There are many good reasons why Gmail is the world’s most popular email service: Its user-friendly interface, large storage space, and robust spam protection, to name a few.
If you’ve decided to make Gmail your new email provider, then you have one important task to do: In order to keep your existing emails, you need to import your mails to Gmail. To help you with this task, we’ve put together the following guide that compares three different methods for transferring your emails to Gmail.
➡️ Whether your current email account uses IMAP, POP3, or Exchange, you’ll be able to find an approach that suits your situation:
What You Need to Know
Before Importing your Mails to Gmail
Before you start importing your emails to Gmail, it’s important to understand the type of email service you are currently using, as this will directly influence the method you choose for the Gmail migration.
Email services use different protocols, or sets of rules, for handling messages, and each protocol has its own characteristics that can affect the migration process:
IMAP (Internet Message Access Protocol):
Used by most web-based email services like Yahoo! or Outlook.com, IMAP synchronizes your emails across all devices. This means that actions like reading an email on your phone will be reflected on your laptop as well.
➡️ If your current provider supports IMAP, importing your emails to Gmail is generally very easy.
In contrast to IMAP, POP3 downloads your emails to a single device and, depending on your account configuration, deletes your emails from the mail server. POP3 can be compared to receiving physical mail – once it’s delivered, it’s only in your mailbox.
➡️ If you’re using POP3, you’ll need to ensure that your emails are still on the mail server before the email migration.
Technically not a protocol but an email and calendar server, Microsoft Exchange is a staple in many corporate environments. It uses the MAPI protocol, whose proprietary nature can complicate the migration process because not all migration methods support Exchange accounts.
Knowing which email protocol your current email service uses is essential as this knowledge helps you to avoid email migration methods that probably won’t work in your use case.
How do I find out which protocol I’m using?
If you’ve added your email address to an email client (such as Thunderbird or Apple Mail), check the account settings in the email client. The email protocol of your current account is typically displayed there. Otherwise, ask your current email provider (write a support ticket or call them).
Best Ways to Import Mails to Gmail
Whether you have a handful of emails or huge mailboxes to migrate, below, you’ll find the right approach:
Forward Emails from Your Old Mailbox
Time required: Minutes to days (!), depending on how many messages you have.
Works with: ✅ IMAP ✅ POP ✅ Exchange
Sometimes, the most basic methods can get the job done, and when it comes to importing mails to Gmail, email forwarding is about as simple as it gets.
Here’s how it works:
- Set up your new Gmail account.
- Log in to your old email account that you’re moving from.
- Forward each and every message you want to import to Gmail. Unfortunately, many email clients and services don’t let you do this in bulk, forcing you to forward each message individually.
- Go to your mailbox settings and look for a Forwarding section.
- Configure message forwarding so that all new emails are automatically sent to your new Gmail address.
✅ No additional tool or service required to import mails to Gmail
⛔️ Bulk forwarding is often not supported
⛔️ Very time-consuming for large quantities of emails
⛔️ Forwarded messages appear as unread in your new mailbox
This approach very time-consuming, in addition you loose the original message status (all emails appear as unread in your Gmail account). Therefore, we only recommend this method if you want to import a very small number of messages to Gmail.
Use Gmail’s Built-in Import Tool
Time required: Up to multiple days (!)
Works with: ✅ IMAP ✅ POP (emails need to be stored on the server)
Does not work with: ⛔️ Exchange
To make it easier for new users to move their online correspondence over to Gmail, Google offers a simple built-in import tool specifically designed for the job.
To access and use it, you need to:
- Sign into your Gmail account, click on the gear icon, and select the See all settings option.
- Navigate to the Accounts and Import tab.
- Click the Import mail and contacts option.
- Enter the email address you want to import and click Continue.
- Click Continue again and wait for a pop-up window to appear and show a login screen of the email service you’re importing.
- Agree to give Gmail access to your messages.
- Select what you want to import (your mail, your contacts, new mail for next 30 days) and click Start import.
- Wait up to multiple days for the import process to finish.
✅ Import all messages in one go
✅ Accessible directly within the Gmail settings
✅ Ability to import contacts along with emails
✅ Can keep your mailboxes synchronized for 30 days
✅ Preserves message read status
⛔️ Incompatible with Microsoft Exchange mailboxes
⛔️ The process can take a very long time (multiple days) to finish
⛔️ Can lead to duplicate messages
This built-in tool is great for those who need a more comprehensive migration of all messages and possibly also contacts, but it has several important shortcomings:
To start with, it can only import mails to Gmail when they’re stored in IMAP and POP3 accounts, making it unusable for Microsoft Exchange migrations. Depending on how many emails you’re migrating, it can take up to multiple days for the Gmail import tool to finish its job. And because the tool imports all messages under a new label, you may need to take extra steps to eliminate duplicates.
Migrate to Gmail with MailJerry
Time required: Minutes to hours for the largest migrations.
Works with: ✅ IMAP ✅ Exchange ✅ POP (emails need to be stored on the server)
Migrating your emails to Gmail doesn’t have to be a solo journey – third-party tools like MailJerry offer a helping hand. Favored for its ease of use, speed, and reliability, MailJerry is a tool that streamlines the email migration process and includes checks to ensure that all messages transfer securely and without duplication.
Follow these steps to easily import emails to Gmail with MailJerry:
- Download MailJerry or open the WebApp and click on New Migration.
- Enter the username and password for your old email account.
- For the new account, select „Gmail“ as account type and enter your username and password.
- Click Check Settings to verify that everything is set up correctly.
- To begin the email import to Gmail, click on Start Migration.
➡️ You can keep an eye on the migration progress through MailJerry’s dashboard. In no time, your emails and their respective folders will be added in your Gmail account.
"My mailbox migration is complete and it is commendable that MailJerry outperformed all the migration softwares in the market including Google's own which was really pathetic.
✅ Anyone can navigate the MailJerry interface with ease
✅ You only need to enter your email credentials to get started
✅ Supports for IMAP, Exchange and partially POP (emails need to be stored on the server as well)
✅ Transfers all folders and labels, including drafts and sent items
✅ Automatically prevent the creation of duplicate emails
✅ Very fast data migration
✅ Includes an email sync feature to keep your mailboxes updated
⛔️ Migrations over 250 MB require a paid plan
MailJerry is the best method for IMAP, Exchange and even POP (as long as you keep messages stored on your mail server). The easy-to-use interface facilitates the migration, with handy features such as mailbox sync and the backup mode, you can make sure to not miss emails that are still received in your old account.
The tool is free for mailboxes up to 250 MB. Larger migrations require either a monthly or yearly subscription that allow you to migrate unlimited data and unlimited mailboxes.
Conclusion & Method Comparison
To sum up the three approaches to import mails to Gmail, have a look at the following comparison:
|Method 01 Forwarding Emails||Method 02 Gmail Import Tool||Method 03 MailJerry|
|Import Folders & Labels||⛔️||✅||✅|
|Imports Sent Messages & Drafts||⛔️||✅||✅|
|Duplicate Check / Prevent Data Chaos||⛔️||⛔️||✅|
|Sync Mailboxes after the Migration||⛔️||✅||✅|
Switching to Gmail can be a breeze with the right migration method: From the straightforwardness of email forwarding to Gmail’s built-in import tool, and the convenience & efficiency of third-party services like MailJerry. No matter which method you choose, we hope this article has helped you to you make Gmail the new home for your emails!