How to Import Your Old Emails into Gmail the right way

Since Gmail is so powerful and easy to use, and is accessible from any web browser, you might be thinking about making it your primary account. Although it would be nice if you could have all your old emails in your Gmail account for your reference going forward. Also it would be great if you could have them imported so that the date stamps, and all other email headers could be preserved.

It turns out, it is really simple to do. The trick is using the IMAP feature of Gmail. Here is how to import your emails from your current email client to Gmail. These steps assume you are using Outlook, but they should be pretty much the same for any other email client including Thunderbird, Entourage, Mac Mail etc. So let’s just get to the steps.

  1. Turn on IMAP in your Gmail account: In your Gmail account go to Settinngs > Forwarding and POP/IMAP > IMAP Access > Enable IMAP > Save Changes
  2. Using the settings for Gmail IMAP for your Email Client, connect to your Gmail account using a new IMAP account. Once you’ve this done, you will see your Gmail account with labels listed as folders in your email client.
  3. Now just highlight the emails you want to migrate to Gmail in your Personal folders and drag and drop them from your local account to the Gmail IMAP folders.

That’s it! The emails get moved to Gmail with all the header in tact. It might take some time for the action to take place, if you have tons of email to migrate.

Notes:
You can drag them to any folder (label you want) and you can also create new folders as you wish, which will become labels in Gmail. If you don’t want your old email to clutter your inbox, you can just drag them to the Gmail/All Mail folder which basically archives them and removes the Inbox label.

Another cool feature in Gmail is support for POP3 downloads from other accounts and additional SMTP accounts for sending emails. These can be configured under Settings > Accounts and can be good if you want to combine and consolidate other existing emails into your Gmail account. If you want to go all the way there is even a labs feature called Multiple Inboxes that can add a new column with configurable filters to the right side of your Gmail Inbox.

3 Comments

  1. I accidentally imported my actual mail instead of just my contacts. Is there anyway to reverse this action? There’s no support with gmail that you can ask a direct question of.

  2. Go figure! That simple! I was trying all this other complicated stuff. I was trying to import my file folder pst file from Outlook into Thunderbird. Well, just drag the file folder subfolders into a new folder in gmail imap and if imap gmail is configured in Thunderbird like I have… presto, there it is. Stuff I should have just known, but because it was not going to appear outside of the gmail mail I think I thought I would need to bypass gmail. Just throw it in there! Why didn’t I think of that?!?

  3. I’m trying to import my Entourage 2008 emails into Gmail following the instructions. When I drag and drop from My Computer to Gmail the registered date is the import date, not the date stamp.

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