A problem with the Thunderbird feed reader

…Is that it does not support organizing feeds in different folders. Not directly, anyway. An even larger problem is that it breaks feeds when you do so.

There is a workaround though, which is the only reason I'm posting this to a blog rather then just filing a bug report. (Blogs tend to be higher on Google searches then bug trackers, and I've found I'm often not alone in breaking things like this.)

If you make a directory and drag some feeds into it they will die. They just won't be updated. If you drag them out again, they still won't be updated. It's as if Thunderbird has lost track of them or something. If you try to re-add the atom/rss/xml address you'll get a notice that they are already in the system. It's really a mess.

Here's a work around I've discovered:

  1. Make a list of all the "dead" feeds.
  2. Export your feed list. It will only include the good feeds.
  3. Goto where ever your Thunderbird email directory is and back up the contents of "Mail/News & Blogs". Then, delete it.
  4. Open Thunderbird and import that list of feeds you exported at the beginning. It will be missing any dead feeds, but you'll have rebuilt the evil database, so it won't think you still have them.
  5. In that backup you made, there will be a file named feeditems.rdf. It's human readable, so you can look though it with a text editor and and manually pick out the addresses of your missing blogs.
  6. Manually put them back into Thunderbird using the "Manage subscriptions" dialog. Never touch any feed related stuff without using this.
  7. Note the usability issues and politely ask Mozilla to do something about it. πŸ˜‰

Actually, there is no need for me to post a bug report. This bug has been known about for a year and a half. *cough*

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10 Responses to “A problem with the Thunderbird feed reader”


  1. 1 Bob Toovey October 13, 2006 at 12:06 pm

    Thanks for work-around. Thunderbird stopped picking up RSS feeds today and I need them (like all bloggers do) for research. So I applied your trick and low and behold – RSS feeds are now updating. Good tip – cheers! – bob

  2. 2 Shannon -jj Behrens November 16, 2006 at 4:07 pm

    Thanks for putting this knowledge in the “Google database”. You just helped me quite a bit πŸ™‚

  3. 3 Skrim June 12, 2007 at 12:57 pm

    My feeds also stopped loading, but the problem was that a file called feeditems.rdf was corrupted. Deleting it and restarting Thunderbird fixed the problem.

    Be warned, though – I don’t know if the file contains something important, so if you try this remedy, at least make a backup copy.

    Thanks for pointing me to the right direction!

  4. 4 James June 12, 2007 at 6:57 pm

    feeditems.rdf is just a list of RSS feeds. Hence, the name.
    Backing up this file was actually one of the steps in the process I gave (Step 3). πŸ˜‰

    I love how this bug is still unresolved after two and a half years. The best solution seems to be just to use a dedicated feed reader.

  5. 5 Lauchlin MacGregor July 16, 2007 at 9:32 am

    I’ve been using Thunderbird for a very short while and the RSS Feed management system REALLY needs some work. Your suggestion is just what I was looking for to some degree, but really, I’m used to netvibes and how I can separate categories into tabs. I’d like to be able to easily separate my feeds into categories, but you end up having to create a new account for each category and then manually update each individual feed. It’d be nice to be able to create a folder and drag and drop the feeds you want for that folder. Are you aware of a way to do this?

    I did notice in my feeditems.rdf that old feeds still existed that I got rid of already…quite annoying. With the new version, I hope they address the pain in the butt of RSS Feeds in Thunderbird.

  6. 6 Katy May 12, 2008 at 11:31 am

    My RSS Feed subscriptions all stopped working about 9 days ago. Thanks for the key to solving this problem:
    1. Make a copy of feeditems.rdf just in case
    2. Delete original feeditems.rdf
    3. Restart Thunderbird

    Happy RSS reading

  7. 7 Zou January 30, 2009 at 1:05 pm

    I did a complete search for feeditems.rdf and could not locate it. Any chance that it could be named something else in the latest version of the software?

  8. 8 Mr Web Design August 31, 2009 at 7:45 pm

    How can you find out which feeds are the “dead/bad” feeds? They are seem to be broken in my case…

  9. 9 a2jc4life May 10, 2010 at 12:39 pm

    I agree that a method of organizing feeds would be really, really helpful!

    My own problem (which is what caused me to stumble onto your site) is that I keep getting NEW feeditems.rdf files: feeditems-1.rdf, feeditems-2.rdf, etc. I found a documented complaint about the problem as far back as 2006 and, so far, I haven’t found anyone who knows what causes this or how to fix it. *sigh* Oh, well.


  1. 1 Memperbaiki Feed Reader di Thunderbird | Thunderbird RSS Problem | Deny Sri Supriyono Trackback on July 17, 2008 at 3:31 pm
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