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Solution to Building inbox summary file and related problems

User Help for Mozilla Thunderbird
JMuhlbock
 
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Joined: August 19th, 2005, 8:17 pm

Post Posted August 20th, 2005, 12:09 am

<b>First off, the problems. </b>

<b>Problem #1:</b> When starting Thunderbird and click on the Inbox, TB would say it was building summary file for Inbox. The progress bar would restart a number of times, and I could only access my inbox after it completed, which took 40 seconds. Apparently, I was getting off lucky, as I've read reports of others waiting 5+ minutes.

<b>Problem #2:</b> At the same time that this happened, my Get Mail button ceased to function. I could pull down the menu and choose "Get All New Messages", but just clicking the button did nothing.

I wasn't sure about #2, but I thought that #1 might be related to the number of messages in my Inbox and the size of the attachments. I had received a number of large emails over the past 2 months. So I went about cleaning out my Inbox. (I could have ruled this out if I had clued into the fact that I could load my trash folder instantly, it it contains roughly 15,000 messages!)

I got my Inbox down to 70 messages, but in my profile folder, my Inbox was still 320MB!

<b>Problem #3:</b> Extra large inbox file.

"Compact your folders," you say. Well...

<b>Problem #4:</b> Cannot compact Inbox. You choose Compact Folders from the File menu, and it skips the Inbox. You choose Compact This Folder from the context menu, and it does nothing; returns immediately; no indication that anything was done or is being done.

Those were my specific problems. FYI: I'm running Win2K, 1GB RAM, POP3 accounts (3) and the problem occurred with TB 1.0.2 and 1.0.6 (no change after upgrading). I also remember having problem #1, #3, and #4 years ago with Netscape Messenger. I don't remember how I solved them then.

So, after much searching, I found a number of suggestions, and tried a few things on my own. I tried moving all of my messages into a temporary folder, deleting my "Inbox" file (no extension), restarting, and moving my messages back. That solved problem #3, but I still could not compact, Get Mail didn't work, and instead of 40 seconds on problem #1, it was reduce to about a 1 second wait. I had a feeling that over time, this would just get worse AND it introduced the next problem.

<b>Problem #5:</b> After building the Inbox summary, TB reported double the number of messages in my inbox. Adding a filter, such as only displaying Unread messages, restored the total back to the proper number.

Everything else suggested in the posts did not help, but from the posts, it looks like others also experience these related problems:

<b>Problem #5.2:</b> The number of messages reported in the inbox increases on its own.

<b>Problem #6:</b> Automatic message retrieval does not work. (I have never tried this feature.)

<b>Problem #7:</b> When retrieving new messages, the new messages do not appear in the inbox. They seem to be lost.

As I've not experienced #7 myself, I cannot say whether or not they can be recovered. However, if you use this method to solve the problem, any messages that you have lost WILL BE LOST PERMANENTLY. I don't believe that this method will recover those messages. However, any further new messages should not be lost.

<b>What I tried, and had fail:</b>

I tried moving my messages to a temporary folder, deleting the "Inbox" file, then copying the messages back to the inbox after TB created a new one. Then, after finding a tip that it could be the Inbox.msf file causing the problems, I repeated the above, this time deleting BOTH Inbox and Inbox.msf. Still no luck.

<b>What tipped me off to the solution: </b>

In my profile, I have 3 POP3 accounts configured, and they are all setup to download into "Local Folders". While I was looking through my profile I clicked onto one of the folders specific to one of the POP3 accounts "mail.mydomain.com" and noticed that the Inbox in that folder was another 250MB!

I had never used that profile as a separate mail heirarchy (well, not for more than 5 minutes when I first setup the profile). There was no reason that this inbox should be so large.

That got me thinking that maybe TB was accessing all of the Inboxes, not just my Local Folders Inbox, even though that is the ONLY Inbox in TB. (Local Folders is the only message tree in the folders panel.)

<b>The solution:</b>

1. Close Thunderbird if it is open.

2. In Windows Explorer or the file browser of your choice, find your profile folder and make a backup! That way, if something goes wrong, you can always restore from your back. Under Win2k this is located in:

c:\Documents and Settings\Your User Name\Application Data\Thunderbird\Profiles\

Note: "Application Data" is a hidden folder, so you will have to make sure that you have "Show hidden files and folders" checked in Tools->Folder Options.

