Recover emails from IMAP folder in Thunderbird

Posted on 2008-11-16
Last Modified: 2013-11-29
Hi there

I need help trying to recover two IMAP folders which have been deleted in the process of moving my domain name between two accounts.  The ISP said all files would be deleted so I copied my emails from the IMAP folder to a local folder (or at least I thought I did) with teh intention to copy back to the IMAP folder when the new account was active.  It was only once my domain transferred that I realised that the SENT and DRAFT items were not copied.  

I have contacted my ISP but they confirmed the domain and all files have been deleted.  I have read that Thunderbird does not delete emails but this seems to work well only with local folders.  I have checked my local folders but they were not copied.  I have tried accessing the IMAP folders but it seems these were updated with the new contents (i.e. virtually empty) when the new email account was setup.  I tried using the restore fuction on Vista but it reverted back to a previous version which was blank.

As the emails were written and stored on my computer (and not just on the server), I wondered if there were any other ways round this?  
Question by:dvsuk
    LVL 10

    Expert Comment

    My understanding of imap is that it should be stored on the server as it is not a POP method of access. You would have had to copy them manually to a local folder in order to keep local folders.

    Are you trying to keep them local, or keep a copy locally and a copy on the server?

    Author Comment

    Hi MiniDevo, I did attempt to copy the emails from my IMAP folders to a local folder but my draft and sent items did not copy.  I have tried to explain the situation in full below:

    I have Thunderbird setup so that when I sync with the server it downloads the entire email (so I can read it offline) as well as keeping a copy on the server.  In other words, I would still have a copy of the email in some folder on my computer even if I never connected to the server again.  Obviously, when the computers connects to the server, the emails would sync (deleting any emails that had since been deleted).  So, in summary, the emails must be stored somewhere on my computer.

    As all emails were being deleted from the server when my domain was transferred, I had to copy the emails from my IMAP folders to a local folder (i.e. on my computer).  I was aware that any emails in my IMAP folders on my computer would sync with the server and therefore delete so I placed these items in a local folder not linked to the IMAP folder.  

    It appears that I did not save all the emails to my local folder (I probably disconnected before the transfer was completed).  I was planning to transfer most of these emails back to my IMAP folders so these would sync with all the computers I use.  I was planning to archive the rest on my local folder on my main computer.  The problem I have is not that I don't know how to organise my emails, it's that the Sent and Drafts IMAP folders were not copied to the local folder that I setup.  The IMAP folders on the server have now been deleted and I believe that the folders where my items were stored locally have re-synced and are now blank.  I want to try and get these emails back.  I assumed that as these email were written on my computer that they might still be somewhere on my computer, whether in a local folder (i.e. where Thunderbird stores the emails from my IMAP folder or in another folder).

    Hope that helps explain the situation!
    LVL 10

    Accepted Solution

    Well, one of the things you can do is just look for any folder that has the appropriate file extension you are looking for. However, if these folders have been deleted, you'll probably need to invest in some sort of recovery software and 'read' the driver for deleted thunderbird folders with that appropriate extension. I caution this method as sometimes this can corrupt the drive, forcing you to reinstall Windows, etc.

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