Main Content

How I moved my email to Gmail

A few weeks ago I took control over my email.  Not only did I clean out my inboxes, but I also converted everything over to Gmail.  Why would I do this?

  1. Always online and availabe to me.
  2. Doesn’t take up space on my webserver.
  3. The labeling system is fantastic.  I didn’t really know this until I really started using it.
  4. Integrated nicely with or other email applications like Thunderbird and Outlook.
  5. I can send and receive email from multiple accounts via one Gmail account.
  6. iPhone ready.
  7. Email is up even if website is down.
  8. Google has the best spam protection I’ve seen.

So how did I move years worth of email to Gmail?  

1 – The first thing I did was organize my inbox.  This step is optional, but it helped me to have things in order.

2 – You either need to setup a Gmail account or Google Apps for your domain.  I did the Google Apps part as I didn’t want an additional Gmail account and it was free.

If you are doing Google Apps for your domain, make sure to move all your email into local folders in your inbox.  This includes your inbox, drafts and sent if you want to keep them.  Get them off the server so you don’t loose them when the MX records are changed.  Then go ahead and follow Google’s instructions on getting things setup and work with your host to get the email records updated.  Once that’s in place, continue.

3 – Go into your Gmail account and enable the IMAP settings.
Settings -> Forwarding and POP/IMAP -> Enable IMAP

Gmail iMap Setting

4 – Follow Google’s configuration instructions on getting your account setup in your email client.

5 – Once that’s done, you should now have two separate email accounts in your email application.  One for your old email and one for Gmail.

6 – Setup Gmail labels to match your folder structure that corresponds with your email.

7 – Copy all your email from your old account to your new Gmail account.  Since it’s setup via IMAP, all the email will be copied to Gmail and available online.  This step may take some time if you have a lot of email.  It isn’t hard, it’s just time consuming to upload all those emails.

Really that’s all there is to it.  It’s quite easy.  It took me some time to complete, but that was because of the large amount of email I had.

This will work on Mac or Windows or Linux; Thunderbird, or Outlook.  The only real requirements are a Gmail account and an email application capable of IMAP.

Since moving my email over to Gmail, I’ve moved over to using Gmail as my email application via Mailplane. Google’s labeling system is just so smart! 🙂

19 Responses

  1. Katy says:

    I’ve been using GMail to manage everything for a while now (all my various email addresses forward to my GMail account) and whilst I am quite happy with the result I’ve had a few (major to me) issues after enabling IMap with Entourage such as junk mail being pulled into the inbox, mail being pulled out of labels (folders) etc. I’ve blogged about it in a bit more detail here – have you noticed any of these issues with the mail application you’re using?

  2. Katy says:

    I did post this previously but it didn’t appear – apologies if it become a double post!

    I’ve been using Gmail to manage all my email accounts for quite some time now and have all of my various email addresses forwarding to it.

    I recently enabled IMAP on my account and have had no end of problems with it, emails appearing in the inbox (I use Entourage) after they’ve been deleted, spam loading into the email box after I’ve clicked on the spam folder, emails loosing labels, it’s all really rather annoying.

    Have you noticed any similar issues? I was wondering if it was just an Entourage thing or if it was a common occurrence or if it’s just me!

  3. Thomas says:

    Sorry Katy, I don’t have any experience with Gmail and Entourage. My suggestion would be to double check the setting with what Google recommends and check out the Google help groups.

  4. You forgot to add that G Mail will spy on everything that you send through them and everything that anyone sends to you! Nice one!

  5. Thomas says:

    Darrell. If that were true, who cares? It’s not like email from my Mom is that private. Any other email provider does the same. Heck, even your ISP probably sells usage stats.

  6. Hi Thomas,

    It certainly is true, they admit it themselves. I am fortunate to have my own hosting company and about 40 websites, so all my mail goes through me. It is comforting to know that what I write and what someone writes to me is between us and no third-party, that’s all.

    I don’t trust Google. They don’t have a good track record and plus they sold out to the Chinese by censoring their search results. Why? Because of the mighty dollar.

    Google is a private organization. Who’s keeping them honest?

  7. Thomas says:

    Good points Darrell . I’d love that link where it says that Google reads our email.

  8. A simple search on Google Gmail Policy would find that link…but here is what Google says…

    “Google maintains and processes your Gmail account and its contents to provide the Gmail service to you and to improve our services. The Gmail service includes relevant advertising and related links based on the IP address, content of messages and other information related to your use of Gmail.”

    The link is here…

    For a more detailed look at what Google’s GMail does, check out this…

    Welcome to the real world of the Google Spy!


