Thunderbird Gmail with IMAP and OAuth2If you use Thunderbird to download e-mails from your Gmail account, it may stop working soon.

You may remember a similar thing happening not long ago. Google insisted that POP3 mail accounts were, “not secure enough”.

So, you had to go through a convoluted process on Google to enable “less secure” Tbird to play nicely with POP3 for Gmail.

Right. Now, Gmail will effectively shut off POP3 completely for Thunderbird users by May 30, 2022.

So, how do you fix it?

What’s happening

The other day, I received this:

Thunderbird not secure with Gmail
Alrighty then.

This time, there isn’t an option to make it work anyway with Gmail. Your only option is to switch over from POP3 to IMAP in Thunderbird.

But why?

Honestly? Because Google wants to spy on you better.

I mean, this is the company that gave you a 1GB storage space with your brand new e-mail account years ago – as long as you agreed that they get to read all your mail.

So, sure – OAuth 2.0 is all whiz-bang secure, but don’t kid yourself. This is not happening for your safety and security.

Nevertheless, there’s not much you can do about it. So, we carry on.

Convert your POP3 Gmail setup to IMAP in Thunderbird

I won’t go into a long and dramatic explanation of the differences between POP3 and IMAP. Suffice it to say that they’re different, and they each have their strengths and weaknesses.

Step 1: Delete your POP3 Gmail account

Click the hamburger button, then choose Account Settings:

Thunderbid Account Settings
Scroll down in the left-hand column and find your Gmail account. Select it.

Then, in the Account Actions pulldown menu below it, choose Remove Account:

Thunderbird Delete / Add Account
That will remove your Gmail POP3 mail account. Alrighty then!

Step 2: Add your Gmail account as IMAP

Next, in the same pulldown menu, click Add Mail Account.

You’ll see a screen like this:

Thunderbird Add Mail Account
Enter your name, Gmail address, and password for your Gmail account.

Since Thunderbird will automatically choose to set up an IMAP account for you (instead of POP3), you don’t have to worry about any advanced settings.

You’ll be asked to log in to Google/Gmail via a popup window. Go ahead and get ‘er done.

At that point, you should see a screen like so:

Thunderbid Gmail Setup Complete
If you want to connect your Address Book and Calendar, you can. I didn’t.

Just click Finish, and you’ll see:

Thunderbird IMAP account cannot use Global Inbox
This is where you might freak out – IF you are using Thunderbird’s Global Inbox feature.

The Global Inbox allows you to have like 200 e-mail accounts, but all the mail from all those accounts goes into the same Inbox, Drafts, Sent, etc.

You’ll notice that your Gmail account has its own Inbox, Junk, and so on. If you go into the new IMAP Gmail account settings, you will NOT find the option to make the account use the Global Inbox – because you can’t!

The Global Inbox feature apparently only works for POP3 accounts. For IMAP, no dice…

Oh, man… Can I fix it?

Yes, you can!

Tbird has a wonderful feature known as the Unified Folder view. This feature does almost the same thing as the Global Inbox, but it also works for IMAP accounts.

To turn it on, tap the Alt key on your keyboard, click View, go to Folders, and then click Unified:

Thunderbird Unified Folder view
Ta-DA!!

If you want to customize the color of the Unified Folders, you can see my article: Thunderbird 78: Change is in the air, but don’t panic! and search for the section: Whatever! How do I get my colored folder icons back?

Then there’s this:

Thunderbird All Folders

If you don’t want the All Folders view in the left pane, you can UNcheck All using the same process above that you used to enable the Unified view!

Once you’re done, your list of folders will look almost exactly like it did before – and your Gmail will work fine via IMAP instead of POP3.

Well, it’ll work until Google insists that we need to use 2-Factor Authentication and add a drop of blood (or a hair sample) every time we want to download mail…

But for now, you’re safe! πŸ˜‰

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