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How do I transfer my email from one ISP to another?


I have a btinternet account and I want to transfer all my emails and folders from that account to a yahoo canadian account? How would I go about that?

I’m going to assume that you use your ISP’s web mail of some sort, as opposed to downloading your email into a mail program on your PC.

The problem here is that web-based email – be it your ISP, a free email service like Hotmail, or something else – is extremely difficult to move from service to service.

In fact, I’ll go so far as to say that as a practical matter, it might just as well be impossible.

But I do have a suggestion.

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I’ve developed a fairly strong opinion against using free web-based  email accounts as the only place you keep your email. (They have their place; it just shouldn’t be the only place.)

I actually have similar feeling about web-based email in general, even the email provided by your ISP. Using your ISP’s services at least gives you a clear point of contact should something go wrong, so you’re much less likely to suffer the catastrophic losses I keep hearing about from the free email crowd. The problem is that in many ways you’re still putting your fate in someone else’s hands. If email is truly as important to you as it is to me, I feel it’s important to take more direct ownership and control.

“I know of no way to easily transfer the contents of an email account directly from one provider to another.”

In other words, I believe you should be downloading your email to a client on your PC, and then backing that information up regularly. It can be in addition to your web access, since web access is convenient, but by downloading and backing up your email yourself, you put yourself in ultimate control.

And it happens to make moving a lot easier. Once on your machine it’s yours to do with what you will.

By using and maintaining your email on your own PC, you need only download one last time from your current email provider, and then change the configuration of your PC-based email program to use the new. That’s it. You’re done. (Well, except for telling everyone your new email address.) If necessary, you can actually configure your email program to use both old and new for some transitional period.

OK, so what if you still want to move your web-based email to another web-based email service?

Well, it really depends on what the capabilities of both your new and old service are. I can tell you that I’ve not heard of any direct account-to-account transfer being offered by any ISPs. The problem is that it would require significant behind-the-scenes cooperation between the services, and there’s no reason for them to do so. The same is true, actually, for moving between free web-based email accounts: I know of no way to easily transfer the contents of an email account directly from one provider to another.

You may be able to download and upload your address book. GMail, for example, supports this. But with many services you cannot. So moving to another provider often means starting over with an empty address book and building it up again from scratch.

You can, of course, individually forward every email you have in your old account to your new account. This is not only tedious if you have a lot of email, in addition, the email arrives in the new account as coming “From” your old account instead of the original sender. All folder organization is lost in the process as well.

I did run across this
which uses the email program Eudora to automatically download email from one account and “Redirect” it to another. Redirect is slightly different than a forward, and Eudora is apparently the only desktop program that currently supports it correctly. The benefit is that the “From” address is unchanged when it arrives in the new account. Unfortunately, it looks like folder organization is still lost.

So, my ultimate suggestion is to:

  • download all your email from your old service to a PC based email program for archival and backup
  • start using your new web-based email account
  • periodically download from your new service as well, for archival and backup

Or just start using a PC-based email program and avoid the issue in the future.

So what about paid services that claim to move your email for you?

I’m skeptical. But I have no experience, and would love to hear from readers that have used or attempted to use these services.

The reason I’m skeptical is that unless they have special relationships with all the ISPs, which is unlikely, they have no more access to your account(s) than you do. It’s possible that they might automate or outsource some of the work that it would take to manually move your email, but that seems unlikely.

On top of that, in order to use these services you must give them both money, and your email account passwords. That means, to me at least, that they must pass a higher bar of legitimacy and have a proven track record before I would consider them. I’d be concerned that some would take both your money and your account never to be heard from again.

But I’d love to be wrong on that count.

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13 comments on “How do I transfer my email from one ISP to another?”

  1. There is a relatively new e-mail service that makes transferring mail from another Web-based service somewhat simple. It goes by the name of “GMX,” and can be found at:

    I have used it to aggregate all my e-mail accounts at Gmail and Yahoo, and so far it’s working just fine.

  2. Leo,
    When you say PC based program are you referring to something like Outlook (not Outlook Express)? I am not sure I understand your term ‘web-based email’
    Since I have all my emails stored on my PC, I assume from what you are saying that Outlook must be acting as a client since I can backup and archive my emails. Am I correct in this?

  3. I am confused about creating a PC-based e-mail.
    I have heard recommendations about Mozilla Thunderbird. I downloaded it and attempted to install. I was stumped when it asked me the information like: IMAPI or POP3 and some other info.
    I do not know how to get this information.
    I also heard about Eudora. There was a feature(ESP) which would allow sharing from computers YOU, the user, assign/specify; and, so, I decided to try installing it on a computer that was in a broke-down state. The installation failed and now, instead of doing a transfer like this(would I have needed the Internet access on both computers??) I am having to backup to an external HDD(Thank goodness for its backup software being “intact” — or so I think thus far — otherwise I would have to transfer 18 GB of data via e-mail!
    All that ranting aside, my top priority question is this: what is needed to set up a PC-based e-mail account? (follow-ups: How do you ensure secure use? How do you access the account from elsewhere?(does that computer need ALWAYS be online?)
    Thank you.

