Using OAuth2 for Gmail in Thunderbird

When Mozilla released Thunderbird 38 (38.0.1) on June 11th one of the new features was being able to use GMail within Thunderbird without having to go into your GMail account and enable the ‘less secure authentication’.  Problem is, how to enable this feature in Thunderbird is poorly documented. After some searching, I found the answer in an unlikely place…the comments on the article from The Mozilla Thunderbird Blog announcing Thunderbird 38:

In an existing GMail account, you can switch the “Authentication Method” from “Normal Password” to “Oauth2″ (in both the IMAP and SMTP setup separately). Connection security should be SSL/TLS. If by “application-specific passwords method” you mean Google’s enabling of traditional IMAP passwords using their “less secure authentication” option, yes you can do away with that on an account using OAuth2 authentication.

From within Thunderbird go to Tools > Account Settings. Select the account you want to work with and go to Server Settings. For Authentication method click the dropdown arrow and select OAuth2. You will also need to repeat this process for outgoing (SMTP).

TBird OAuth2 Incoming

While in the Account Settings windows, on the left side select Outgoing Server (SMTP) then find and select your Google Mail SMTP account and click Edit… In the Security and Authentication section for Authentication method click the dropdown arrow and select OAuth2. Click OK and OK again to exit the Account Settings window.

TBird OAuth2 Outgoing


Note: The software I use for screen capture only does the active window and cuts-off anything outside of that. After Kerberos / GSSAPI is NTLM then OAuth2.

I have not tried to test this as all my GMail accounts are so old I didn’t need to enable the “less secure authentication” option.

4 Comments on Using OAuth2 for Gmail in Thunderbird

  1. Thanks for sharing that. OAuth2 is really helpful. Here I am sharing another use case of Configuring Google as OAuth2 authorization provider in Spring Boot

  2. That didn’t work. On 45.2.0 you have to enable ‘less secure apps’ and choose both normal password for both Imap and smtp outgoingfor TBird to work with gmail email.

  3. Michael Armstrong | January 7, 2017 at 9:16 AM |

    It also doesn’t work with 45.6.0. And it doesn’t help to enable less secure apps. TBird seems to hang when authenticating using OAuth2, and a Google “help-with-cookies” page pops up.

  4. Michael Armstrong | February 8, 2017 at 6:40 PM |

    I don’t know what’s changed, but Gmail is now working with Thunderbird (45.7.0) for me after enabling “less secure” apps. Using OAuth2 as directed here still results in Tbird hanging up in Gmail authentication and a Google “help-with-cookies” popping up.

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