally known for it’s server-side mail storage with download/offline browsing on the client side as needed. If you want to travel lighter and have no trouble depending on Internet access for getting at some of your mail, then IMAP is for you. For you Gmail lovers, it has an IMAP option too so you don’t have to have multiple copies of your mail on PCs as well as their online services.

That said, installing IMAP (this time around) was really easy on my new sidux linux box. A couple of apt-get install later, generate an SSL certificate and I was away to the races!

Over on my Mac side, I connected to my IMAP service, created a new folder/mailbox and copied my messages over from my normal old POP account into the new IMAP one. Instantly I have a copy on my server in a flatfile that I can also access from Thunderbird.

In Thunderbird I can set up my normal POP accounts, but also set up the IMAP one. Now I can just drag the messages over from IMAP into the POP account.

Job done, carry on with life. One more nail in my Mac dependency coffin. 😉

Next time I have a long weekend I will configure my server to download my POP mail into my server IMAP folders, so I can run IMAP all the time and use VPN to get to my email securely.

Drop me a note if you’re interested (or already know how to already) too.

* This site helped me get the basics done, though I think it’s out of date. On Debian I could skip the SSL certificate part of this tutorial and also user accounts were automagically enabled already.

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Tyler Mitchell

Product and marketing leader, author and technology writer in NoSQL, big data, graph analytics, and geospatial. Follow me @1tylermitchell or get my book from

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