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Solved Thunderbird doesn't check for new emails except at startup

Discussion in 'Web & Email' started by MichaelinTexas, Apr 14, 2017.

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  1. MichaelinTexas

    MichaelinTexas Thread Starter

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    Last time I asked a complicated, general question. This one is extremely specific. I hope that will be less annoying.

    I recently migrated to Thunderbird from the Outlook Express I had on my 12-year-old computer. Thunderbird definitely does have the correct settings for my account; it successfully checks for and downloads new messages every time I open the program. However, despite being set to check for new messages every 10 minutes, it never does. I can verify this by going to my ISP website and finding emails that have been waiting there for a lot longer than 10 minutes. Even manually clicking Get Messages does no good. But if I close Thunderbird and re-open it, then it does download the waiting messages.

    It seems to send messages I write immediately. It's not like it can't send OR receive. It simply won't receive.

    In case you doubt I have it set correctly, I have attached a screenshot of the settings page. I don't think it includes any confidential information. Incidentally, the way I am used to taking a screenshot didn't work. I found an article that claimed there are many ways to make a screenshot http://www.digitalcitizen.life/4-ways-take-screenshots-windows-8-81-using-built-tools and none of them worked either -- until I tried the Snipping Tool. What happened to good old fashioned "Print Screen"??? But that would be a different question.

    For now -- what on earth can be wrong with Thunderbird that it checks for new email successfully at startup but no other time.

    I looked online but could find no help. Thunderbird screenshot.JPG
     
  2. TerryNet

    TerryNet Moderator

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    Can't vouch for Windows 10, but Print Screen still works the same through Windows 8.1. But note that if you have a laptop you may have to hold the function (FN) key while pressing Print Screen.

    I've used Thunderbird for a long time and cannot think of why it is not checking for new mail for you. I have three IMAP accounts set to check every 10, 10 and 120 (don't get much mail on that account) minutes and do not recall ever having a problem.

    If I were you, just to try something, I'd change the checking time (say, to 2 minutes) and see if that wakes it up.
     
  3. MichaelinTexas

    MichaelinTexas Thread Starter

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    Terry, thanks for the suggestions.

    You were right about FN. I never even noticed that key was THERE when I got my new computer. It's a desktop, not a laptop, but that's what made Print Screen work. The article I linked to had Print Screen, Control + Print Screen, Windows + Print Screen, and Alt + Print Screen, and I tried all those, but what I did NOT notice was where it said that if I had an FN key (regardless of the type of device) I had to use it; the other ways would not work. Now I know. Thank you. If you had not mentioned the FN key I would never have gone looking for it.

    As for Thunderbird, I tried a couple of other time settings, higher and lower, without apparent effect. To make it worse, sometimes (like, maybe once a night, or once every other night) it DOES check for new mail without being opened and closed. Nothing is harder to diagnose and fix than an intermittent flaw.

    I am SO frustrated not knowing what I'm doing and not being able to find online help. For instance, when I imported my Outlook Express emails, apparently that created its own account, so all the folders are separate. Also, there seem to be two IMAP accounts, the IMAP-1 being the real one, so where did IMAP (without a suffix) come from. I find instructions online to create a Global Inbox but they don't work -- possibly because they are for POP accounts, but for whatever reason, the box they say to check is not there when I go looking for it. Just tonight I discovered that I CAN copy a folder from the "Local Folders" area that apparently belongs only to the imported emails up to the actual active Inbox -- but it takes forever to copy the messages. It seems like I should be able to simply move the folders, but I can't find any support for that.

    I'm just grumbling now, not asking for advice. If I go the rest of my life having to close and reopen my email client to check for new messages, it won't be the worst thing in the world. If I keep moving all my incoming mail from the actual active Inbox to the copied-over "Local Folders" inbox so I can have it all in the same place, that won't be fatal either. But it sure is clunky.

    Just so you'll know what I'm talking about, this is a screenshot of my Folders Pane. You can see the one folder I copied (I actually wanted to move it, but when I dragged it, it copied) as being in both Inboxes.

    Thunderbird screenshot 2.JPG

    All the online help makes it sound like Local Folders should be ALL the email, but in my case it seems to be only the imported email. Is that because I changed from POP to IMAP when I changed from Outlook Express to Thunderbird? Is that why the folders aren't automatically integrated?

    Like I said, I have no idea what I'm doing.
     
  4. TerryNet

    TerryNet Moderator

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    The only things in my Local Folders are messages that I copied or moved there. And I don't know, but think that you are correct that probably the imported Outlook Express mail was probably put in Local because of the changing from POP or IMAP.

    That's going back to your initial post. When clicking "Get Messages" I don't know if it just gets messages from the first account listed or from all accounts. I suspect the former, so when I want to check I click the little down arrow to the right of "Get Messages" and then select the account of interest.

    I still have no ideas about the real problem of Thunderbird not checking for messages, nor the problems of folders, duplicate folders, etc. Some folders (e.g., Inbox) seem to be built-in--can't delete or move them. Others can be deleted, so you may consider in some cases to copy all desired messages from a certain folder and then delete it.

