Thunderbird 3.1.1 POP3 Email Account Set-Up

July 24, 2010 in Tutorials by Tom Henderson

For the past six months, I have been using Mozilla Thunderbird (version 2) email software on my new custom-built computer, though I actually do most of my emailing on my old XP computer running Microsoft Outlook.

I’ve been planning to assist a friend set up a new Thunderbird POP3 email account, so last night I was playing with setting up new accounts to familiarize myself with the required steps. After creating a few faux accounts last night, I was prepared to assist them this afternoon.

I went to their house and we downloaded and installed Thunderbird version 3.1.1. “I’ve already set up your account on the server, so this should be a snap to create your new account on your machine”, I said.

I opened Thunderbird and selected “File… New… Mail Account…” and up came a screen I hadn’t seen before, the “Mail Account Setup” screen. It was obvious this was a different version than the one I was using, but it shouldn’t be that big a deal to set up a new POP3 email account.

After entering my friend’s name, email address and password into the “Mail Account Setup” screen, I clicked the “Continue” button. Instantly, Thunderbird went online and (presumably) checked the available configurations on our email server and automatically set the account to an IMAP email account.

Well, that’s a neat trick, but I wanted to set up a POP3 account. (POP3 goes to the server and downloads the mail to your computer, clearing off the mail server, while IMAP just gets a copy of the email, while also leaving a copy on the server. That’s not what we wanted).

We then proceeded to spend the next 15-20 minutes looking for a way to change the account from IMAP to POP3. After checking every conceivable account setting, I search the Internet. I read one post that said, after clicking the “Continue” button, you had to quickly click the “Stop” button, to interrupt the process of Thunderbird checking your mail server settings online. Then you can select to change the account from IMAP to POP3.

That’s great in theory, and does work on my home computer, but it didn’t work on my friend’s computer. Before you could click the “Stop” button, Thunderbird had already set the incoming mail type to IMAP!

I thought, OK… I know a way to keep Thunderbird from accessing the mail server settings! So, I unplugged the Ethernet cable connecting the computer to the router. I recreated the account… clicked “Continue” and Thunderbird sat and spun, trying to access the Internet as I clicked the “Stop” button. Success! After a few seconds, Thunderbird gave up in compliance!

When it gave up, the account was still set to the default IMAP, but there was a select menu that also offered the POP option. I selected POP and changed the port number from 143 to the POP port of 110, and successfully created the new POP3 email account.

Let me ask you though, what the heck were the Thunderbird developers thinking when they decided to automatically set new accounts to IMAP, without an easy way for users to change that selection to POP?

On some computers, (such as my Windows 7 PC), you can successfully click the “Stop” button, as is illustrated in my “Thunderbird 3.1.1. POP3 Email Account Set Up” video. On other computers, (like my friend’s Windows Vista PC), you may have to temporarily unplug your computer from the Internet when creating the account. On other computers, (like my friend’s old XP PC), unplugging it from their Internet just causes it to sit and spin forever, and clicking the “Stop” button just throws an error.

Hopefully Thunderbird will get this problem figured out and offer a patch for it in the near future, as Molizza Thunderbird really is an excellent, free email client. Until then, try one of the methods mentioned above.

To illustrate how clicking the “Stop” button allows you to select POP email, along with demonstrating a few other necessary changes, like changing the port number, I have created a quick 1:00 minute video. “Thunderbird 3.1.1. POP3 Email Account Set Up“.