Thunderbird and Norton AntiVirus

Album Cover: White Blood Cells

"Every breath that is in your lungs is a tiny little gift to me."
White Stripes / Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground

Posted on May 10, 2004 8:14 PM in Computers
Warning: This blog entry was written two or more years ago. Therefore, it may contain broken links, out-dated or misleading content, or information that is just plain wrong. Please read on with caution.

I had quite a scare this evening. After eating some dinner I sat down at my computer and brought it back from hibernation. I noticed that Thunderbird was sluggish to "come back to life," and that whenever my mouse pointer was anywhere over the user interface, it displayed as an hourglass. After 25 seconds or so, I was presented with a pop-up alert from my virus scanning software, Norton AntiVirus, notifying me of a virus that had been automatically removed from my computer. Having seen these types of messages before, I wasn't all that concerned, even when a second pop-up appeared immediately after closing the first.

I noticed, however, that after the two messages had gone away that Thunderbird was still unresponsive. I decided to close it down and try a restart. When I did, Thunderbird launched without a hitch. It didn't take long, though, for me to realize that two of my three main inboxes were completely empty. This concerned me quite greatly, as information pertaining to projects I've been working on and several emails I had yet to reply to had completely disappeared. Almost immediately my thoughts turned to those two virus notifications I had received, and I immediately opened up the Norton AntiVirus interface to see if there was anything I could do about my missing inboxes.

After a little hunting, I came to the conclusion that Norton AntiVirus's solution to "repairing" the viruses it had found was to delete the inbox (in my case, inboxes) that the virus was found in. As you can imagine, this is not very desirable. Luckily, I was able to find the Quarantined Items management panel in the Reports section. From here it was possible to restore any folders or files that Norton AntiVirus had removed during its "repairs," and it didn't take long to spot my two Thunderbird inboxes, which I subsequently restored to their original locations. Since nothing ever goes smoothly the first time around, I then launched Thunderbird, and watched as my inboxes were immediately "repaired" yet again. Having learned from my mistake, I restored the folders again, disabled Norton AntiVirus temporarily, relaunched Thunderbird, removed the two obviously infected emails (which were the same for both email accounts), and enabled Norton AntiVirus. I then breathed a big sigh of relief, as I have my Thunderbird inboxes back.

The irony of it all is that I've specifically set Norton AntiVirus up to ignore any and all email, and to scan only files on my computer. Now I suppose, in the grand scheme of things, emails are actually files on my computer, but I assumed Norton AntiVirus would be smart enough to recognize that Inbox files in my Thunderbird application folder are email related files. I guess I was wrong. I now think that when telling Norton AntiVirus to abstain from scanning emails, you're really just telling it to stay away from Microsoft Outlook or Microsoft Outlook Express. If that is the case, it's a real shame, because Thunderbird is quickly becoming a popular email program, and it's certainly worth its weight in gold when compared to Microsoft's email products.

It's a real shame that this kind of thing can happen to any computer user who has done things to protect his or her computer (like installing an antivirus program or using an application like Thunderbird that is so much safer than the Outlook variants). I think a majority of users wouldn't have been able to recover their inbox(es) and would have resigned to the fact that their inboxes had been lost for good...


Norton AntiVirus Screenshot

...Just appeared as I was writing this entry.



Arcanius on May 10, 2004 at 11:56 PM:

Its funny only because that "Virus" is an MSIE-only thing....


Bernie Zimmermann on May 12, 2004 at 10:27 AM:

Oh, the irony! ;)


Alon Frumer on January 14, 2005 at 10:25 AM:

I ran into the exact same problem...

Once I recovered my file I then configured Norton to exclude scanning the inbox file from Thunderbird. The following link helpped a lot.


SonDan on June 08, 2005 at 5:52 PM:

Hello Bernie,

Perhaps what happened to you is what happened to me. I have been in a dither the past weeks scouring the net for a way to get my e-mails back. When my pc became sluggish I initially thought that Norton was the problem, but I never suspected it ate my mail and Thunderbird settings. I thought that Norton was running hard becasue I had some type of virus that it could not detact and/or kill.

So I updated my Norton and ran a complete scan. it found nothing. Then I made sure my Spybot Search & destroy was updated and ran it. I made sure my Ad-aware was updated and ran it. I ran my Spyware Doctor. Nothing more was found. I always use my Zone Alarm Firewall so I went online to look for more security. I found 'Panda Online" and used it. It found 8 spywares and deleted them. I called it a night.

The next day that I log on to get my mail my Thunderbird asks me to set up an account. All three of my accounts, mailboxes and local folders had disappeared. After I literally cried, I pulled my self together and wrote to the Thunderbird form (3 times to date and I have gotten no response yet) I searched the Mozilla Knowledgeebase and found a way to check to see if my profiles was in tact and it seems to be.

Now after finding your post during my search a light bulb went off and I guess Norton quarantined my mail. But I don't see anything that looks
like my mail in the quarantined folder ... only files with numerical names.

Can you or anyone reading this please help me out of my misery? I just want to get my mail back. Once I do. I will delete Tbird and try out Eudora. I got Tbird because I thought it would be more secure that OE.

Guess I Was wrong.

God Bless.


Bernie Zimmermann on June 19, 2005 at 8:35 PM:

SonDan, I believe you're in the wrong for blaming Thunderbird and not Norton. Norton isn't "smart" enough to realize the infected inbox is actually a repository and not a file, and is therefore quarantining the whole thing. It is a bit unfortunate that Thunderbird stores entire email folders in a single file, but still, if you follow the steps I took above and then use the link Alon provided to prevent the issue from occurring again, I think you'll find smooth sailing with Thunderbird from that moment on. Best of luck to you.


David Wilding on June 20, 2005 at 2:18 AM:

Hi everyone. I too have just (today) had Thunderbird zap all my mail folders and inboxes. But they are all still there on my hard drive in the Documents and Settings section of my main hard drive partition (C:). I don't use Norton but Kaspersky and they have not been quarantined. Is it at all possible to tell Thunderbird that it should look at those folders and mailboxes again? Some very important messages there. I have no idea why it happened. Those messages are not, therefore, lost but Thunderbird cannot see them. But I, of course NEED THEM! HELP!!


Dean on January 13, 2006 at 8:05 PM:

Help! I may seem alittle computer illiterate but it happened to me today. I shut down computer. When I rebooted thunderbird was brand new asking me to set up new profile. I have found the email accounts in a folder but they seem empty and I have no idea how to restore them or if it even can be done and if it is done will the emails be there? Help!


3DJ on March 01, 2006 at 9:46 AM:

check this : and follow to a tee, you'll get your fix hopefully, I did...


Bizuayehu Tesfaye on May 31, 2007 at 2:44 AM:

I want to come back quarantine could possible this?


Lu on April 20, 2008 at 3:09 PM:

Bernie, you posted just another reason to use a different antivirus software (I recommend ESET NOD32).


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