Thunderbird Email Configuration v3 – correcting IMAP to Pop3 After Auto-configuration

Nothing is good about the “new and improved” version 3.0 to 3.0.11 that has continued through to Thunderbird 3.1 through 3.1.7 which is current as of December of 2010.

When you add a new email account (tools > account settings > account actions button (bottom left) > Add Mail Account) Thunderbird 3.x.x attempts to auto-configure the account. This would be helpful if it got the settings the way you wanted, or allowed you to easily change them.

Unfortunately it auto-selects IMAP for many accounts, when Pop3 is preferred.

There are two suggested ways to solve this:
1. quickly (and I do mean quickly) hit the stop button (not the Manual Setup button contrary to logic) -see figure one. Often you simply cannot hit it quick enough to stop it and move on to Manual Setup. If you can catch it quick enough then use the drop down to select Pop3 – see figure 2.

Figure 1 - catch the stop button quick when auto-configuring in Thunderbird 3.0
Figure 2 - then use the drop down to select between IMAP and Pop3

2. fake it out with a non-existent account — see Figure 3 — this assures that it won’t actually mis-configure it before you have the opportunity to hit the stop button. I encourage you to use something like the example I show in my figures with some random numbers or characters as this will assure that you didn’t actually catch someone’s domain. Note: Leave the password BLANK.

Figure 3 - Use a completely unlikely domain when auto-configuring Thunderbird 3.x.x

3. fix it after the fact — not really that difficult to do if you aren’t afraid of a little code. Here is how. First in Thunderbird 3.x.x, click on Tools > Options > Advanced > General Tab > Config Editor and click through the warning about totally and completely and for all time messing up your install. 🙂 Select “I’ll be careful, I promise!”

If you are working on the last added email it will be the highest numbered account so you can simply skip to the next step substituting an asterisk (*) for the number and then work on the highest numbered hostname account.

Otherwise, the next step if you have more than one email account up and running (and most likely you do) and it isn’t the one you last installed, then first you need to figure out which “instance” of the server is the one you want. They are simply numbered so you enter this into the filter:


Identify the proper hostname server number by looking at the associated domain name to the right:
mail.server.server7.hostname userset

This tells us we need server7 or if you have only one email account you can skip this step as explained above.

Finally, we can simply switch the type by entering in the filter the following:
(or mail.server.server*.type if you know you are working on the last added email account).

The server type will appear, double click on it and change it to what you want, either imap or pop3.

Figure 4: You can manually switch between pop3 and imap in Thunderbird 3.x.x even after auto-configure selects the wrong choice for you


We here at BlogWranglers regularly move blogs from hubspot, blogger, typepad and other platforms to WordPress (currently 3.0.3). Sometimes the migrated blogs are hosted elsewhere, but we often provide hosting to our blog move clients and as part of our hosting service we help people who wish to use Thunderbird as their email client get set up for the domains hosted here at hosting. It has been more difficult to get this accomplished since the regressive improvement to auto-configure was added to Thunderbird. We hope that this article helps not only those folks for whom we offer top notch blog hosting after migration, but others as well.

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2 thoughts on “Thunderbird Email Configuration v3 – correcting IMAP to Pop3 After Auto-configuration

  1. Great, this really helped!

    Perhaps you might like to add this to the Mozilla Help (it currently says that it is not possible).

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