Your profile is the randomly named folder. If you have multiple profiles, it is up to you to determine which one is yours.

Copy the randomly named folder to a safe location.

3. Start up Thunderbird. Create a temporary folder "Temp", and move all of your messages from Inbox into Temp. (Yes...wait however long it takes for the summary file to build)

If you have any sub-folders in your inbox, you should move them out of the inbox, unless they also have the Building Summary problem. In that case, just move their messages out and into a temporary folder.

If you have multiple profiles that download into other Inboxes move those into temporary folders too! (i.e. If in addition to Local Folders, you also have a folder tree called mail.mydomain.com and new messages also go into there, move those messages to a temporary folder too.)

<b><i>MAKE SURE THAT YOUR INBOX(es) ARE COMPLETELY EMPTY. ANYTHING LEFT IN THEM WILL BE PERMANENTLY DELETED!</i></b>

4. Close Thunderbird.

5. Back in Windows Explorer, open the mail folder in your profile. Under Win2k this is located at:

c:\Documents and Settings\Your User Name\Application Data\Thunderbird\Profiles\random name\Mail

6. In this folder, you should see the folder "Local Folders" and probably at least one other folder named something similar to mail.domain.com or pop.domain.com. IN EACH OF THESE FOLDERS: delete the file Inbox and the file Inbox.msf.

In my case, I had 4 folders for a total of 8 files to delete:
Local Folders\Inbox + Local Folders\Inbox.msf
mail.mydomain.com\Inbox + mail.mydomain.com\Inbox.msf
mail.mydomain-3.com\Inbox + mail.mydomain-3.com\Inbox.msf
pop.myisp.com\Inbox + pop.myisp.com\Inbox.msf

You can also delete the Inbox.sbd folders too. These folders contain any subfolders in your Inbox. If you have anything in these, make sure you have backed them up in step #3. I left them as mine were empty and not likely causing a problem.

NOTE: This step completely deletes any messages that you left in your Inbox, so be sure that you have moved everything you want to keep out of them in step #3.

7. Start up Thunderbird again. You should now have a prestine inbox. Move your messages from your temporary folder back into your inbox, and <i>PRESTO!</i> All of the problems that I've listed should be gone. I prefer to restart at this point just to verify.

My results: My inbox is now 10MB instead of 320MB. When I click on it, it NEVER says that it is building a summary file. It opens instantaneously. It has the correct message totals all the time. My Get Mail button works again. And I can compact my inbox.

As I understand it, the root cause of these problems is a corrupt inbox msf file. TB realizes the problem and rebuilds the index, but due to a bug, it never stores the complete index back to disk. So the index remains corrupted and the next time it starts, it has to go through the whole process again. Why this causes all of the problems experienced, I can't say, but deleting inbox.msf seems to be the solution. The key for me was removing <b><i>ALL</i></b> of the inboxes, not just the Local Folders one.

I don't remember the bug number, but the bug that causes the new index to NOT be saved is supposed to be fixed in version 1.1 when it is released.

I hope this helps those of you experiencing any of the problems I've listed.

Jeff

old SKopischke
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Post Posted August 20th, 2005, 6:57 am

A shortcut to the problem you experienced (which seems to be a corrupted INBOX.MSF file) might have been to delete the INBOX.MSF file only and allow Thunderbird to rebuild it from scratch.

Daifne
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Post Posted August 20th, 2005, 9:13 am

And to avoid it happening again, don't store the messages in your inbox and compact regularly.
JE SUIS CHARLIE
“If you make people think they're thinking, they'll love you; but if you really make them think, they'll hate you.” ― Harlan Ellison
Please do not PM me for personal support. Keep posts here in the Forums instead and we all learn.

Lost User 80427
 
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Post Posted August 22nd, 2005, 3:31 am

I have the exact same (7) problems iterated by Jeff, but am hoping that SKopischke's solution will suffice, since it seems a lot simpler.
One question for SKopischke, though: if I simply delete the inbox.msf file, will I lose all the email currently stored in my inbox (about 70 messages)? I have a backup of my profile, so I know I could theoretically get these messages back, but if I had to resort to that, wouldn't I just be re-creating the problem I'm having now (i.e., wouldn't I be importing a corrupt inbox.msf file?)?
Thanks for any help!
Rebecca

old SKopischke
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Post Posted August 22nd, 2005, 7:11 am

MSF files are the mail folder index files and they will be rebuilt when Thunderbird is restarted. Deleting them will cause you to lose nothing. The mail messages are kept in the files without an extension, such as INBOX.

