You can use Thunderbird to access your email without using the web mail interfaces that are provided by default with your hosting provider. This is good when you want to have your own local copy of all your emails and to be able to access it while offline. You can also use Thunderbird to export your emails and import them to another mailbox (eg when moving hosting provider). This post describes the steps to install and configure Thunderbird to download emails from your hosting provider.


Installation of Thunderbird

Download and install Thunderbird from the Thunderbird website

You will end up an installer program like this (on a mac)

Thunderbird DMG

Open the installer and it will set up Thunderbird.

When you see the screen below you need to drag the Thunderbird icon into the Applications folder of your machine

This will place the Thunderbird Application in your Application folder with all your other applications. Go to this folder and double click the program to launch it.

You will be asked about importing contacts from your machine. If you are only using Thunderbird for temporary access or importing/exporting emails then you can say ‘Don’t Allow’


Set Up Existing Email Account

You will be asked if you want to set up an existing email address when you first start up Thunderbird. Select ‘Skip & Use my existing email’

Or under File -> New -> Existing Mail Account you can add your email account later


Thunderbird will now attempt to find the server your email is hosted on and identify the configuration being used.

Thunderbird Email Account Configuration Settings

Here you may need to correct the values to match those being used by your hosting provider. Look up the POP and IMAP settings for your email account, or ask your hosting provider for this information. When you have filled in the correct values use the Re-test button to check if they are correct.

Thunderbird Re-test button

Configure Account Settings

Now go to the Email account you have just set up and Right-Click to access the Account Settings

Thunderbird Email Account Settings


Under Server Settings you can uncheck ‘Check for new messages at start up’ and Check for messages every X minutes as we want to manually control downloading messages

Close out of the settings and you can download the messages in your Inbox by Right Clicking the email account and choosing ‘Get Messages’

Thunderbird Get Messages


Sync Email Folders

Back on your main Thunderbird Screen highlight the Email account you are using.

Now go to the ‘Manage folder subscriptions’ link.

Thunderbird Manage Folder Subscriptions

A screen will pop up and under the Email account you are using you will find a list of folders that you can subscribe to. For each one you want to export, select them on the left and use the Subscribe button.

Thunderbird Manage Folder Subscriptions

When you’re finished use the Ok button to return to the main screen.


If you sync messages again you will see that the folders you’ve subscribed to will get populated with emails.

Thunderbird Folders List


You now have your emails all stored locally in Thunderbird and can use Thunderbird to send/receive emails for that account going forward.