  4. Well I configured outlook to download mail from Gmail and my contacts have this address…so if and when I change providers (I am considering this)I will still be able to send/receive mail via the Google server whilst I configure the new address with the new ISP.
    Interesting business

  5. A useful tip is to get your own domain, e.g. It’s best to buy your domain through a domain hosting service such as, as they subsidise the price. Domain hosting services will provide email diversion, so you can keep your email address as, e.g. and then arrange for the email sent to to be diverted to you@your_isp_email_address. You will incur a small charge every couple of years to keep renewing your domain, and you may also need to pay for the diversion servise, but once this is set up, you can easily move ISP without having to change your email address – just change the diversion to your new ISP mailbox, which takes a couple of minutes. The same applies to website hosting. However, I’d also recommend keeping a ‘throwaway’ free email address on Hotmail or Gmail for use in filling in web forms; once that address gets ‘spammed out’, just get another one!

  6. Leo, I love your stuff. Thank your for your help!

    I agree about using Free Web Based Email Account(FWBEA) like Gmail, Yahoo, MSN and others together with with an separate email account that works with a PC based application.

    At some time in another thread, I am sure you have addressed this, but other considerations for FWBEA are useful because ISPs are indeed disposable. But now might be a good time to address personal security / saftey / spam avoidance strategies in setting up your email arrangements. Although this may seem a bit off topic/thread, you may wish to consider the following personal security and privacy suggestions.

    Leo, you may wish to place this in the appropriate thread – These ideas may seem overly complicated but FEAR NOT – they can be suprisingly EASY.

    From a personal security and privacy standpoint, remember that, ANYTHING you do or write or tranmit electronically can be accessed by any organization who chooses to explore your past, so if you are not able to encrypt it – BEWARE.

    Generally, most people have multiple bonafide email addresses depending upon your needs. You might consider:

    1) Personal email (permanent)
    2) ISP email address with PC based email. (ISP may change)
    3) Public email (Junk Mail)
    4) Work/employment related eMail – Public
    5) Other

    First – Personal ‘Permanent’ email address: You might consider a a free FWBEA type address (without using any part of your name). The strategy some people use is to forward this to your present ISP email address. This type of an arrangement is really beneficial because allows one to 1) To utilize the FWBEA spam filter as your primary filter and FORWARD the ‘Good Stuff) to your separate ISP based account with a secondary (and different) spam filter. 2) To switch ISPs more easily (keeping in mind address book, sent files, drafts and organiztional structure, etc.). For example, I use this as my permanent email address for friends and family and organizations that I care about.

    Second – When you make the decision to switch away from your ISP telephone or Cable company broadband services there are a myriad of complications as detailed in this thread – transfering email addresses, organizational structure or sent mail can be problematic. By maintaining a separate outward facing email address and managing a PC based email account, you can easily move from ISP carrier to another with minimum difficulty.

    Third – Public email for JUNK MAIL- Everyone hates spam! This address can be given to anyone/organization for whom it may be beneficial to supply it – but you really do not need or want to stay in touch with.

    One can use an FWBBEA address that serves to satisfy the obligatory email address requirements of just about any organization. You might choose to look at this once a month whether you need to or not, for entertainment i.e. like a FREE triple-strength male dietary supplement that makes your sex life more exciting and perhaps formulated with a proprietary product that is GUARANTEED to keep your strength up during a challenging encounter.

    Generally, Spam is filtered on a limited basis and you can choose to sort and view it if you wish to cull the gems of eCommerce! If you make an online purchase and need a receipt, you can use this if do not anticipate EVER having to go back to it.

    Fourth – Work related email. Use this for work ONLY even if you own your own company.

    Many people transact personal related business on their own ‘Work’ account. This indeed jeopardizes your relationships at work and could expose ANY aspect of your personal life to scrutiny by your employer and or the IT department without your knowledge.

    Furthermore, if your company or employer is ever subpoenaed for email records, it could expose innocent people with whom you have engaged to down the line scrutiny.

    In reality, ANYTHING you do on your work computer rightfully belongs to your Employer and is accessible by the IT department, so if you are not proud of it or do not want them to be involved with your personal matters, then most certainly DO NOT use your company computer.

    On the other hand, if you simply do not give a darn, then at least be aware that you are jeopardizing yourself and possibly your employer with any personal stuff you do on the company equipment.

    Abstinance is the BEST firewall!!

    Hash: SHA1

    Bevin: a “PC Based” email program is, as you say, a program
    like Outlook Express or Outlook or Thunderbird or any of
    several others that run on and typically download email to
    yoru PC.

    A “Web Based” email is something like Hotmail, Yahoo Mail,
    GMail and others where you manage your email by visiting a
    web page in your web browser.

    Some ISPs provide both approaches to viewing your mail.


