Migrating Email and Contacts from Windows to Apple


This page describes how to copy email messages and other content from a Windows computer to an Apple Mac OS X computer.


Apple OS X has a migration assistant that is designed to simplify the process of switching from Windows to Mac. However, the migration assistant sometimes doesn’t work, or it can create a mess if you’re bringing in a lot of files you don’t want (it’s not selective). Sometimes manually bringing in your data is best.


It would be nice if you could copy your Windows Mail or Outlook Express user profile files to an Apple computer and have Apple Mail import these. However, Apple and/or Microsoft aren’t permitting this. Follow these instructions to make the transfer:

  1. Install Mozilla Thunderbird on your Windows computer.
  2. Download the Thunderbird Import Export Tools Add-on.
  3. Import/Export Tools. From the Thunderbird Tools menu, you can choose Ad-ons. Then choose Install (you may need to click on the little gear if you have the latest version of Thunderbird), then choose the Import Export add-on file you just downloaded in step #2 above. This will install the additional import/export features. You’ll need to restart Thunderbird for the new features to be activated.
  4. Messages. You’ll first want to import all mail account information from whatever client you were using on your Windows computer into the Thunderbird program.
  5. At this point, now that you’ve imported everything into Thunderbird, you can use the Export feature in Thunderbird to export your mailboxes (from the Tools menu).
  6. As an alternative to step #5, you could copy the entire user profile folder. The profile folder is in a hidden folder under your user account.
    • For Windows XP, it’s in the Documents and Settings > UserName > Application Data > Thunderbird > Profiles.
    • For Windows Vista, Windows 7, or later, it’s under Users > UserName > AppData > Roaming > Thunderbird > Profiles.
    • The profile folder will be named with random characters. You’ll want to copy the entire profile folder onto a USB flash drive or other drive to be read by the Apple computer and converted.
  7. Contacts. It may be necessary to separately export your contacts to a contacts file from the mail system you’re using. Or, import them into Thunderbird and have them included in the transfer separately.
    • The process for exporting contacts depends on what email system you’re using. In Thunderbird, go to Address Book > Tools > Export and choose LDIF format. Or, in other systems, if vCard is available, use that file format.
  8. At this point, you should have copied your exported contacts and files (or the user profile folder) onto a USB flash drive or other drive.
  9. On the Apple computer, from the Mail program, choose Import Mailboxes from the File menu. Then select Import data from Thunderbird. The process should bring in your mailboxes and put them in a folder in Mail under the On My Computer heading.
  10. For the contacts, on the Apple computer, open Contacts, then from the File menu, choose Import and select the contacts file you created in step #7 above. This will bring the contacts into your Apple contacts directory.


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