How to get a sound alert for new messages

So you want a sound to play when you get a new message? Start by going to Thunderbird > Preferences (or on Windows – Tools > Options).

On the general tab, towards the bottom, there’s a section that talks about “When new messages arrive; check the option that says “Play a sound”.

Of course, you’ll want to specify which sound you want to play, so you’ll need to hit that “Advanced” button also. This will take you to the Advanced Sound Options screen.


Here, you can either:

a) have it play a system sound (which depends on what type of operating system you’re running, Windows or Mac)


b) have it play a custom sound.

If you want to pick a custom sound, click the “Custom .wav file” radio button and then click the “Browse” button. This will allow to poke through your hard drive to find the file. Keep in mind, the file has to be a .wav file though, no MP3’s. You can change the file type inside iTunes, but that’s another tutorial!

Once you’ve found the sound you want, click on it and click the “Open” button. The name of the file will appear in that text box under “Custom .wav File”. You can preview the sound, if you wish, by hitting the “Preview Sound” button. That should play the sound that will play when you receive a new message.

Interface with boxes

Additional thoughts:

Unfortunately, Thunderbird on the Mac has a minor bug that doesn’t allow it to control what sound it played when new messages arrive. So, the way to get around this is to setup the same sound in Apple’s Mail program, then set it up in Thunderbird too. Here’s the instructions for that:

Open Mail (Hard Drive > Applications > Mail), and go to the preferences (Mail > Preferences). As you can see by the pic to the left, the third drop menu from the top allows you to pick a sound. Click on that drop menu and then pick “New Mail Sound”. This will open a Finder window and allow you to pick a sound file, again only .wav files. Find it and hit the “Open” button. The file will show up in this “New Mail Sound” list and you can choose it here.

Once you’ve set that sound in Mail, go back to Thunderbird and change the sound, just like above.


5 Responses to How to get a sound alert for new messages

  1. […] Play a sound – this does just that; it plays a sound. You can have it play any system sound you want, or you can have it play any .wav you have on your hard drive. To set this up, follow this tutorial. Explore posts in the same categories: Preferences, General Prefs […]

  2. False Data says:

    Now, what would be really slick is to be able to play a different sound, or none at all, if Thunderbird determines the mail is junk. “*ding* You have spam!”

  3. Chris says:


    Potentially stupid question and I hope I’m doing something wrong but I can’t select an alert sound for new mail in Thunderbird.

    It’s Thunderbird 3 RC1 on OSX 10.6.2 and I’m sure there are bugs in RC1 still but surely not something like this.

    When I browse to Glass.aiff (which I’ve copied into a directory of my choosing) the file is greyed out and can’t be selected. This happens with all files, including MP3s.

    The Thunderbird help says any Quicktime-compatible file can be selected as the new mail alert.

    Any ideas?


  4. Chrissy says:

    Very helpful. thanks

  5. All About Mail…

    […]How to get a sound alert for new messages « The unofficial how-to blog for Thunderbird[…]…

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