    Version: GnuPG v1.4.7 (MingW32)


  8. We use Eudora (albeit no longer supported by Qualcomm). I also have Thunderbird running, and a couple of years back decided to move all my Eudora mail to Thunderbird. Piece of cake—simple export/import activity. Then, when Mozilla’s T-Bird and I had a falling out (no doubt over some silly issue that I’ve long since forgotten), I decided Eudora was more to my liking (it’s a VERY intuitive mail program, IMHO), so I wanted to move the Thunderbird mail (formerly Eudora mail) back to Eudora. Forget that! It’s not even really very clear where T-Bird keeps its mail files (or at least not clear to me, and I really have been doing this email stuff for more than a couple of decades). So, when I need an “old” email, I simply fire up T-Bird, search, and usually find what I’m looking for. The issue, for me at least, is that there is not more standardization in all of this email structure to preclude users (remember them?) having to jump through developers’ hoops to make programs work. OK, I’m off my soap box.

    Keep up the great help, Leo; your tips and insight are invaluable—to pros and novices alike!

  9. Transferring your address book when changing addresses is covered pretty well in Google. I have not attempted it; however, it goes something like this: Export your Yahoo! Mail address book so you can import it into Gmail.

    Visit to learn more about exporting your Yahoo! Mail contacts in .CSV format.

    Once you’ve exported your contacts’ information from Yahoo! Mail, import it into Gmail.
    Sign in to your Gmail account at
    Click ‘Contacts’ along the left side of any Gmail page.
    Click ‘Import.’
    Select the .CSV file you’d like to import by clicking ‘Browse…’
    Once you’ve located your file, click ‘Import Contacts.’
    View a quick demo to learn more about importing your Yahoo! Mail contacts into Gmail. Whew!! Your right! I copied right from Google. :>)

  10. Moving your email to Gmail is in fact trivially easy. In Mail app on OS X, for example, set up your gmail account and drag your mail folder(s) for your existing ISP onto the Gmail folder. It will upload and preserve dates and sender details.

  11. PLEASE HELP !!!
    I lost all my emails ? . after I just started using MS Outlook and after all my emails were downloaded in to Outlook as pst files I found that those emails were permanently deleted from my Yahoo! Mail box !!!
    I contacted Yahoo, Microsoft for help but they were no help.
    Does any one on the Glob knows how to restore my emails?

    What you’ve described is how programs like Outlook work by default – they download email to your machine and remove it from the server that you’ve downloaded it from. There is a setting (buried in advanced settings for the email account) to ‘leave a copy on server’, but once downloaded they’re no way to really “put them back”.

    – Leo
  12. From the mentions of ORANGE and BTINTERNET, those are UK ISPs and are thus covered by UK laws and legislation.

    Basically, traditional “snail” mail in the UK comes under the remit of Royal Mail (there are a few specific recent exceptions); and a very significant obligation is that if a conventional packet of mail is properly addressed, Royal Mail MUST deliver it – and that is by ADDRESS not Name.

    Hence the delivery of much “conventional” nuisance mail in the UK.

    Royal Mail is not allowed in law to accept any instructions to NOT deliver any properly addressed “obvious nuisance” mail.

    Apply that analogy to “SPAM” e-mail, the UK ISP is obliged by similar law and practice to deliver such “SPAM” to the e-mail address given on the “envelope/wrapper” or Header.

    (You’ll note that we always refer to “e-mail Address”, never “e-mail Name” or “e-mail Name and Address”)

    Moving to another UK ISP will NOT provide a long-term cure. There will be a temporary reduction or even disappearance; but as the new e-mail address becomes known, the SPAM will build up again – unfortunately.

    With Orange specifically, the User can set up an instruction for all e-mail identified as potential, eg “*** SPAM ***Crack open the champagne” to be placed in the User’s “Junk Mail” Directory – which the User may wish to view briefly transferring to the “Delete” Directory,

    The access to the one-line transfer/delete instreuctions described as “Empty” can be found under the “My settings” heading.

    I have used those simple, quick instructions to get rid of about 10,000 *** SPAM *** messages in about 5 seconds, after 2 weeks holiday/vacation.

    The User can also specify Sender Addresses either individually or by common extension, that must be processed to the normal In-Box; or to the Junk/Delete Boxes automatically – the latter in addition to the standard SPAM handling.

    On the “Must be accepted” side, I deal with many people who work for the one company, so have the same address content following the @ symbol, eg

    Putting that part starting and including the @ in the Acceptable list, covers all of them in a single, simple manner.

    I presume that other ISPs have corresponding systems.

  13. I too was investigating this matter because I wanted to change ISP. I do not know if the following technique would work universally (because I didn’t actually make the switch – BT suggested my old ISP might make a nominal monthly charge for the facility) but my ISP does have an option amongst filters etc re incoming mail to forward everything to an alternative email address. It certainly worked for me for a trial period to my Hotmail a/c and might work even if you stop their revenue stream!


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