JMuhlbock
 
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Joined: August 19th, 2005, 8:17 pm

Post Posted August 22nd, 2005, 1:24 pm

SKopischke: I had tried just deleting the inbox.msf file. That is what dropped my delay from 40 seconds to about 1 second, but the problem still persisted. Personally, I think that just deleting the inbox.msf from ALL of the mail folders would have fixed it, but I wanted to be thorough ... hence my solution above. I had read of at least one person experiencing the "losing new messages" after deleting only the msf file.

As for not storing / compacting, I understand the rationale, and it's good advice, but for me it is quite inconvenient. I receive upwards of 100 messages a day. I could move them to another folder until I process them, but that would just move the problem from the Inbox to another folder.

For compacting, how does OE handle it? I used OE for about the last 4 years. During that time, I compacted spradically, and never during the last year. I never had a problem with my inbox growing. When I migrated to TB, there was a 1:1 correlation in mail folder sizes. OE's folder was uncompacted, TB's should have been pristine. Maybe OE fits messages into the deleted spaces whenever possible so that much less space is wasted when you don't compact?

old SKopischke
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Post Posted August 22nd, 2005, 2:53 pm

Deleting the index will not lose a message, unless the message was originally deleted and the index was corrupt, allowing it to still display. The data is not kept in the index, it is kept in the message folder file. Ergo, a message simply cannot be deleted by removing a MSF file.

Recognize that moving messages from the Inbox to another folder does not "move the problem." The reason the Inbox seems to be a bit more susceptible to problems when a large number of messages is stored there is because of the nature of the Inbox - it is a very busy place. The more activity (both in and out), the greater the chance of a problem. Migrating the messages off to another folder moves the messages to a less active folder - at the very least, it won't get hit with every retrieval.

What I have done is create a series of message filters to guide incoming messages to various folders automatically. This serves a couple of purposes - it keeps my Inbox relatively clean and gives me an opportunity to review messages based on likely content, rather than everything at once.

OE uses a proprietary file format. I cannot begin to guess what Microsoft does.

geckah
 
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Joined: July 3rd, 2005, 8:45 pm

Post Posted August 30th, 2005, 9:10 pm

Hi,

Have seen the same problem a few times. Always because of lots of messages with large attachments in Inbox folder. I had tried to delete all .MSF but that never solved the problem. What I did: closed TH and renamed 'Inbox' file to 'old'(deleting Inbox.msf)

Then, when I restart TH the 'Inbox' folder get rebuild(clean and empty). Old messages are now all in the 'old' folder.

But it is still pain to access emails in 'old' folder... Never found a way to fix this even compacting doesn't work.

Regards.
--
lox

old SKopischke
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Post Posted August 31st, 2005, 4:14 am

The solution is to keep few messages in your Inbox. File them in other folders. The Inbox is not a good place to store messages.

Daifne
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Post Posted August 31st, 2005, 8:36 am

And to regularly compact your folders.
JE SUIS CHARLIE
“If you make people think they're thinking, they'll love you; but if you really make them think, they'll hate you.” ― Harlan Ellison
Please do not PM me for personal support. Keep posts here in the Forums instead and we all learn.

spectralsfx
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Post Posted September 7th, 2005, 9:03 am

Deleting the MSF file solved the for me (1.0.6). Good luck!

From Wisconsin also
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Post Posted December 13th, 2005, 8:24 pm

If I'm just deleting the .msf file, should I still copy & paste all of my contents to a temporary folder? If so, how do I go about doing that exactly? Thanks, this is really frustrating!

GordMcFee
 
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Post Posted December 13th, 2005, 8:25 pm

From Wisconsin also, that thread is 3 months old. I suggest you start a new one, telling us exactly what the problem is.

Thanks.
Gord McFee

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Post Posted December 13th, 2005, 8:27 pm

I have exactly the same problem "Building inbox summary" & failure to retrieve new messages.

GordMcFee
 
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Post Posted December 13th, 2005, 8:28 pm

This thread is dead. Please start a new one.
Gord McFee

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