Convert Outlook PST files/messages to EML files/messages and import into Thunderbird … free and quickly!

OK, so I’ve been using Outlook for YEARS (many) and I have two HUGE PST archive files (I’m an email hoarder and I admit it).  One is 1GB and the other is 4GB.  They work fine in Outlook (2010) of course and I can peruse them at will.  I recently decided to ditch Outlook because our corp. switched to Google and as good of an idea as Google App Sync is, it stinks in keeping my Outlook email properly synced with my GMail (no matter what I try).  I hate Google’s web mail interface with a passion, so I wanted to look for an alternative email client.  Yes, I know that Outlook can do IMAP and that this would probably get rid of my syncing problem, but in this process I discovered just how proprietary Microsoft’s PST format is – and of course that set me off.

Enter Thunderbird … the awesome, open source email client with features and add-ons galore!  It works great for everything I needed except one thing … it can’t import an Outlook PST file.  After quite a bit of searching the Internet, and a lot of trial and error, I found that there are extremely few free and fast ways to convert an Outlook PST file into something “normal”.  Since I have over 100,000 emails (yes, you read that number correctly) in my PST archive files, it is no easy (or quick) task to convert them.  Everything I tried was either going to take literally hours to days or just plain was not going to be free.  Well, being the type of person that I am, I had to find a fast, free way to do this.  Here is the solution that is working (even as I type this) for me (it has already converted over 10,000 of my emails in a relatively short amount of time):

  • You (of course) have to have Outlook and Thunderbird installed
  • You need to download and install Outlook Freeware’s Export Messages to EML Format which also requires their runtime environment (Yes you have to register and no, it’s not a scam/adware/spyware or anything as far as I can tell)
  • Download and install the ImportExportTools add-on for Thunderbird
  • Fire up Outlook and Thunderbird
  • In Outlook, right-click on the folder where the messages are that you want to export and choose the “Outlook Freeware” menu and then “Run”
  • Click on the Outlook Freeware Export Messages to EML Format and work your way through the subsequent menus eventually selecting the Windows directory where you want it to put the EML files it will create.
  • Now in Thunderbird, create a new folder (a local folder if you want this to be fast, not an IMAPed folder) where you want these messages to reside.
  • Right click on the local folder you created in Thunderbird and select the ImportExportTools menu option and select “Import all messages from a directory” and navigate to the Windows directory where you placed all of the EML files that you exported above.
  • Voila!  You now have your PST file messages in Thunderbird!

This was the fastest method I could find to do this.  It exported and imported thousands of messages in minutes.  I’m not going to go into all of the other methods that I tried, but suffice it to say that literally hours into one method with only about 5000 messages imported, I hit Google’s relatively undocumented IMAP throughput wall, which intentionally killed my IMAP connection and thus the entire process (what a grand waste of my time)!  If you have thousands upon thousands of email messages in a PST that you want imported into a more “normal” email program like Thunderbird, this is the fastest, free way to do it in my humble opinion.