It’s easy — just not what most people expect.
It’s a question I see from time to time: how to change your email address when you’re using Google’s Gmail as your email service. Typically people would like the new email address because the old one is getting too much spam, or for other reasons, but they also want to keep all the email and so on currently stored in the account.
The problem, of course, is that you can’t change it directly. That’s what folks would like, but unfortunately, it doesn’t make sense, and I’ll explain why.
Then I’ll share a couple of approaches that will get you close to the same result.
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Changing your email address on GMail
To change your Gmail address, you have to create a new Google account, leaving you with two separate accounts and email addresses. Workarounds include using a desktop email program like Thunderbird to access both accounts or Gmail’s “Check mail from other accounts” feature to import emails from the old to the new.
Why you can’t change the address you already have
Your email address identifies your Google account.
A different email address is, by definition, a completely different Google account. So you can’t change the email address of your existing account because that’s what tells Google what account you’re using.
Different email address = different account.
That’s the way things work.
Getting a different email address
If you want a different Gmail address, the solution is fairly simple: open a new Google account. As part of that process, you’ll choose an email address for that account.
The good news: you have your new email address.
The bad news: you now have two Google accounts, not one, and they’re completely unrelated to each other.
However, we can work around the issue in a couple of different ways.
Workaround 1: Desktop email
This is the solution I recommend.
- Install a desktop email program such as Thunderbird.
- Configure it to access account #1.
- Configure it to access account #2.
Now you have one place to go for your email: your email program. You can read and respond to emails sent to either email address. You can typically also respond to email received on email address #1 using email address #2 or vice versa if you like.
Workaround #2: “Check mail from other accounts”
Gmail can import email from other accounts, including other Gmail accounts. I’ve done this for a long time because Gmail’s spam filter seems to be the best by far. I run different Gmail accounts through one primary address so I don’t have to check multiple accounts every day.
Click on the gear icon in the upper right, click on See all settings, and you’ll find the settings under Accounts and Import.
The most important item is “Check mail from other accounts”, shown at the bottom of the image above. I’ve configured my GMail account to also receive email from email@example.com.
There’s an “Add another account” link in that section. This adds a connection to your old account to bring its email to the new one. This would set up your new Gmail email address to also receive email sent to your old email address.
There are two things to know about setting this up using your second Gmail account.
- First, if you have two-factor authentication set up on your old account1, you’ll need to create an app password in that old account’s security settings. Your normal password will not work.
- Second, as part of adding another account — your old one in our case — you’ll have a choice of “POP3” or “Gmailify“. As you can see, POP3 is how I have firstname.lastname@example.org configured. GMailify2, which is targeted at non-Gmail accounts, works with other GMail accounts as well. In testing it, once I’d set up an app password the account was easily linked.
To send email using your old email address, you may also need to configure “Send mail as:”, which is just above “Check mail from other accounts” in the image. Gmailify seems to set that up automatically, but if you configure POP3 access, it’s an additional step.
Once set up, you have:
- Your new Gmail email address.
- Your old Gmail address.
- The ability to interact with either using your new Gmail account.
Remember that your Gmail email address identifies your Google account, and you may be using much more than just Gmail. All the Google services you use — YouTube, Google Drive, Maps, Calendar, Photos, and more — are unique to that email address. Creating a new email address creates a new Google account, which in turn has a new YouTube account, a new Drive account, and so on.
So if you are signed into your new Google account and find your Google Drive empty or no history in YouTube, don’t panic; you juststill need to be in signed into your old account to access those services as you’re used to.
No data is moved or copied simply by creating a new Google account.
Ultimately, you haven’t changed anything. Your old email address is still there. However, you have created a new email address representing a new Google account that you can use going forward.
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