I will have to move my Gmail files before it discontinues. The questions are
where, how, when, where? I want to store thousands of old emails on the web and
not on a computer. How? I’d like to have a simple method. When? Should I wait
for better options than are now available? Or make a choice and proceed
In this excerpt from
Answercast #57, I walk through a method for moving email from one online
service to another.
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Gmail is staying around
Unfortunately, your question actually confuses me greatly. It implies that
Gmail is discontinuing and it’s not. You don’t have to move out of Gmail if you
don’t want to.
There’s nothing pushing you out of Gmail and I’m not really sure why you are
attempting to move to a different online service. So with that (simply
questioning what you’re doing to begin with), let’s take a look at what some of
the options are.
The options actually aren’t very good. The problem is that moving a large
body of existing email from one online web email service to another is almost
impossible. It’s certainly not easy.
The systems simply aren’t set up to make it easy for you to transfer email
from one system to another.
The only approach that I can think of (and this is a stretch; you’re going
to want to be careful about how you do this) is to:
- Get an email program like Thunderbird.
Yes, you’ll need to use a program on a PC for this approach to work. You
won’t have to use it long-term, but you will need to use it to transfer
The IMAP protocol will actually download all of the email from Gmail to your
machine. That’s gonna take a little while if you’ve got a lot of email. But
it’s important that you allow it to complete and that you get all of the email
down from Gmail. It won’t affect anything on Gmail. (That’s the nice thing
about IMAP. It’s really sort of a window to the master repository of your email
up on Gmail.)
- Once it’s done downloading, you would create a new account on some
other service. (I’ll pick Yahoo at random, since I know we can do this
In Yahoo, you would set up your email address.
Now in Thunderbird, you would set up another IMAP connection to Yahoo’s
So, that means that your Thunderbird (your email program on your desktop)
would actually be sending and receiving email from Yahoo’s servers; using IMAP
to receive the email and POP3 to send it out.
- Now, what you would do is: on your PC, move (or drag and drop, or
copy) all of the email from the folders that represent your Gmail account to
the folders that represent your Yahoo account.
That will cause the email to be copied from one to the other. Because it’s
IMAP, when you put something into a folder, it will get uploaded to the email
service that folder is connected to.
I did a lot of this when I moved a bunch of my mail to Gmail; I moved a
bunch of my sent mail up on to the Gmail servers in this fashion.
So, that’s the best I can offer you. Once you’ve finished the transfer, if
you need to do that, you can stop using the desktop email program.
Downloading backs up
I strongly recommend you continue using the desktop email program if for no
other reason than to backup your email. But, it is a technique that could allow
you to transfer the bulk of your email from one service to another as long as
both services support IMAP.
The one thing that it will not do, and the one thing that I simply have no
easy way of transferring, is your contacts or your address book.
The best you can come up with in a situation like that is to export your
contacts from Gmail (probably in a CSV file) and then use that file to import
your contacts into either your desktop email program or your new email account
on another web service, like Yahoo.
That automation that we have for email (that allows your desktop program to
synchronize with what’s going on on the web service) …that kind of automation
just doesn’t exist in any clean form (or certainly not in any standard form)
across all of the email services and desktop email programs.
So you have to get kind of tricky with that.
Gmail is not closing
Like I said, I don’t know why you want to move from Gmail. Certainly, it’s
not going to be discontinued any time soon. Millions of people are using it
I believe the only reasonable way to transfer a large bulk of email from one
email service to another is to use IMAP and a desktop program as the middle