Preserving Email Content After Leaving SFU


This article describes how to preserve your email messages as you graduate or transition away from studying or working at the university.


What happens to my emails 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 (student) or end date (staff/faculty). Consequently, your SFU Mail account will be destroyed and its contents will no longer be recoverable. IT Services will send an email reminder 90 days, 45 days and 30 days prior to account expiry.

Setup instructions have been provided for the Thunderbird email client which is available for free on Windows, Mac, and Linux.

How many emails do you have?

If you have a small number of emails you'd like to keep, consider manually forwarding them to your personal email. We also recommend cleaning up your inbox to reduce the number of items that need to be downloaded and transferred over.


Why use Mozilla Thunderbird?

Mozilla Thunderbird is a free, open-source application that is available to everyone on Windows, Mac and Linux. Other applications, such as Outlook, may require licensing that may no longer be available after leaving the university.

If you still have access to Outlook for Desktop and more comfortable with Outlook, consider visiting Microsoft Support on Export emails, contacts, and calendar items to preserve email content.

Alternatively, if you have a preference on using another email application, you can transfer or export your email messages using any of the approved email applications within the grace period.


PART A. Install Thunderbird and sync your SFU Mail

Part A. Overview

STEP 1. Install Thunderbird

Visit the Thunderbird website to download the latest version of the Thunderbird email client for your computer.


STEP 2. Setup SFU Mail on Thunderbird

To set up your SFU Mail account on Thunderbird, see our guide for signing into Thunderbird.

Once all folders are populated, they will continue to sync with your SFU Mail account as messages are sent, received or moved. There is a progress bar at the bottom of the window to indicate how many messages are being downloaded from the email server. If you don't see all your folders, see our troubleshooting tips.

Depending on your internet connection and the number of messages you have, the download process can take upwards of several hours. Allow the downloading of messages to be fully complete before proceeding to the next step.


PART B: Copy your SFU Mail messages to another location

Part B Overview

STEP 3. Determine if you want to copy your messages to another platform or save them locally on your computer

After setting up your SFU account on Thunderbird and downloading all your messages, you'll need to determine where you'd like to save a copy of your messages for future access:

  1. On another email platform, such as Gmail
  2. Locally on your computer, in the Local Folders mailbox in Thunderbird

Copying your messages to another email has the benefit of allowing you to access these messages on your preferred platform. However, it can take a significant amount of time for the third-party email server to complete the transfer process.

Looking for resources to setup your personal email account on Thunderbird?

Thunderbird uses IMAP to connect to other email providers. Here are some resources from popular email providers:

Copying your messages to the local mailbox on Thunderbird can be done more quickly. However, you'll only be able to access these messages locally on the computer you completed the setup with.


STEP 4. Save a copy of your messages

We recommend creating a new folder on your third-party email platform or local folders mailbox (right click "Local Folders" > New Folder...) to copy your messages over. Then use the copy function (right click > Copy to > mailbox folder name) to copy messages or folders over to the other mailbox.

After transferring your messages, you may wish to keep Thunderbird installed until your mailbox expires.

FIPPA Considerations for Staff and Faculty Members

Depending on the content within your SFU email messages, the storage of those messages on external email servers hosted outside of Canada can be a potential violation of BC FIPPA. Should you wish to migrate messages from your SFU email account, transfer them to the Local Folders mailbox within Thunderbird.

For more information on BC FIPPA, visit


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. 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.

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.


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Article ID: 9192
Fri 3/15/24 3:55 PM
Thu 6/13/24 12:33 PM