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How to Set Up IMAP Protocol on Thunderbird

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Date modified - May 6, 2009

How to Set Up IMAP Protocol Email Accounts on the Thunderbird Email Program

There are some benefits to setting up IMAP email accounts as opposed to POP protocol accounts on your Thunderbird email program or whatever email program you happening to be using such as Outlook. IMAP allows you the versatility of synching your email whether you are sending or receiving via a webmail login such as http://tutorialref.com/webmail (which is where this site'swebmail program is located since this one is hosted on bluehost.com) or whether you sending or receiving via an email program. For instance, you can have Thunderbird set up at home and at work and if you have set up your email account on both to use the IMAP protocol then your sent and received emails will be synched. It's convenient.

You always have the option of downloading your emails to your local computer but then you'll lose that capability of synching since the two computer (the one at home and the one at work) is synched by the servers. One of the drawbacks to utilizing IMAP is that it does take up disk space on your server.

Seek for a web hosting company that allows you plenty of disk space since disk space is inexpensive these days. There is one other drawback (at least for those of us on bluehost) which is mentioned below. When there are several email accounts set to use the IMAP protocol and the email accounts are set to check to the server for new emails at a greater frequency, say, 30 minutes this can result in 500 error pages. The only way is to kill the process IDs which I will show later using CPanel. But I'm getting ahead of myself so let's show you how to set up your Thunderbird email account using IMAP.

1. Download Thunderbird (it's free) English Mozilla Thunderbird if you don't have it installed already. There are several languages offered and availabe in all the major platforms such as Windows Vista, XP, Mac OSX and Linux. Install the program.

2. Open the program. Click on "Tools" then "Account Settings" in the Menu Bar at the top of the program. Click the image to view a larger snapshot (figure 1).

Thunderbird/Tools/Account Settings. Where is Mozilla's Thunderbird email account settings?

Figure 1-Thunderbird Account Settings.

3. In the "Account Settings" click on the "Add Account..." button on the left-hand side. Click the image to view a larger snapshot (figure 2).

Thunderbird email - how to add in a new email account.

Figure 2-Thunderbird - add in a new email account.

4. A window titled "Account Wizard" will display. Simply click the "Next" button. Click the image to view a larger snapshot (figure3).

Thunderbird's email Account Wizard set up program.

Figure 3-Using Thunderbird's email Account Wizard program to set up your email.

5. Type your name and email address in the appropriate fields then click the "Next" button. Click the image to view a larger snapshot (figure 4).

Type in your email addres and name in Thunderbird's email account settings.

Figure 4-Type your email addres and name in Thunderbird's account settings.

6. IMPORTANT: Select the "IMAP" setting rather than the "POP" setting. In the "Incoming Mail Server" field type "mail.tutorialref.com" (without the quotes). You may have to contact your server administrator to obtain your incoming mail server. Then click the "Next" button. Click the image to view a larger snapshot (figure 5).

Thunderbird's IMAP protocol settings (as opposed to POP protocol).

Figure 5-Thunderbird's IMAP protocol setting.

7. In the "Incoming User Name:" field type in your email address then click the "Next" button. Click the image to view a larger snapshot (figure 6).

Thunderbird's Incoming User Name field setting.

Figure 6-Thunderbird's Incoming User Name.

8. In the "Account Name" field type in your email address then click on the "Next" button. Click the image to view a larger snapshot (figure 7).

Thunderbird's Account Name for your email addres.

Figure 7-Thunderbird's Account Name (type email address).

9. Click the "Finish" button. Click the image to view a larger snapshot (figure 8).

Thunderbird's Finish snapshot in Account Wizard.

Figure 8-Click the Finish button in Thunderbird's Account Wizard.

10. Highlight your email address by clicking on the it which is visible in the left-hand side of the window. Click the image to view a larger snapshot (figure 9).

Changing or modifying additional email account settings in Thunderbird.

Figure 9-How to change additional email account settings in your Thunderbird email account.

11. Click on "Server Settings" then change the value from "10" to "30" in for the field "Check for new messages every". I now found out that if you are a server administrative set this to a much higher value such as "360" which means check for new messages every 6 hours rather than every 30 minutes. The reason is that (for some reason) there tends to be many imap processes running and they tend to linger around. This in a linux system (which I believe is Centos). I found this out with one of my web hosting accounts with bluehost.com.

If you set up many email addresses as I did for one client of mine the mail servers were being checked for new messages every 30 minutes and the result was many process IDs that ended up on occassion triggering the server to display all accounts (all web sites) associated with this web hosting account to display 500 error pages. There is a resolution to this problem on the site located under Cpanel tutorials.

