How to Transfer Your Contacts From Live to Thunderbird

by Fraser Sherman

If you switch email programs from Windows Live Mail to Mozilla's Thunderbird, you can import your archived emails into Thunderbird directly -- but not your contact addresses. Instead, you have to perform two separate operations: one to export your address book, then a second to import it to Thunderbird. As Thunderbird doesn't interact directly with Live, there's no risk of your original contact information getting mangled in the transition -- if something goes wrong, all you'll lose is a copy of the address book, so you can try again.



Click "Start" and "All Programs," then open "Windows Contacts" and click "Export" on the toolbar.


Tell the program to save your contacts as a CSV, or Comma Separated Values, file, a generic file format for exporting and importing information between different software. The alternative is to save them as a VCF file -- vCard -- but Mozilla recommends choosing CSV.


Press "Export" again and select a name and location for storing the CSV file containing your data. Saving it to your desktop is a good option. Once Windows Contacts tells you it's finished exporting, click "OK" and "Close."



Open Thunderbird, click the "Tools" menu and select "Import." Thunderbird offers options to import addresses, mail, settings or filters from programs such as Live. You can also select "Everything" as an option.


Pick the type of file you want to import from the list Thunderbird offers; in this case, the file type is CSV. Thunderbird then asks you to locate the specific file you want to import, so find it on your desktop or wherever you chose to place it.


Press "Open" to open the CSV file and bring up a window with the imported contact list data fields -- name, address, email, work phone, mobile and so on -- in order on the right and the fields in Thunderbird's address book on the left. Use the "Move Up" and "Move Down" buttons beside the window to move Thunderbird fields around until they match the corresponding information, and unclick any fields you don't wish to use.


Review the address book fields to confirm you've aligned the Windows Live and Thunderbird data properly, then click "OK."


  • If you wish to import some of your Windows Live emails as well as the address book, Mozilla recommends downloading the ImportExportTools add-on for Thunderbird and using that for an easy transfer. Mozilla recommends to back up your emails first.
  • Thunderbird sorts addresses by the contacts' first names, but you can set it to order them by last name: Open the "Address Book" window, then click on "View," "Show Name As" and "Last, First."


  • If you mismatch the data fields when you transfer your address book, you end up with problems such as phone numbers entered where Thunderbird says the first name goes.

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About the Author

A graduate of Oberlin College, Fraser Sherman began writing in 1981. Since then he's researched and written newspaper and magazine stories on city government, court cases, business, real estate and finance, the uses of new technologies and film history. Sherman has worked for more than a decade as a newspaper reporter, and his magazine articles have been published in "Newsweek," "Air & Space," "Backpacker" and "Boys' Life." Sherman is also the author of three film reference books, with a fourth currently under way.

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