Backup your student email with Mozilla Thunderbird


For those of you graduating from UMass this spring, congratulations! It’s an exciting time to look ahead to the post-college life; however, before you head off on your future endeavors, it might be a good idea to backup your student email before you leave.

Why should I backup my email?

Your student email is deactivated one year after you leave the university. All other services (wireless access, Moodle, etc) are deactivated six months after leaving the university. Although for most people this is a year after graduating in May, the actual timeline is one year after you are last enrolled in anything at UMass – for example, if you graduate but take one final summer class to finish your degree, your email will be deactivated one year after that summer course ends.

There is no official need to backup your email, however many students find it convenient to still have those messages saved after graduating.

How do I backup my email?

To back up your email, you will need a third party mail client such as Mozilla Thunderbird, Apple Mail, or Microsoft Outlook. For the sake of this tutorial I will use Mozilla Thunderbird because it is both free and available for Mac OS and Windows, however if you prefer to use Apple Mail (which is pre-installed on any Mac) or Microsoft Outlook (available with many installations of Microsoft Office), those are perfectly fine as well. You will also need a non-UMass, personal email account such as a Gmail or Yahoo account.

1. Install Thunderbird

Thunderbird can be downloaded and installed from Mozilla’s website here:

2. Add your student email account to Thunderbird

This process will vary depending on what type of email you have with UMass. Please click one of the following articles for your operating system and email account type.

Google Apps Users (Undergraduates):

UMail Users (Graduate Students):

Exchange Users:

If you have an Exchange account, you may add the account to Apple Mail or Microsoft Outlook. Please click here for a list of articles on adding Exchange accounts to mail clients. If you are using Windows and do not have Outlook, you can try adding your account to Thunderbird as an IMAP account (use the settings listed in this article).

3. Allow Thunderbird to synchronize your mail

Thunderbird may take a few minutes to download all of your messages. After adding the account, you should see it listed on the left-hand column. Click Inbox to see your messages as they download.

4. Add a personal email account to Thunderbird

This can be any non-UMass email account which you would like to move your old school emails over to. A personal gmail or yahoo account should work, however you can use any email account which is able to be configured with Thunderbird.

5. Create a folder in your personal email account

You should now have two email accounts added to Thunderbird, one being your school email and the other being a personal email. They will both be listed on the left-hand column. Underneath your personal email account, create a new folder, named “umass backups” or whatever you’d like to call it. This folder is where we will migrate all of your UMass emails.

6. Begin moving folders into “umass backups”

Now that you have both accounts in the same place, you can click the Inbox (and any other folders) underneath your student account in the left-hand column, and drag that down into the “umass backups” folder under your personal account. Thunderbird will now copy everything over to the personal account. Please note that this process may take some time.

7. Check to make sure your files moved over.

After everything has been moved, Thunderbird will synchronize your personal email account and everything should now be copied into that account. It might be a good idea to log into the web client for your personal email to check and make sure the “umass backups” folder is there and up to date.


If you have questions about this process, please contact IT User Services at 413-545-9400 or Additionally, if you prefer to use Apple Mail or Outlook for this process, instructions on adding university email accounts to these programs can be found on our website under support center articles.