I launched Thunderbird this morning as usual – and instead of the multiple emails awaiting to be read, I was presented with Thunderbird’s dialog box for setting up a new account. Somewhat bemused, I closed the dialog box, to be presented with an utterly, devastatingly empty email client. No emails, no contacts – nothing! Ok – being on IMAP, I didn’t immediately panic, because after all my email should be safely stored on the server, I said optimistically.

However, I needed to find out what had happened – and why! I immediately ran a virus scan and then fired up my anti-spyware – to no avail.  Trawled the net. Then I came across a post on Thunderbird’s documentation wiki – which shed some light.

The Mozilla suite of software (including Thunderbird and Firefox) depend heavily on two system files – ‘prefs.js’ and ‘profile.ini’ – which are stored outside of either application’s Program Files (the reasoning behind this is that even if you uninstall the application and its Program Files are deleted, the profile stays on your computer for possible revival when you next install the same application).

Now, if either of the above two files is corrupted or is moved, the application will not launch properly.

For exaple if a drive letter is changed (in Disk Management) – which changes the path to a file, this will affect how Thunderbord (or Firefox) tries to access the above two files, and can lead to the same ‘disastrous’ result.

Fortunately there is a work around to immediately access email. Locate the all important location of the two files. Then launch Thunderbird from the command line – see this post.

Not a long term solution, but this will work while you look at what went wrong.


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