  9. Google are spies and are not to be trusted. They are actively recruiting people to spy for them. The want you to dob in someone who is either selling or buying text links.

    Plus, Google recruited Matt Cutts, who is an ex NSA spy. This is all verifiable information, just a quick search will give you the results.

    Also, my emails are not to my Mom, but to business associates and partners. I certainly don’t want someone other than the intended recipient reading those emails, which usually have sensitive information contained therein.

    What guarantees do I have that that information is kept private, some brief privacy policy from the private sector?

    I will not respond to anyone who sends me an email from an Gmail account.


  10. Thomas,

    Thanx for not showing my last two comments. Nice practice!


  11. Thomas says:

    Hi Darrell. Comment moderation is in full effect and not all comments go live immediately.

  12. Thomas,

    My apologies.

    An interesting piece from Google themselves on Privacy:

    “Privacy. As a condition to using the Service, you agree to the terms of the Gmail Privacy Policy as it may be updated from time to time. Google understands that privacy is important to you. You do, however, agree that Google may monitor, edit or disclose your personal information, including the content of your emails…as otherwise provided in these Terms of Use and the Gmail Privacy Policy. Personal information collected by Google may be stored and processed in the United States or any other country in which Google Inc. or its agents maintain facilities. By using Gmail, you consent to any such transfer of information outside of your country.”

    And the best part is, is that they provide this service without any responsible for it!

    “Indemnification. You agree to hold harmless and indemnify Google, and its subsidiaries, affiliates, officers, agents, and employees from and against any third party claim arising from or in any way related to your use of the Service, including any liability or expense arising from all claims, losses, damages (actual and consequential), suits, judgments(sic), litigation costs and attorneys’ fees, of every kind and nature. In such a case, Google will provide you with written notice of such claim, suit or action.”

    I also notice that you are running Adsense ads on this site. Did you know this, which is the contract you agree to when you sign up with Adsense…

    “Google may transfer and disclose to third parties personally identifiable information about You for the purpose of approving and enabling Your participation in the Program, including to third parties that reside in jurisdictions with less restrictive data laws than Your own.”

    Why anyone would have anything to do with this company, not to mention, trust them, is beyond me. There are plenty of other alternatives for email and ads.


  13. Geordie says:

    Thomas, I have to say that your are being a bit naive if you think that all of the other email providers are not able to check emails on their system. A good point about Google is that it is such a big player which means that for them to pick out any specific identifiable information on your emails from the billions of other emails sent over the internet would be to say at the least “improbable”. Unless of course you are worried that you yourself are being specifically targeted ??

  14. Thomas says:

    Not sure your point Geordie. I think that every ISP or email provider can read your email and monitor your activity. No exceptions. I also think that Google doesn’t track me specifically, but much like their search algorithm, they can find topics and similarities in emails. No big deal in my book. I’m cool with Google.

  15. Richard Price says:

    Came across this article when searching for Thunderbird->Gmail migration.

    But in response to all, especially you Mr. Ridley, owning your own mail server (or part of one as most of us can’t afford to own the whole of a hosted server) is not a practical solution.

    Simple solution: If you are paranoid GMail will look at your emails out, use GPG. Encrypt and sign emails and files sent with GMail.

    Hell you should use GPG with all sensitive emails, regardless of whose server you use. Your email can be sniffed anywhere along its route.

    The only downside is you can’t see what you actually sent the person (asymmetric encryption). Just send a copy of the plain text encrypted to yourself before sending. It’s annoying, but that is what confidential communication requires these days.

    I love Google, but I don’t trust them. If Google’s standards are as low as YOU make them out to be, then the world is going to shit anyway.

  16. Travis says:

    Thanks this has helped alot. Question for you.

    I’m not quite ready to loosen my grip on and jump totally to Google/Mailplane, but I’m having an issue with deleting messages.

    If I use Mail’s delete button, it puts it in the Mail trash folder, not the Google trash folder. Anyway that can be adjusted so it syncs to the IMAP server. Dragging the mail to appropriate trash folder is annoying to say the least, especially when I have 4 accounts open. Not to mention old habits die hard.
    And just realized this happens for Sent messages as well. What am I doing wrong.
    Thanks for your help.

  17. Travis says:

    Nevermind. Found it here for anyone else with the same issues:

  18. ivan says:


    I’m having issues moving emails from the computer (on entourage) to the Gmail server, step 7 seems to say to just copy email, but would you mind elaborating this a little?

    thanks a million

Leave a Reply