How-To Geek

Import Email From Outlook to Apple Using Thunderbird

One issue to consider when switching from Windows to OS X is email, as Windows users are often rooted in Outlook. Today, we show how to move from Outlook to Apple’s using Mozilla’s Thunderbird as a bridge to cross the gap.

In Windows

To begin you will need to install Mozilla’s Thunderbird on your Windows machine. Once it is installed you do not need to add an account to import anything. To begin the Import click on Tools > Import…

In this case we have only used Outlook for mail so we will choose the Mail option, If you also have other material that you would like to import, it may be faster to import each section separately. Once you have chosen your material, click Next.

Select Outlook for the type of file you would like to import and click Next.

Once the import is done it will give a report of what was imported from Outlook. Click Finish when you are ready to move on.

In Mac OS X

Now you will need to be at your Mac OS X machine. In a previous article we talked about mounting a Window share. Now the easiest way to move the data over the machines may be to mount the folder containing your data and copying Local Folders to you desktop. You will want to move the data in any means that is convenient for you.

The imported Outlook data will be located on your Windows 7 and Vista machine in the following directory.


For XP got to the following path…

C:\Documents and Settings\*username*\Application Data\Thunderbird\Profiles\*profilename*.default\Mail


Now you will want to open In the File menu choose Import Mailboxes…

In the Import Window select Thunderbird and click Continue.

Browse to and select Local Folders and click Choose.

Now you can select what you want to Import. If you notice there are things you do not wish you import, uncheck them. Once you are happy with what you are importing click Continue.

The amount of data you are moving will dictate how long you it will take to import. Once the import is done. will let you know where you mail is located. Click done and enjoy your email!

While there are some free applications out there that say they are able to import .pst and Outlook mail into OS X readable formats, many of them are for previous versions of Outlook for the Mac. After trying some of the other free methods out there for moving mail from Windows to Mac, we found this to be one of the easiest solutions.


Mozilla Thunderbird

Chris is a Mac geek who still knows his way around Linux and Windows. He's always looking for a good way to translate geek to english.

  • Published 07/19/10

Comments (13)

  1. Rob Field

    I don’t mean to be stupid or nothin’, but why not just stay with Thunderbird?

  2. jeremy

    I have used this method many times but have often run into an issue that after importing all the thunderbird data into apple mail a lot of the messages will not appear. The entire folder structure is present, but they will be empty. Going back and investigating thunderbird on the pc will show all the mail imported into thunderbird, but for some reason doesn’t make it into mail. Almost like it is not being brought over the mac from the pc. Have you run into this ever?

  3. Christopher Welker

    @jermey I have not run into that issue. What version(s) have you tried on?

  4. Ed

    Tips like these are useful in that there is never such a thing as a “1 size fits all” with respect to technology. You may have a preference for your particular tool, but someone else may have a different preference, or flat out – a need, to use another based on other variables that really don’t have to be explained to anyone. For instance, what if my new job requires that I use Apple Mail because that’s what the CIO or whomever has decided that’s the product that will be supported and I came from a previous job where my mail was in Outlook and needed to get some documents from my old mail out into the new mail.
    My point is that your question is based on the assumption that the user may have control on what application to use (i.e. I’m a regular Joe and I’m looking for a personal tech solution), but what about the times when that isn’t the case and there is (for whatever reason) a true need to use a very specific tool irregardless of how you feel about that tool.

    Having said all that, my question for the author of the blog post is… what about the other way around? What about from Thunderbird to Outlook? Lets make it even more complicated…. what about Thunderbird in OS X to Outlook 2007 in WIndows? @Rob, this is exactly what my situation is right now and although I know of a solution that I can use (at a cost), I’d like to see a “How-To” from the website that can be done using freely available software for people who may not have the luxury of using a pay-for solution.

  5. Lorinda

    I am also running into the same problem as Jeremy, have exported from outlook to thunderbird and then from thunderbird to apple mail, with no difficulties except that some of the folders appear to be empty in apple mail when they are not in outlook or thunderbird. I have looked for a solution and am really frustrated that i havent found any help yet. I have hundreds of emails that i need to transfer and they are not there ! please help :)

  6. David

    Worked perfectly!!
    My wife had been demanding (rightly so), that all her emails be exported from the old XP box to the new iMac
    Thank you for an elegant solution.

  7. knoedl

    i tried for 1 whole day with thunderbird. it always shows up just one of 7000 emails. a horror with this files-sizes. and for some reason it works after the 100-try.
    xD <3

  8. WIll

    This method works GREAT! I transferred over 2400 email messages from my wife’s HP to her new Apple without a hitch. The ‘mail’ folder was 1.45 gb in size so I used a DVD to transfer it to the Apple. The entire process of downloading and installing Thunderbird on the HP, importing Outlook to Thunderbird, creating the DVD and importing to Apple mail took about 45 minutes. Absolute cake.

  9. Georgia

    This is such a brilliant solution except that I’m having the exact same issue as Lorinda and Jeremy… all the folders come across but not all the emails. Does anyone have an answer as to why this may be happening?

  10. Andreas

    I too have the same problem as some of you. Not all messages are imported.

  11. Frank


    I transferred all mails to Thunderbird but I can’t find the line “C:\Users\*username*\AppData\Roaming\Thunderbird\Profiles\*profilename*.default\Mail”. Could it be somewhere else?

  12. grasshopper

    to Frank: it might be a hidden folder so you might want to check it in your folder preferences…
    Anyway, same problem here with not all the emails transferring from thunderbird to mail… So there’s another idea I’m thnking about: I’ll just try to start my mail from scratch – no history, just the new messages. It’s kinda liberating. Of course, I don’t *necessarily need* the old mails.

  13. Debra

    The Apple store used this method to transfer my email to (Lion) Mac Mail. I also have the problem that some of my folders are empty. I have an additional problem that many emails are concatenated together. For one header in the mailbox, inside the mail message are several unrelated email messages (except they were adjacent in the original Outlook folder). This also results in lots of raw html and raw data for attachments. Both the missing emails and the concatenated emails look fine in Thunderbird on the PC.

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