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How do I move my contacts from one provider to another?


Our current email address contact list is over 200 names and is on Juno on the hard drive. We want to change to another ISP. Is there any easy way to transfer the contact list from one ISP email account to another? We will be using the same computer. The new ISP will either be Click or Comcast.

In this excerpt from Answercast #63, I look at the difficulties in moving from an email service that does not provide a method for exporting your contact list.

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Transferring email contact lists

Well, to answer that question specifically, “Is there any easy way to transfer the contact list from one email address to another?” The unfortunate answer is typically no. A contact list, in my opinion, is one of the weakest points in the entire communications infrastructure.

If you’ve got it on one service, it’s great and it often interacts really well with all the other offerings from that service.

Google is a great example. You have your contact list with Google, then you can have it on your Android phone; it’s there in your email; it’s in your Google Plus account; it’s in all sorts of different places. And if you make a change in one it, updates them for all. But, if you want to move to a completely different service, things get tricky.

Unfortunately, my assistant did a little bit of research into Juno and it appears that they don’t support exporting the contacts, which I find very frustrating. Many services do that I guess to try and lock you into their service (to make leaving them painful), but what it really does is makes leaving them very frustrating.

Email service contact lists

So, what would you do in a case like this? Well, for one thing, whatever service you move to, consider using an email program like Thunderbird or Outlook or any of a number of others that runs on your PC that is independent of the email service that you’re using.

So for example, if you are able to connect to your next email account using Microsoft Outlook, then you could later configure Microsoft Outlook to use a different service and all of your contacts stored within Outlook would travel with you. They would still be in Outlook.

If you’re using online services (web mail from services like Gmail or Hotmail or Comcast or whatever), typically they have a way to export the contact list, usually as a CSV or comma separated values file.

Contact list databases

Now, it would seem that that would be a wonderful solution across the board.

Unfortunately, there’s no real standard for what belongs in those files, particularly if you’ve annotated your contacts with any of your own notes or comments. That kind of information is very easily (and in fact, routinely) lost when exporting contact information from one service and importing it into another.

What we were hoping for was that Juno would have some kind of an “export” capability so that you could create this CSV file, and then use that to at least begin to populate a better contact manager – either with a different service or with an email program stored on your own machine.

Like I said, looks like that’s not gonna happen.

Try printing

The only real solution that I can think of in a case like this is before you leave your current ISP (if you have the opportunity), figure out and see if there’s a way to print your contact list; print all of the information in your contact list.

You can print it to paper or print it to PDF; it doesn’t really matter, but what we’re looking for here is a standard way to be able to later read that  contact list without requiring that the Juno software (or Juno itself) be around at all.

PDF would be great if you don’t want to bring the paper. Then as you need contacts (in your new service using your new email program or your new online service), simply refer to your previous list and type them in again from scratch by hand.

Unfortunately, that’s about the only solution I can come up with in a situation like this. Like I said, contact management is still the big bug-a-boo for a lot of what we would consider to be “normal” communication means on the internet, on our PCs, and on our phones. And unfortunately, it sounds like you’ve reached what is potentially the worst-case scenario. You can get in, but you can’t get out.

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6 comments on “How do I move my contacts from one provider to another?”

  1. At work, I got tired of going nuts every time they changed e-mail programs or upgraded our computers. Although administrators always tried to migrate our information, it seems problems often occurred. I soon got tired of all that and decided to use a spreadsheet for storing my contacts. That isn’t a fancy high-tech solution, but it got the job done without the fear of something going wrong after an e-mail program change or a computer replacement.

  2. One possible way to migrate at least all email addresses would be to set up the new email account, then send an email from the old account to everyone on the contact list, and copy the email to the new account. Although of course that would let everyone see the full list of email addresses.

  3. Having dealt with the horror of moving a 300 name file w/ notes, phones, etc., I finally copied everything to a file and then cut and paste incrementally into the new email client. It takes time, but is less painful then typing everything anew.

  4. Mike’s method is a possibility; however, often you don’t have to actually send the email.

    Depending on your email provider, you could create an email to every contact but instead of sending it, just save it as a draft. Then copy that draft to your new email provider.

    The webmail program provided by my ISP allows me to move email from either Sent or Drafts to my Inbox. Then the next time I log in using Thunderbird, it downloads that moved email along with all my other email.

    Even if you aren’t planning on using Thunderbird or some other software based email solution, you could use it temporarily to move your email from your old email provider to your new provider by setting up the software to read your mail using IMAP (Leo has an article about doing this) and so you could move that draft email with all your contacts from your old provider to your new provider through the software.

  5. This one may sound longwinded, but depending on how many contacts the person has, might be an idea:

    Print to pdf, then OCR the result into a basic text editor, then use ‘search replace’ to replace certain fields with commas, thus making a CSV file.

    I have done this in the past with printed lists of items, admittedly using a hex editor with more powerful search/replace features than notepad, and some scripting.

    If the correspondent has hundreds of contacts, it might be worth the effort, if only a few tens of them, not so much

  6. I switched from to I copied all the addresses in my earthlink address book and sent those pple an announcement of my new address. I also stored the addresses in a word processing application for possible future use.

    For a small fee, I keep the earthlink e-mail box, which forwards mail to “other folder” in Thunderbird. After 6 weeks, I get only a few “other folder” messages a week. Most are newsletters or advertising.

    Any e-mail account that has an e-mail address book can be handled this way. It was a little tedious, but certainly not rocket science.


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