How to Check for New Mail in Mozilla Thunderbird

Instructions on setting Mozilla Thunderbird up to check email automatically

A hand holding a stopwatch


You can set up Mozilla Thunderbird to check for new messages periodically so your inbox is always (almost) up to date — or you are alerted to incoming mail in time. To check an email account in Mozilla Thunderbird or Mozilla for new mail periodically and automatically:

  1. Select Tools | Account Settings… (or Edit | Account Settings...) from the menu.
    1. You can also click the Mozilla Thunderbird hamburger menu and select Preferences | Account Settings…​ from the menu that has appeared.
    2. In Netscape or Mozilla, select Edit | Mail & Newsgroups Account Settings...
  2. For each account you want to include in automatic mail checking:
    1. Go to the Server Settings sub-category for the desired account.
    2. Make sure Check for new messages every __ minutes is selected.
      1. ​To have Mozilla Thunderbird check for new mail immediately after launch as well, make sure Check for new messages at startup is also checked.
      2. To have Mozilla Thunderbird receive new messages in the inbox almost immediately after they arrive in your account, make sure Allow immediate server notifications when new messages arrive is also checked; see below for details.
    3. Enter your preferred mail checking interval.​​
      1. ​You can set this number to just about anything practical, from an interval of 1 minute to one of as high as 410065408 minutes to have mail checked roughly every 780 years—but not quite so often.
      2. When you have a small interval, such as one minute, one mail check may still be in progress when a new one is scheduled to start; this will not be a problem.
  3. Click OK.

Checking for New Mail at an Interval And IMAP IDLE

Many an IMAP email account offers IMAP IDLE: with this feature, the email program need not check for new mail by sending a command to the server; instead, the server notifies the email program as soon as—and only when—a new email has arrived in the account. Depending on the amount of email received, this can be more efficient and economical or more annoying and distracting.

Mozilla Thunderbird can have IMAP servers notify it of new messages in inbox folders using IMAP IDLE; this is the setting above. If you do not want these near-time updates and still have Mozilla Thunderbird check for new mail on a schedule,

  • Make sure Allow immediate server notifications when new messages arrive is disabled
  • Check for new messages every __ minutes is disabled.