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Thunderbird seems to be arbitrarily deleting folder contents

Thunderbird seems to have embarked on a campaign of deleting the contents of my folders. It seems automatically to delete my Sent messages that are older than about two months, but in the last day or two it has excelled itself by 1) deleting the ENTIRE content of one of my local folders, and 2) deleting all but three files from another local folder (with those surviving three being from way back in February). I haven’t dared check all the other local folders, but I fear the worst. I can’t afford to keep losing files like this, and I shall have to change to a different e-mail client if I can’t stop Thunderbird from (arbitrarily?) deleting folder contents.

The program version is 3.1.4. I’ve checked all the account settings. The “Empty Deleted Folder on Exit” box is not ticked, and the “Don’t Delete Any Messages” button in Disc Space is filled. I’ve tried ‘Repair Folder’ in ‘Folder Properties’, but nothing has been restored. I’ve compacted folders at intervals, with no apparent effect.

The blurb for Thunderbird 3.1 refers to an Archive folder. Very good, and perhaps it’s where all the deleted messages are being automatically sent to. Under “Copies and Folders” in “Account Settings”, there’s allegedly an “Archives” folder under my name. The only thing is: where is it? The only reference of any sort that I can find is in the drop-down “Message” menu, of which the second entry is “Archive”, but it’s always greyed-out, so I can’t get at it. I can’t find any “Archive” folder anywhere else, and as I’m running it all on Windows 7, the useless Windows 7 Search function can’t find one either.

1. Best of all, of course, would be to stop Thunderbird from automatically(?) deleting file contents at all. (I use the word ‘automatically’ here rather loosely: I don’t know what’s triggering the process. I can, and I have, deleted files manually, but those are specific files which I know that I don’t want. I certainly don’t do wholesale deletions of all files older than some arbitrary date, or the entire file content of some folder or local folder.)

2. Failing that, where is the “Archives” folder? There’s nothing of that name visible in the left-hand column of the opening screen. Beneath my name, there’s Inbox, Draft, Sent, Junk and Deleted, and then Local Folders and their names. But no Archive or Archives.
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  • Have you checked the individual folders via folder properties, retention policy, to make sure they aren't somehow overriding the per-account settings? And you're sure you checked each account's disk space settings?

    If you never archive anything, we don't create an Archives folder, i.e., we create it on demand, the first time you archive a message.

    As long as you don't compact your local folders, you can get the messages back - see http://kb.mozillazine.org/Undelete_a_... for more info.
    • David -

      Thank you for your reply. It’s getting late in the day here, and my head is beginning to spin (I translate, which means that I sit and drive a computer more or less all day), so it’s not a good time to try anything that needs meticulous care. I’ve just had a quick look under the bonnet, but not tried to alter anything.

      So yes: I’ve looked at Local Folders / Properties, and found that there’s a bit of a mix there. Some had the “Use my account settings” square box ticked, while those that didn’t have it ticked had the “Don’t delete any messages” had the round button filled in. But even the first group should have been safe, in that the “Don’t delete any messages” round button was filled in there.

      In my post to the forum, I described one local folder as having been emptied apart from three old files from February. Two points here: 1) I think that I probably moved the three February files from the main inbox to the local folder in the last couple of weeks or so, so that they were put into it after it had been mysteriously emptied by whatever’s causing the problem. 2) Unfortunately, just because of that thought, and this morning before you replied, I had done the very thing that the Mozilla article warns against, of compacting the folder. Result: no restored files, but the three February ones still safely there. But I’ve got other local folders that haven’t been compacted: I’ll check them carefully to try and work out if older files in them have been deleted. But not immediately now: as said, I don’t want to do anything careless.

      Space, disc space: not sure what the situation is here, but I don’t think that I’ve ever received or sent e-mails with attachments larger than about 2 Mb, and there is/are/were only a few dozen of them. I would also have deleted the Incoming ones after I had transferred them to their appropriate storage files in Word, but I tend to leave outgoing ones in the Sent folder as a sort of safety back-up or repository, which is why I’m rather unamused by Thunderbird having apparently done away with them. I realise now more or less how the Archive system works, and I’ll try transferring files to an Archive folder in future. (This illustrates a weakness of Thunderbird, in that there are no instructions. I’ve no idea, for example, what ‘Starred’ messages are, or what the weird symbol between the ‘Subject’ and ‘From’ headings above the folder contents means.)

      Anyway, that’s enough laughs a minute for now: I’ll work through the Mozilla article tomorrow or on Monday. Oh yes, that reminds me: I did find an item in the Thunderbird forum where it was suggested that this problem (of unwanted deletions) might have been caused by an over-enthusiastic anti-virus program. I’ve got BT’s 24/7 real-time McAfee protection on this computer (BT: British Telecom to you), and I’ve asked BT if they’ve had other queries about Thunderbird users having problems.

      Regards

      - Neil Muir
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  • Neil,
    Did you ever figure this out? I am having similar problems (sort of). Please see my post "Local folder deletes trash message body ."
    Any idea how to attract the attention of an employee to answer some of these questions?
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  • Shrewsbury, 2010-11-07

    Hi there “TB User” -

    Did I sort it out? Well, yes and no: more No than Yes.

    The Yes is only a suspicion: that, as with many other computer problems, the answer is often human error. I’m beginning to suspect that Thunderbird, rather like the old IBM memory typewriters, is unforgiving of anything not done EXACTLY the correct way. My suspicion is that, instead of deleting something (something that I wanted to delete, that is) by ticking or clicking the correct boxes or labels or icons or whatever, I used the Delete button on the keyboard, which is a perfectly acceptable action in most programs. I emphasise that this is only a suspicion. So since wondering about this, I’ve been particularly careful to do things By The Book. (It’s a pity only that there isn’t an actual book: i.e. basic instructions on how to use Thunderbird. Whenever there’s a version upgrade, we get lots of PR blurb about how this or that wonderful function has been added, but nothing in actual terms of telling you which key to press and what box to look for and tick. This ties up with your query of how to contact live human beings actually designing Thunderbird.

    So, sorry: my only suggestion is that you check very carefully that you’re doing tasks the way that Thunderbird permits.

    Best regards
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  • Neil,
    Did you ever find the "archive" folders? I think by hitting "control A" it basically creates an archive folder on your mail server/ provider (at least for IMAP).

    I always suspect my personal human error for most computer problems.

    A light bulb went on for one of my problems (maybe). I'd been moving deleted items from my individual ISP folders in the "unified" folders to the "Local" trash folder in the unified folders for long term storage.

    That is the point some retention policy I can't find would kick in and delete message bodies for stuff older than 2 months. Sent items and other folders don't seem to be haunted by this problem.

    However, there is a second set of local folders that is outside of the unified folders. I have had stuff sitting there that has not disappeared yet. Going into the profile file structure, the unified folder local folder and the non-unified local folder seem to be different. (Again, all guesses because I can't find documentation on how the file structure works).

    I will give this a go and see if works.

    It also looks like FLOSS has been working on a manual
    http://en.flossmanuals.net/bin/view/T...

    This section talks about archive:
    http://en.flossmanuals.net/bin/view/T...

    I'd not realized the archive could be set to a local folder. This might be somewhat of a solution to your problem.
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  • Since last T'Bird update my "deleted" folder deletes every time I switch off but I have NOT ticked "Empty deleted folder on exit". It worked fine before now. PLEASE ADVISE: surely I am not the only one? .
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