Alternatively, you can probably set up a separate mail server on a separate domain but a tutorial for another day. If your clients wish then can manually check for their emails. I would only set the field "Check for new message every" to 30 for those individuals that really need and cannot be bothered by checking for new messages manually. This is just a forewarning if you set this field value too low.

Click the image to view a larger snapshot (figure 10).

Thunderbird's Server Settings for timing of checking new messages on server.

Figure 10-Thunderbird's Server Settings-checking new email messages on server.

12. Click on "Composition & Addressing" which is a sub-section. Click on the drop-down menu below the line "Automatically quote the original message when replying" as illustrated. Then select "start my reply above the quote." Click the image to view a larger snapshot (figure 11).

Thunderbird's Composition and Addressing.

Figure 11-Thunderbird's Composition & Addressing section.

13. Now click on "Offline & Disk Space" in the left-hand side. Checkmark "Make the messages in my Inbox available when I am working offline" and "When I create new folders, select them for offline use" as illustrated. Click the image to view a larger snapshot (figure 12).

Thunderbird's Offline and Disk Space settings.

Figure 12-Thunderbird's Offline and Disk Space settings to download messages to computer when offline.

14. Click on the "Junk Settings" on the left-hand side. Checkmark "Trust junk mail headers set by". You may leave it select at "SpamAssassin". And checkmark "Move new junk messages to:" Leave the rest at default settings. Click the image to view a larger snapshot (figure 13).

Thunderbird's Junk Settings for settings Spam Assassin and removing junk mail in Thunderbird.

Figure 13-Thunderbird's Junk Setting and setting Spam Assassin to on and automatically removing junk mail.

15. In the left-hand side scroll down and select "Outgoing Server (SMTP)". Then on the right-hand side near the top click on the "Add" button as illustrated. Click the image to view a larger snapshot (figure 14).

Thunderbird's Outgoing Server (SMTP) setting.

Figure 14-Thunderbird Outgoing Server (SMPT) setting.

16. Do the following. Click the image to view a larger snapshot (Figure 15):

  1. In the "Server name" field type "mail.tutorialref.com". On some servers the outgoing mail server is different. I find this to be the case with home ISP. Contact your server administrator for this information if are you uncertain.
  2. In the "Port" field type change the number to "26". Most home ISP disable port 25 due to spam so port 26 is used.
  3. In the "User name and password" field type in your email address. Then click the "OK" button.

Thunderbird's Server name, port setting, and username.

Figure 15-Thunderbird's Server name, port setting and username for SMTP.

17. On the left-hand side, select your email address. You may have to use the scroll bar and scroll upwards. Then click on the drop-down menu as illustrated and select "[your email address] – mail.tutorialref.com". Your selection will probably be something like "mail@tutorialref.com - mail.tutorialref.com". Then click the "OK" button. Click the image to view a larger snapshot (Figure 16).

Setting the appropriate SMTP account for the email account.

Figure 16-Select the appropriate SMTP account for your email account.

18. Now you'll be able to retrieve your messages. Click on "Inbox" for your email account. A box will display asking for your password. If the box does not display then simply click on the "Get Mail" button as illustrated. Click the image to view a larger snapshot (Figure 17).

Check your new email messages on Thunderbird by clicking the Inbox button on the top left of the program.

Figure 17-Check for new email messages on your Thunderbird program.

19. Sending email: when you send email from Thunderbird you may, at times, receive a display as follows. Simply click the "OK". Create a new email message now to test if everything functions correctly. Send an email to yourself. Click the image to view a larger snapshot (figure 18).

Sending email messages with Thunderbird..

Figure 18-Sending email messages with Thunderbird.

20. The first time you attempt to send an email you will receive a display asking for your password. Type in your password and checkmark "Use Password Manager to remember this password". Click the image to view a larger snapshot (figure 19).

Thunderbird's Password Manager.

Figure 19-Saving passwords with Thunderbird's Password Manager.

21. Click the "Get Mail" button to test if you received your test message. Click the image to view a larger snapshot (figure 20).

Getting mail messages with Thunderbird.

Figure 20-Get Mail with Thunderbird.

The Thunderbird mail is a free, robust program that is suitable on mulitple platforms: Mac OSX, Windows XP, Windows Vista and Linux. What more could you wish for. There are several useful plug-ins that allow much greater flexibility such as synching with Google Calendar. I'll be posting more articles on the use of plug-ins in later articles.

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