    Finally, for this post, have you experimented with View - Folders - various options? I like the View - Folders - Favorites. My "Favorites" are Inbox for each of my three accounts and Sent for two of them. I almost never look at other folders (not even Local) and just do View - Folder - All when I want to look at others. You may (or may not) find other folder views useful. Oh, and if you like the Favorites idea, just right click on a folder and select or unselect "Favorite Folder."
     
  5. MichaelinTexas

    MichaelinTexas Thread Starter

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    Thanks for the input, TerryNet. I've tried every variation of Get Messages, including clicking the specific account, and even right-clicking the specific account and clicking Get Messages on the menu that pops up. Nothing works consistently.

    Today I discovered that, much to my surprise and opposite how I thought IMAP was supposed to work, most of the emails I've received are NOT stored on my ISP's website under My Account. (I went there to delete some of them since most go to the Delete file and if I'm not keeping them on my own computer there's no reason to keep them on someone else's server.) Now I'm more confused than before, which is saying something. Also, the one subfolder I copied as an experiment up out of Local Folders into the main Inbox has been REPRODUCED on the ISP's server. I assumed communication was one way, but is the ISP reading what's on my computer and reproducing it??? Since I've been moving most of what it sends me to Delete or to the Local Folders, does the ISP then delete those same emails off its server? Everything that happens regarding modern email confuses me.

    On the other hand, in terms of sending and receiving, everything works great (as long as I don't mind closing and reopening Thunderbird to receive). The emails themselves are arriving, leaving, being stored. It's the PROCESS that's a confusing mystery.

    I also did experiment with the folder views but never found anything that gave me what I want, but I thank you for that suggestion also.

    I'm going to mark this thread Solved not because anything was solved (other than the sub-issue of how to Print Screen; we nailed that) but because I think we've done all the good we're going to do and I don't want to clog up the "active questions" works.
     
  6. TerryNet

    TerryNet Moderator

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    When you use IMAP the messages on the mail server and on each device accessing it are synced. So, yes, making a change (deleting, moving, copying, etc.) to a folder or message on your computer in Thunderbird should be reflected on the server and on any other device accessing the account. More ISPs are finally updating to IMAP, and it is the option to choose when available.
     
  7. MichaelinTexas

    MichaelinTexas Thread Starter

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    Thanks again for the (in this case instant) information. I am an old fogey; it creeps me out that my ISP server knows what *I* do with email on MY computer, right down to what folders I have it organized into and what I put where. I did NOT realize that was what IMAP did. I thought it just kept everything ON the ISP server indefinitely so it could be downloaded by more than one device. (I don't understand how that's supposed to work, but I only use one device, so I don't need to understand it.) I have half a mind to go back to POP just so the Charter server won't be spying on me. However, I'm not at all sure I could pull that off.
     
  8. TerryNet

    TerryNet Moderator

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    You're welcome. :)
     
  9. MichaelinTexas

    MichaelinTexas Thread Starter

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    I thought I would add something here on developments since my last post, in case it might help anyone else with a similar problem.

    To recap, when I moved to a new computer, I changed from Outlook Express (no longer available) to Thunderbird, changed from POP to IMAP, successfully imported my Outlook Express emails but wound up with a screwy file structure (illustrated above), and couldn't get Thunderbird to check for new emails without closing and reopening the app (though sporadically it would check for them every 10 or 11 hours sometimes).

    I only download emails to one device, my desktop computer. I have no data plan on my cellphone and don't use a tablet, laptop, etc. I decided I did not like the privacy implications of IMAP -- I didn't really understand what "syncing" consisted of, and didn't know that if I deleted an email on my computer, for instance, that would be communicated back to my ISP where the corresponding email would be deleted there, also. I don't want my ISP in my business that far.

    I also wondered if it might not be possible to fix my file structure directly -- instead of copying folders within Thunderbird (which I did once as a test, and it worked, but took forever, and left a duplicate folder at the original location), if I could move them in Windows Explorer.

    I still have my old computer operational and hooked to the internet, so I used it as a test bed. I installed Thunderbird there, set my email up as a POP account again, copied the Thunderbird profile over from my new computer, studied the POP folder setup in the new profile on the old computer, and started copying and moving folders around in the new, experimental installation. (The only thing I had to be careful about was making sure I didn't accidentally download any emails to the experimental version, which I planned to uninstall.)

    It worked great! The POP account was verified with my ISP (who no longer include the POP settings on their website, so I had to Google around to find out what they were), and the file structure was exactly what I wanted! I still had the local folders down at the bottom, but they were empty; all the folders with Outlook Express emails in them were now subfolders to the main Inbox and Sent folders.

    So then I came back to my new computer. I tried to start a new POP account with the same email address, and was surprised it appeared to work -- until I tried to delete the IMAP account, when Thunderbird wouldn't do anything till I fixed there being two accounts with the same address. (I might could have changed the IMAP address, but I decided not to take the chance.) So I deleted the POP account (which was the only thing Thunderbird would LET me do at that point) and had to try something else.

