Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Thunderbird won't open or launch in XP?

Are you having problems trying out the free open source Mozilla Thunderbird email software on Windows XP - in that you can't open Thunderbird at all?

If, when you attempt to launch or open Thunderbird after installation, either nothing seems to happen at all or else the Import box (offering to import your settings from Outlook etc) pops up but then vanishes when you select an option, and Thunderbird still won't come up - well you're not alone.

I had this problem too. Nothing happened at all when I installed and tried to open Thunderbird. Frustratingly, in the Task Manager I could see that Thunderbird.exe was visible on the Processes tab, but not the Applications tab. No amount of killing the process, or uninstalling and reinstalling Thunderbird, would fix it: it was there, but invisible and inaccessible.

Finally, after too much time spent trying to troubleshoot this, I realised what the problem was.

I'd previously tried out Thunderbird, some months ago, but decided at that time that I didn't get on with it, so I uninstalled it. Unfortunately, the uninstallation didn't work very well (so a smack and a spanking for whoever was responsible for that!). It left guff behind that it shouldn't have, and that stuff was messing things up when I tried to install, or rather reinstall, it.

So here's the solution which worked for me (and I hope this tip helps someone else):

  1. Uninstall Thunderbird (Control Panel, Add/Remove Programs).

  2. In Windows Explorer / My Computer, find the Mozilla Thunderbird program folder which should have been deleted but wasn't - on my system it was in C:\Program Files\. Delete that Mozilla Thunderbird program folder (obviously, don't delete Program Files, just the Mozilla Thunderbird folder inside Program Files).

  3. One more Thunderbird folder to delete - on my system it was in C:\Documents and Settings\My User Name\Local Settings\Application Data, real user name blanked out in the screenshot below. (Obviously it won't be "My User Name" on your system, it'll be your username). Nuke that Thunderbird folder too.

  4. Now, go ahead and re-install Thunderbird.

Hopefully it should now work, if the source of your problem was the same as mine. (If not, I don't know what else to try - you could try asking for help on the Thunderbird support forums.)


Anonymous said...

I had exactly this same problem. This helped me a lot. Thank you.

Anonymous said...


I tried a few things, even moved the application_data folder elsewhere. Didn't think to check the program files folder. Seems as if it doesn't overwrite an old file?

Boujin said...

Unfortunately, following the steps above continued to result in the application not launching for me. My attempts were with the install file. After cleaning up the directories as listed above, I then downloaded an older version from This install did the trick and I can once again launch Thunderbird.

Anonymous said...

Thanks! Still relevant today :(
Fixed my problem installing Thunderbird 3.1.7

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much. I downloaded Thunderbird 3.1.7 and could not get it to open. After following these instructions. It Opened!!