Preserving Email Content After Leaving SFU

If you are a student (includes Alumni), staff, or faculty member leaving SFU for any reason other than retirement, your SFU Computing account will be converted into an SFU Limited Access ID account one year after your last active term. Consequently, your SFU Mail account will be destroyed and its contents will no longer be recoverable. For this reason, you may wish to transfer the email contents of your SFU Mail account prior to this conversion.

Preserving several years of email content can be achieved using a desktop email application such as Thunderbird, Mac Mail, or a similar alternative that can be synced with SFU Mail using an IMAP connection. All messages and folders are then copied to the local email application. Below are instructions on how to set up the connection and transfer messages.

Please note that set up may vary depending on the operating system and version of Mozilla Thunderbird.

Setting up the mail application

1. Download Thunderbird from
Once downloaded and installed, you will need to set up a connection to an existing email account.

2. Open the Thunderbird application on your computer.

3. Click on the Settings icon found in the upper right corner of the Thunderbird window.

4. From the New Message menu, follow the drop-down and select Existing Mail Account.

5. Fill out the fields in the Mail Account Setup prompt:

  • Your Name: Type in your name as you want it to be displayed.
  • Email address: Type in your SFU computing ID followed by "". For example, if your ID is "demo1", type in "".
  • Password: Type in your SFU computing account password.

When you have finished completing these fields, click Continue and Thunderbird will proceed with verifying your account information and email server.

6. Click on the 'Manual Config' button.

A new set of fields will appear. Enter the following information:

For SFU Mail:

  • Incoming: IMAP    Server hostname:           Port: 993    SSL: SSL/TLS    Authentication: Normal password
  • Outgoing: SMTP    Server hostname:    Port: 465    SSL: SSL/TLS    Authentication: Normal password

When finished, click Done. The folders from your SFU Mail account will begin populating on the left folder listing. This may take some time depending on the number of folders and messages you have in your account.

7. To ensure that all folders are showing up in the folder listing, click on the Settings icon and navigate to Preferences > Account Settings.

8. Select Server Settings from the list of options under the account name, then click Advanced...

9. In the menu that appears, ensure that "Show only subscribed folders" is unchecked to turn off this option. Click OK to save changes, and OK again to save changes to the Account Settings menu.

All of your folders in your SFU Mail account should now start to show in your folder listing in Thunderbird.

Troubleshooting Tips

If the folders are still not showing, try collapsing and expanding the list using the "arrow" beside the account name (e.g., ""). When the arrow is clicked again to expand the list, your folders should now be displayed. Please note that the folder contents may still be in the process of being transferred, and you may need to click on each folder to ensure that the transfer is still being carried out. Once all folders are populated, they will continue to sync with your SFU Mail account as messages are sent, received or moved. There will be a bar at the bottom of the window showing the progress as messages are being downloaded from the email server.

If you have completed the above and are still not seeing your folders show, you may need to subscribe to the mailboxes:

1. Click the Settings icon and navigate to Preferences > Account Settings.

2. Select Synchronization & Storage and click the Advanced... button.

3. Click the arrow beside the account name to expand the list of folders. You will also see a Download column with dots (not downloaded) and checkmarks (downloaded). If needed, click the dots under the Download column for the folders you wish to download. Once done, click OK.

Those folders should now show up under your account in the Mailbox screen.

Moving mail to a non-SFU email account

This same process can also be used to move mail to a non-SFU email account (a.k.a. external account) like Gmail. In the Setting up the mail client section, follow steps 3 through 5 with your external email account, for example, Instead of using Manual Config, simply click Done.

Click on the Inbox of your external account to intiate the synchronization, if it has not already started. Note that there is an additional login step for Gmail, shown in a pop-up screen. Sign with your Gmail address and password to proceed.

Once connected and synchronized in Thunderbird, the messages can be dragged from the SFU Mail mail folders to the external account's mail folders.

Note to staff and faculty members: Please be reminded that the storage of SFU email messages in external email servers hosted outside of Canada is a potential violation of BC FIPPA. Should you wish to migrate messages from your SFU email account, please refer to the instructions in the section above for transferring them to a local desktop client.

For more information on BC FIPPA, visit