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I have an IMAP account with over 10 years' worth of emails in it, and I'd like to be able to search it quickly from my Windows machine. I'm looking for something that will give me an indexed search of my email (ideally without changing anything on the IMAP server, but that's not vital).

I don't mind if it keeps a mirror on my Windows PC and indexes and searches that locally, as long it keeps itself up to date automatically. I use Thunderbird as a client, but I don't mind using a separate application to search.

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up vote 1 down vote accepted

Thunderbird 3.0 beta 1 added integration with Windows Vista's search (or if you have XP, you can download Windows Search here:

Thunderbird is now up to 3.0 beta 2 and you can download it here:

You could also download and use Windows Live Mail (it is free) which supports IMAP and integrates with Windows Search:

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@Sean: Perfect - many thanks! – RichieHindle Jun 11 '09 at 10:22
For future readers: This works perfectly for me on Vista 64. I also tried it with Windows Search 4.0 on XP 64, and it didn't work. The Thunderbird installer didn't ask me whether I wanted Windows Search integration, and no emails appeared in the index. There might be a workaround, but don't get your hopes up. – RichieHindle Jun 11 '09 at 10:53

You could use something like fetchmail or getmail to download your messages, and then use mairix to search them, lightning fast and got a lot of options to refine your searches. mairix. Cygwin got a mairix package for easy installation.

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+1 - Fetchmail. I still have a mail system based on fetchmail (it goes back to my dialup days). This works and it's not very hard to set up. – ConcernedOfTunbridgeWells Jun 10 '09 at 15:20
How do you get fetchmail to save the emails to disk? I could only see options for forwarding them. – RichieHindle Jun 10 '09 at 15:26
@RichieHindle, getmail will deliver direct to maildir, you can use som tricks to make fetchmail deliver to maildir: poll SERVER, user USER, password PASSWORD, no rewrite, mda "/usr/bin/env - /usr/local/bin/maildir ~/Maildir" – rkthkr Jun 11 '09 at 6:01
@rkthkr: Thanks - I wasn't aware of the 'maildir' command. – RichieHindle Jun 11 '09 at 10:25

what IMAP server aye you using? Your IMAP server might already index the messages. In cyrus the squatter(8) daemon is not on by default, but it can be enabled easily.

Squatter creates a new SQUAT index for one or more IMAP mailboxes. The SQUAT index a unified index of all of the header and body text of each message a given mailbox. This index is used to significantly reduce IMAP SEARCH times on a mailbox.

Please note that indexing can impose a significant burden on the server CPU, but on the plus side it does not force you to download every single message to index the content on your PC and you do not have to change the way you access your mailbox.

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