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HowTo: Thunderbird & MS Exchange Server

Thunderbird and MS Exchange ServerAs you might be able to tell, we are avid Firefox fanatics at Download Squad. However, there are still a lot of people who don't use the entire Mozilla suite and are using Outlook for all their stand-alone email needs at home and at the office. This is due to the fact that most companies use Outlook and, as such, people are familiar with it. At Download Squad we like to say, familiarity breeds contempt.

So, here's an alternative. What's the word? Thunderbird.

You might have a puzzled look on your face right now. Maybe you even use Thunderbird at home but, at work? That's nonsense you say. Your IT department configures your Outlook client to work with the Exchange server. Fear not! It is now possible to use Thunderbird at home and work and still get all of your exchange server email as well as your company's Global Address Book.

First up, download Thunderbird if you haven't already, version 2.0 beta 2 worked best for me and has an up-to-date user interface that resembles Firefox's UI.

Full instructions after the jump.

To set up an email account that will receive the exchange server email with Thunderbird follow these instructions

  1. Go to Tools > Account Settings
  2. Account Settings
  3. Your Name can be anything
  4. Email Address should be your work email address (including the "")
  5. In Server Settings, Server Type should be IMAP Mail Server
  6. Server Name: In Outlook, go to Tools > Address Book and right-click on the pull-down on the top right (it should say "Global Address Book") and select properties. The new window will have a text box that has your current server name in it, this is what you put into Thunderbird's server name box.
  7. User name should be your login name for your PC
  8. "Never" should be selected for secure connection
  9. Edit the default outgoing server (SMTP)
  10. Description can be anything
  11. Server Name: In Outlook, go to Tools > Email Accounts > View/Change Existing > Next and double click on your default MS Exchange Server. In the new pop-up window, the top text box is the one with your outgoing server name. It might be something like Just put in "server" into Thunderbird's server name box, you don't need the "" part.
  12. Check "Use name and password "
  13. "User Name" should be your login name for your PC
  14. "No" should be selected for "Use secure connection"
  15. All other choices can be left as default, and you should now be able to get your email

To get your personal folder from Outlook to Thunderbird (This is what will take the longest amount of time):

  1. Thunderbird does not recognize outlook's .pst files, these are your separate folders that are not part of your general Inbox in Outlook, they are proprietary to Microsoft. For example, you might have an "Archived" folder that has more general folders in it that contain old emails that you wish to keep around. Just move the folders within "Archived" to your general Inbox. This step is necessary for Outlook Express to see them, it won't see your "Archived" folder
  2. You then need to open Outlook Express and import those folders that you moved to your general Inbox that you want in Thunderbird (file > import > messages, MS Outlook, select folders)
  3. In Thunderbird, Tools > Import > Mail > Outlook Express and select all the folders you want to import

Setting up Thunderbird to access your work's Global Address Book:

  1. First off, get your Global Address Book server name. In Outlook, Tools > Address Book. Then right-click on "Global Address List" that appears in a drop-down menu and select "Properties". Copy the server name under "The current server is:".
  2. In Thunderbird, Tools > Address Book
  3. File > new > LDAP Directory
  4. In the General tab, name it whatever you want to, and paste the server name into the "Hostname" area.
  5. Base DN is going to be the stuff after junk separated by commas and set equal to dc. For example, using as your server name it would be dc=work,dc=com
  6. Port number = 389 (default) then ok.

When I first did this, my email worked correctly, but my Global Address Book was a bit sluggish. I found out that it is easier to do a search for a contact instead of waiting for the entire Global Address Book to load then scrolling around to find the contact I need.

Some of these settings might be different for you, such as your PC login name being your MS Exchange Server login name. Don't be afraid to test out different settings if these don't work out for you on your first try. If your persistence does not pay off, give your IT department a call and see if they can troubleshoot it with you. They will not be able to do it themselves because Thunderbird is most likely not supported by them, but neither is Firefox and look at what a pro you are at that!

Tags: email, howtos, Mozilla, MS Exchange Server, MsExchangeServer, Thunderbird