IT Connect
Information technology tools and resources at the UW

Migrate email from Deskmail using Web Alpine and Thunderbird (Windows)

Note: Manual email migration is a fairly complex technical process. UW-IT does not offer support for manual migration. If you are moving from one UW email service to an alternative UW email service, UW-IT strongly encourages the use of our Comparex supported migration service. Engaging Comparex results in a seamless email migration experience for users and local IT support staff. At $25 per email account, the charge for this service is far less than the cost of user personal time and/or local IT support staff time required for a more manual method of email migration. A UW budget is required for Comparex supported migration.

These instructions:

Disclaimer: Web Alpine has been known to have problems exporting larger folders and some newer email content. It is possible that errors will prevent exporting via Web Alpine; in these cases you may not be able to export a folder without using a third-party email client such as Thunderbird or Outlook.

For assistance with configuring an alternate email account in Thunderbird, please contact your local IT support organization or the email service provider (e.g. Google, Microsoft) for the alternate email account you wish to use.

Additionally, UW-IT does not support the use of Thunderbird as a long-term email client for UW email services – it is only being used as a tool to migrate email messages from Deskmail to an alternate email account.

Export email from Web Alpine (Deskmail)

  1. Navigate to Web Alpine and log in with the UW NetID for the Deskmail account that you would like to export email from, i.e. your personal UW NetID or a shared UW NetID. You will see a website that says Welcome to Web Alpine in the upper left corner.
  2. On the right side of the page, click Open UW NetID’s Inbox. You are now looking at the INBOX for the Deskmail account.
  3. To view all of the email folders in the Deskmail account, on the left side of the website, click View/Manage Folders.
    Note: If you wish export email messages from your INBOX folder, you must first create a new email folder. To create a new folder, from View/Manage Folders, click New Folder.
    View and Manage Folders and click New Folder
  4. Enter the name of the folder that you would like to create, e.g., “Export”, then click New Folder to create the folder. You will now see a list of all of the email folders for the Deskmail account, including the new folder you just created (Export).
  5. To move messages from the INBOX to the Export folder, open the INBOX and select the check box next to any messages you want to move to the Export folder. To move all email messages, select the top most check box at the top of the check box column.
    Select All Messages
  6. Click to Folder, then select your newly created Export folder. If you don’t see the Export folder, click More Folders to expand the list of available folders, then click the Export folder. All of your messages will move to the Export folder.
  7. To export the Export folder, on the left side of the page, click View/Manage Folders.
  8. Click the Export folder so it is selected in the folder list. In the menu bar above the inbox, click More Actions, then click Export Email from Folder.
    Export Email from Folder
  9. A file with the name of the email folder (e.g., Export) and the extension MBX will be saved to your default Downloads location. By default, Chrome downloads this file to the Downloads folder in your user account. You can also right-click the file name (Export.mbx) that appears in the downloads toolbar and click Show in folder to see where this Export.mbx file has been saved.
  10. Repeat this process with any additional Web Alpine email folders you’d like to export.

Import MBX file(s) into Thunderbird

You will download and install the open source (free) Thunderbird email client, then import the MBX file(s) into Thunderbird email.

  1. Download the open source (free) Thunderbird email client from the Thunderbird website by clicking the Free Download button: The Thunderbird install file will download and appear in the lower left corner of Chrome. Double-click this file to install it.
    Thunderbird exe file downloaded in browser
  2. During setup, clear the box next to Use Thunderbird as my default mail application, then click Next, then click Install, and then click Finish.
  3. Thunderbird will open. Click I think I’ll configure my account later.
  4. Next, you’ll want to install a Thunderbird add-in named ImportExportTools.xpi.  To install this add-in, click this link and the add-in will download to the Downloads folder in your user account.
  5. Open Thunderbird. Click the Tools menu option, click Addons, and then click Extensions. Select the icon that looks like a gear near the top right of the window and then click Install add-on from file.
  6. Browse to the ImportExportTools.xpi located in the Downloads folder in your user account, then click Open, then click Install Now.
  7. Now restart (close and reopen) Thunderbird.
  8. Click I think I’ll configure my account later.
  9. On the left side of Thunderbird, *right-click* Local Folders, click ImportExportTools, click Import mbox file.
    Import mbx file
  10. Click Import directly one or more mbox files and click OK.
  11. Navigate to to the Downloads folder in your user account, select the Export.mbx file you created, and click Open.
  12. The Export.mbx file is now listed under Local Folders on the left side of Thunderbird. Click Export.mbx to view the emails contained within the file.

Add an alternate email account to Thunderbird (, Gmail, etc.)

  1. Now, add an alternate email account (, Gmail, etc.) in Thunderbird that you’d like to import these emails into using this guide from Mozilla Thunderbird.
  2. Once you’ve added the alternate email account to Thunderbird, click the Export.mbx file under Local Folders so you can view the emails contained with the file, then select CTRL + A on your keyboard to select all of the emails in the folder.  Once all of the emails are selected, *right-click* on a selected email, click Copy To then click your alternate email account and click the folder you’d like to copy the emails to, e.g. Inbox, UW email, etc.
  3. You can now select the alternate email account in Thunderbird and monitor the progress of the email copy.  It may take a while to copy all of your emails, depending on the number of emails you are copying.
  4. You are done.