    Having made a copy of the profile, I tamped down my fear and uninstalled Thunderbird. Even knowing the program files and the document files are stored entirely separately; that the profile with the documents in it is NOT automatically deleted when the program is uninstalled (I was quite surprised to find a profile folder on the old computer when I reinstalled the test version of Thunderbird over there); and that I had an extra copy of the profile just in case -- it still made me nervous. I reinstalled it as a POP account from scratch and then started trying to recreate the changes to the file structure. But the default, empty file structure that came with Thunderbird was not the same on my new computer as on the old (because Thunderbird adjusted for the different operating systems??), so it was a scary process. In fact, it took a second try days later to get it right -- there was a "sent" folder and a "sent files" folder on my new computer, whereas there'd only been one or the other of those on the old computer, and I didn't make that change right the first time.

    But in the end it worked out. It really was true that I could change the folder arrangement I saw on the screen by moving folders around in the file structure inside the profile. Nothing got lost; everything works. It really is user friendly; it's merely scary to mess with stuff like that.

    Oh, and as a bonus -- Thunderbird now checks for new mail when it's supposed to. I get my mail when it arrives instead of having to shut down and restart Thunderbird. I have NO IDEA if that's a Thunderbird problem, or if it's a problem with my ISP's IMAP server versus its POP server. But in solving the POP problem I also solved the new mail problem.

    Sorry this is so long. I just wanted to report to the community that you CAN alter the folder structure directly, just by moving stuff around in Windows Explorer (but be careful; use an example if you can) AND that changing from IMAP to POP solved the timing issue on checking for new mail, for whatever reason.
     
  10. TerryNet

    TerryNet Moderator

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    Glad you found something that works for you. :)

    FWIW, I think that your problem was something strange and unique, not really a bug in Thunderbird or your mail service.

    Also, too late to help you, but whenever I get or install a new system (Windows or Linux) I install Thunderbird and then "clone" from another system by simply copying the contents of the profile. Once you got it working on your old PC you could have done this to clone to your newer PC. I just copy files, but the official way to do this is to use MozBackup (I see that it is now unsupported).

    I commend your practice of making a copy of whatever file or directory before "playing" with it. (y)
     
  11. MichaelinTexas

    MichaelinTexas Thread Starter

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    I suspect that I'm about to answer a question no one is asking. However, after making my previous post, it seemed to me I'd just kind of waved my hand at the issue of changing the Thunderbird file structure. If (and I admit this is wildly unlikely) someone wanted to emulate what I'd done, I might not have been all that helpful. So I made a couple of screen shots to illustrate, and I might as well use them.

    (As an aside, my inability -- until Terrynet told me about the FN key -- to make Print Screen work on my new computer led me, out of desperation, to figure out the Snipping Tool -- and now I PREFER the Snipping Tool. It saves the step of using an image program to crop the screen cap [in the likely event of not wanting to share the entire screen]. Of course in this case I had to use an image program for some privacy blurring, but still, if anyone is not using the Snipping Tool, I recommend it -- even though at first I turned to it only out of despair.)

    After I imported emails from Outlook Express, and installed Thunderbird with my primary email account as IMAP, this is about what the file structure looked like:

    Thunderbird File Structure 1.jpg

    As you can see, there's IMAP mail, which is where the Inbox was that received new messages, but then there was Mail\Local Folders\Outlook Express Import, and under that Inbox and Sent Items, within which each subfolder requires two files, one with no suffix and another MSF file. This led to the visible folder structure partially illustrated (there wasn't room for Sent Files in either case) in an earlier post in this thread. (By way of explanation, the Bill and Nancy folder under the main, IMAP Inbox in the earlier post was the result of an experiment in moving the folders by copying within Thunderbird, which took forever and resulted in duplicate folders.)

    This is what it looked like after I moved stuff around:

    Thunderbird File Structure 2.jpg

    There's still an IMAP mail -- not sure why; possibly a product of the awkward way I installed, uninstalled, reinstalled Thunderbird to get from IMAP to POP. There's also still a Local Folders, that seems to be unavoidable, it always hangs around down at the bottom of the folder list. But the point is that they are both empty now, and the IMAP ones don't display at all. I moved all the Outlook Express Import folders and files under pop.charter.net, which was where the active Inbox and Sent files are, and sure enough, they display as subfolders of the active Inbox and Sent folders in Thunderbird. The last wrinkle was a difference between Sent Items and just Sent; I had to move folders to Sent to get them to display correctly.

    That may all be as clear as mud, in which case I apologize. My underlying point remains the same -- moving the imported folders inside the folders for the active Inbox and Sent folders does work, it moves the folders there in the display. That may seem obvious to you, but it was not obvious to me; I thought it just as likely that they would not display at all, or I'd get an error message that Thunderbird could not continue (like I got when I tried to have IMAP and POP accounts for the same email address at the same time so I could delete the IMAP one). Always back up first in case your results differ; do your best to understand how the folder structure works before you mess with it; don't delete any of the Thunderbird-created folders or try to rename them, just move stuff INTO them if you want it to be subfolders for those folders.

    I'll shut up now.
     
    Last edited: Jun 5, 2017
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