Thunderbird - Building summary file?

Bob Goodwin bobgoodwin at
Wed Jun 14 14:15:40 UTC 2006

Dan wrote:
> Richard England wrote:
>> Bob Goodwin wrote:
>>> I'm using Thunderbird and FC-5 with current updates.
>>> Periodically when I check mail it displays the message
>>> "Building Summary File for [Inbox, whatever I select]"
>>> and I have to wait for it to finish whatever it does. After that I 
>>> have to select the threaded display of
>>> messages again! I don't know what this "summary file"
>>> is but I don't think I want or need it.
>>> Does anyone know what this is about? I have only become
>>> aware of this recently.
>>> Bob Goodwin Zuni, Virginia
>> I think you _do_ need/want the summary files.
>> Thunderbird's mail files are in the standard plain text "mbox" 
>> format, which almost all mail programs can use or import.
>> extension (Your mail files are inside your profile, in the Mail and 
>> (if you use IMAP) ImapMail folders. Each mail folder (Inbox, Sent, 
>> etc.) is stored as two files – one with no extension (e.g. INBOX), 
>> which is the mail file itself (in ‘mbox’ format), and one with an 
>> .msfe.g. INBOX.msf), which is the index (Mail Summary File) to the 
>> mail file. These summary files are built and updated as needed. If 
>> you delete one, Thunderbird will rebuild it for you.
>> I'm no expert, but do you compact your mail "folders". Is it possible 
>> that you did this while email was being downloaded? Do you have 
>> processes that delete files for any reason?
>> I would suggest you do some Googling on this topic. There are a lot 
>> of hits.
> I don't know how helpful this is, but when I had my mail folders on a 
> FAT32 partition, it did this consistently whenever i opened a folder 
> for the first time upon opening thunderbird. As soon as I moved it 
> back to an ext3 filesystem, it stopped.
> -Dan
That's pretty much the symptom I see here but this is ext3 only? It only 
recently began doing this. I may simply remove and reinstall again 
eventually, but it's an effort to re-create the mail filters. But for 
that I would have reinstalled in a heart beat.

Thanks for the information.


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