Grab Emails From Your Old Account Using Gmail’s Import Function

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import gmail accountThinking of switching to Gmail, but afraid to lose all of your old emails and contacts? Don’t be. Gmail can easily grab your old emails, especially if you were already using a web-based client. And even if you weren’t grabbing those emails is perfectly possible.

Maybe you’ve wanted to switch to Gmail from a long time, but are hesitant because you don’t want to leave behind your old messages. This makes sense: the hardest part of switching from one email account to another is migrating your old email and convincing all of your friends to use the new address.

Unless, of course, you’re switching to Gmail: it can grab all of your old email and contacts automatically. You can even keep receiving mail from your old email address, so long as it exists.

If you’re using an email address provided by your ISP you should switch to Gmail now. If you keep your old address you won’t be able to bring your email with you when you change providers, and the interface you’re using for email is almost certainly ad-ridden and terrible.

Importing from an old email address isn’t a new Gmail feature, but it’s one someone switching to Gmail won’t necessarily know anything about. Here’s how it works.

Importing From An Old Email Account

Like I said: you can, if you stored your email online, easily import all of your email and (maybe) your contacts to your new Gmail account. The process isn’t incredibly complicated, but let’s go over it anyway.

Open the Gmail account you’d like to import your email to. You’ll see a gear at top-right; click it, then click settings:

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import gmail account

This will open Gmail’s settings, logically enough. Click the “Accounts and Import” tab at top, then look for the import option. It looks like this:

import old gmails emails gmail

When you click it the importing process will begin. You’ll be asked for your email address:

import old gmails emails gmail

Gmail will then figure out what information it needs to continue. It might be only your password, if you use Hotmail or Yahoo, but it might require more technical information, such as which ports Gmail needs to check to gather your mail. I can’t hope to outline that information for everyone here,

30 Days and 30 Nights

The above process should grab all of your old email, and will also grab any new email sent to your old address. It will only do so, however, for 30 days – that’s supposed to be enough time for your to inform your contacts of your new email address and move on with your life.

If you’d like to keep getting email from your old account, however, this is also possible. Head back to the “Accounts and Import” page. Here you’ll find an option to check email from other POP3 accounts:

import old gmails emails gmail

As you can see I’ve already set one address up. Click the “Add a POP3 mail account you own” and you can go through a similar process as above, entering your POP3 information. Your email will be pulled down from now on; you can use the Gmail “refresh” button anytime to force Gmail to check all of your POP email accounts.

You can even, if you want, send emails from your old email address from within Gmail. That process is on the same page, and requires you to know your email settings for sending or to enter a code send to you.

Note that if you’re switching your email address from one provided by a former Internet provider your old email address will likely stop existing soon – the above process will not change this and your old email address will eventually stop working. Sorry about that; blame your old Internet provider.

Desktop Clients: A Little More Difficult

If your email currently live in a desktop-based client, such as Microsoft’s Outlook for Mac’s Mail, your might not get all of your email using the above process. There’s a simple reason for this: the email is not stored on your email server but instead on your desktop. Sorry about that, but there is a solution if you want your old messages and contacts to move to Gmail.

You first need to enable IMAP in Gmail, which you can do on the “Forwarding and POP/IMAP” page in settings. It looks like this:

import gmail account

Now you need to a set up Gmail’s IMAP service in your desktop client. This page includes instructions for most major email clients.

Once IMAP is set up in your desktop client you can click-and-drag email from your old inbox to your new Gmail account. It’s slow, and you might need to leave your computer running for a long time, but it will work. Be patient.

If you’re a Google Apps customer there are a variety of tools for making this easier. Free Gmail users need to stick to the instructions above.

For your contacts you’ll need to import from a CSV using these instructions. It’s an imperfect process but it mostly works.

Conclusion

I’ve done this process for family, friends and clients alike and it works well. How did it work for you? Let me know in the comments below

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Comments (35)
  • Abdul Wadood

    I used the same mechanism to import my hotmail account. It has been the 8th day and it is still importing. From the last 4 days there is no update in the emails but the status is still displaying “importing – ………”

    Can you guide me what is going on?

  • Mrs Krishna

    Hello!

    Am trying to import my Yahoo account Emails Over to GMAIL – following the steps that have been shown – but I keep getting an Error Msg and don’t get to complete the process – not clear if Yahoo has to be enabled as well for this – pl help give pointers.

    Gmail Error Msg – “Could not validate this combination of email address and password. If you are sure your password is correct, sign in to your other mail provider to confirm and complete any necessary captchas or image verification tests and then try the import again”

    • Justin Pot

      I can’t think of any reason this wouldn’t work, unless you somehow typed the wrong password. Have you tried logging into Yahoo lately?

    • Michelle

      I am getting the same problem importing from yahoo to gmail. I know the password is correct because I can log into my account…

  • james

    Hi,

    Can I use this as a back up option? If I import everything from my hotmail account to a gmail account, do I lose everything from my hotmail account?

    • Tina Sieber

      No, you won’t lose anything on your Hotmail account, so you could also use it for a backup. Note that the import option only works for 30 days. To continuously back up email coming into your Hotmail inbox, you have to set up POP3, the second option described above.

    • Justin Pot

      What Tina said!

  • krsna arjuna

    I would like know if I can get my old info on gmail, to a new gmail address! (HELP)

    • Justin Pot

      Should be as simple as using the import function outlined above, I think.

  • Clive Bennett

    Excellent solution. This is a much easier and cleaner solution than most I have found for importing emails, in my case from Outlook for Mac to Gmail. It seems that IMAP is better than POP3 anyway! I have been going round in circles for hours trying to resolve a disastrous attempt to migrate to Google Apps for Business (which only allows you to migrate all or no mail accounts on your company domain) but that’s a long story. So thanks, a real life saver. Why are “easy” applications often so hard?

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This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.
Affiliate Disclamer

This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.