Clean up that Inbox

Start out the new year with an empty inbox and a fresh quota by moving your old messages into Local Folders in Thunderbird. It’s quick & easy, and it’s so nice not to be looking at 3,000 messages in the inbox!
Email is usually stored on the mail server, which provides secure storage and regular backups, but also has limited storage space–you have a quota of 2.5 GB for email. We suggest that at least once a year you archive old messages into folders that are on your computer, which both declutters your inbox and frees up quota space.
There are a few things to consider before you do this

  • Messages that are archived in Local Folders are only available on the computer they are stored on. If there are messages that you need to access from multiple devices, don’t store them in Local Folders.
  • If you don’t have a backup plan for your computer and your hard drive fails you will lose the messages in Local Folders (along with all the other files on your computer).
  • Local Folders should not be used if your email contains highly sensitive information (see our policy for a description of Level III data) unless your computer is encrypted. If you’re not sure whether it’s encrypted, it probably isn’t.
  • If you use another mail client, like Apple Mail, there is a similar capability, but the terminology and steps will be different. We may be able to help you with this if you can’t figure it out.
  • If you use only WebMail to access your email but still want to use this technique, you could set up Thunderbird just to use as an archival tool. We can help with that.

These instructions are for copying a year’s worth of messages into one folder, but there’s no reason you can’t chunk it into a different time period if you like.

  1. In Thunderbird, click on “Local Folders” in the pane on the left.
  2. From the File Menu select “New Folder.”
  3. Give the folder a name. It’s a good idea to put the year at the beginning of the name, like “2017 Inbox”.
  4. Under “Create as a subfolder of” it should say “Local Folders.”
  5. Click “Create Folder.”
  6. Go up to your inbox, and find the first message from 2017 (or whatever year you’re dealing with), and select it.
  7. Scroll to the last message of 2017, and hold down the shift key while you click on it. You should see the messages in between all highlighted”
  8. From the Message menu select “Move To Local Folders”, and select the folder you just created.
  9. Thunderbird will begin moving the messages. There is a status pane at the bottom of the menu that will report the progress, but you can continue to work on your computer while it does it’s thing.

You can use a similar procedure with the messages in your Sent folder–there are often more messages in Sent than in Inbox because we don’t look at it as often.

There, doesn’t that feel better? Now, if only there were Local Folders for my office…

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