How to Use Mozilla Thunderbird with an AOL Account

This tutorial will show you how to setup your AOL e-mail in Mozilla Thunderbird. AOL e-mail servers utilize IMAP (instead of POP3) and is quite reliable. This guide covers how to install Mozilla Thunderbird, setup incoming mail and how to setup outgoing (SMTP) mail. Later in this guide, I'll explain how to take advantage of Thunderbird's Junk Mail settings to work with AOL's Spam Folder.

What you need:

Download and Install Mozilla Thunderbird

  1. Download Mozilla Thunderbird from Mozilla. Click the green "Download Thunderbird" button and save it to your computer.
    Download Thunderbird
  2. Save the setup file to your computer.
    Downloading Thunderbird
  3. Open the setup file. If you receive any prompts, click OK, YES or RUN on them.
  4. Click Next.
    Click Next
  5. Read and Agree to the Mozilla Thunderbird End-User License Agreement (EULA). Click "I accept..." and click Next.
    Thunderbird EULA
  6. Click Next.
    Thunderbird Setup
  7. Wait for the installation to complete. When it's done, click FINISH.
    Thunderbird Setup Complete
  8. That's it! Wait a moment for Thunderbird to open. If it doesn't open, just double-click the icon on your desktop.

Setup/Configure Mozilla Thunderbird for Incoming Mail for AOL

  1. As Mozilla opens for the first time, you will be guided through the Account Wizard. If you already have mail accounts setup, you can setup an additional account by clicking the File > New > "Account..."
  2. Select "Email account" for the new account type. Click Next.
    Thunderbird New Account Wizard
  3. Enter your name as you want it to be displayed and your e-mail address. Click Next.
    Enter your name and e-mail address
  4. Select IMAP and type in the incoming mail server as and the outgoing server as, then click Next.
  5. Confirm that your screen name is here. Do not include spaces. Click Next.
    Confirm your Screen Name is listed here with no spaces.
  6. You may optionally give this account a name, like "Home" or "Work." It defaults to your e-mail address. Click Next.
    Thunderbird Account Name
  7. Confirm your settings are accurate. It should look very similar to mine, except for the screen name of course. Click Finish.
    Thunderbird Account Details Confirmation
  8. When you click Finish, your Thunderbird will attempt to sign in with the information that you provided. Enter in your AOL password. (I prefer to Save Passwords for convienience.)
    Enter your AOL/AIM Password
  9. If you chose to save your password, you will be alerted to the known security risk of doing so.
    Saving Passwords Warning
  10. Wait a few moments for your mailbox to populate with your e-mail. It's all there, so give Thunderbird a moment to download them. You should now be looking at your mailbox like mine below with e-mail in it.
    Thunderbird Mailbox

  11. You're not done yet! Continue reading to configure sending mail...

Setup/Configure Mozilla Thunderbird for Outgoing Mail for AOL

  1. Click the Tools menu, then click Account Settings. (These settings manage the indivudal account settings.)
    Thunderbird Account Settings
  2. Click Server Settings, located on the left side. Click on SSL and "Clean up ('Expunge') Inbox on exit."
    Thunderbird Server Settings for AOL
  3. Click Copies & Folders, located on the left side. You may optionally not store copies. AOL e-mail servers do not support this style of storing copies. If you want to retain local copies of messages you send, drafts and templates, change them to local.
    Thunderbird Copies and Folders for AOL
  4. Click Outgoing Server (SMTP), located on the left side. Click Edit on the right side of the screen.
    Thunderbird SMTP Settings for AOL
  5. I recommend giving this mail server a name. It will help you later when you add other accounts to Thunderbird. Change the port to 587 and click on TLS. Click OK after verifying your settings are correct. Click OK on the Account Settings.
    Thunderbird SMTP Server Settings for AOL.
  6. Click the Tools menu, then click Options. (These settings manage the entire Thunderbird software.)
    Thunderbird Options
  7. Click the Composition tab on the top. Change the forward messages to Inline. (This makes it MUCH easier to read forwarded messages.) The default font is pretty plain. You may change the font that is used when you write messages. (I chose Helvetica/Arial so it's compatible and AOL uses the default "Arial" in their software. Click Send Options.
    Thunderbird Composition Settings
  8. From Send Options, adjust the HTML Sending Option to Send the message in HTML anyway. Click OK.
    Thunderbird HTML Send Options
  9. Click the Privacy tab on the top. Check the box labeled, "When I mark messages as junk:" and press OK.
    Thunderbird Privacy Settings
  10. That's it! If you want, send yourself an e-mail to test that all settings are correct. If you can't send and receive the mail, review all the settings so they match closely to the screenshot's I've taken.

Take Advantage of Thunderbird's Junk Mail Filter & AOL's Spam Filters

One of the benefits for AOL users, is the lack of Spam they receive. However, the Spam folder has natively been only available for users of their proprietary software or Web mail. You can easily configure Thunderbird to use the Spam folder accordingly when you mark a message as "junk," and it will move to the Spam folder. (Note: This is essentially what happens when you click "Report Spam" within the AOL software.)

  1. Click the Tools menu, then click Account Settings. (These settings manage the indivudal account settings.)
    Thunderbird Account Settings
  2. Click the Junk Settings, located on the left side. Check the box labeled, "Move junk messages to:" and select "Other." Click on the combo box then mouse over your e-mail account, then click on Spam. You will only see this option if you sucessfully downloaded e-mail from your account. Click OK when you you're done.
    Junk Settings for Thunderbird to work with AOL

Other Mozilla Thunderbird Features to Use

  • Mail Sorting - Thunderbird has powerful mail organization features. I personally like to have new mail on top, so I look at first. You can just click the date (so you see a normal triangle on it).
    Sort mail by date in Thunderbird
  • Mail Tagging - Tag (and color) your messages. If you're the visual type like me, then this boosts your productivity by being able to locate hard-to-find e-mails. Read this tutorial for more details...
  • Addons - Mozilla has hundreds of useful extensions to help you out. Just browse and pick out what you like. Check it out at Mozilla Addons...

Final (Important) Notes

  • AOL Mail Servers (thankfully) do not support relaying of mail. When using multiple e-mail accounts, you will need to specify which Outgoing Mail Server to in your Account Settings.
  • This information is not limited to just Thunderbird. You can use your AOL Mail on a variety of devices and platforms including the iPhone.
  • This is an unofficial guide on using Thunderbird with your AOL account. For assistance with AOL, please visit AOL Help.