How to transfer ALL your e-mail to Gmail (even if it’s in folders)

I recently helped my mother with switching over to Gmail. She has always used the webmail service from our webhost with an e-mail adress at (she runs a dutch PR consultancy) but the webmail service had been buggy lately. Setting up Gmail to receive e-mail from another account with POP3 access is easy but I was getting worried when I noticed the mail that she had put in folders wasn’t coming through. When I went googling for a clue I found the Gmail answer to this problem:

You’re only receiving mail from the inbox of your other account and not from any folders. Each webmail provider determines which messages to make available for POP download and sends a list of the messages to Gmail. Since Gmail can’t retrieve any messages that aren’t on the list, we suggest contacting your other provider to learn about alternatives.

I didn’t really feel like doing it this way, it meant waiting for our hosting provider to respond and everything. Plus I wasn’t convinced that Gmail would automatically label the messages with the folder name. So I had to come up with another solution.

Gmail allows you to access your e-mail through IMAP which means that you can access your mail with a standard desktop e-mail client like Mozilla Thunderbird. Every change you make in Thunderbird (such as deleting a message) will reflect in your Gmail as well (in contrast to making changes with POP3 access). Our hosting company provides IMAP access as well. What I did was the following:

I turned on IMAP access in Gmail and configured Thunderbird so I could access my mother Gmail (read all about it). Then I created another account in Thunderbird to access her mailbox at our hosting provider (the one the still held some mail in folders). After doing this I could easily create folders for Gmail in Thunderbird (Gmail converts them to labels automatically) that match the folders at our hosting provider. After that I could simply drag and drop all the mail from the hosting provider to Gmail (hold [CTRL] while dragging and dropping to copy instead of move). Voila!

This way all the e-mail that was archived in folders at our hosting provider now appears under matching labels in Gmail.

10 comments on How to transfer ALL your e-mail to Gmail (even if it’s in folders)

  1. Good to know this..
    Here I would like to share another simple tool called Beyond Inbox to copy/Move mails between two account. It’s Transfer panel facility provides user-friendly way to transfer mails between two account. You can transfer complete inbox, Sent items or other folders to another account.–how-to-copy-move-emails-in-imap-account.html

  2. @Ronak Zegt
    Thanks for sharing Beyond Inbox here. My H.O.D got redeployed and I had to move 7 official folders from his personal mail address to our department’s. Beyond Inbox made it a breeze. Thanks for sharing this link.

  3. I had the same problem, as I was leaving a job and losing access to its email, which had IMAP access but not POP. I wanted to save many of my emails (not all) and move them into Gmail.

    Using Thunderbird, I moved all the emails I wanted to keep into Local Folders (which go into a roaming Thunderbird profile). I then copied the Local Folders part of that roaming profile onto a portable hard drive, which I took home. I set up Gmail via Thunderbird, copied the folders I had saved into the Local Folders part of that profile on my home machine, and then I had access to move them about to my heart’s content.

    The beauty of this solution is that Thunderbird is free!

  4. Indeed Warren!

  5. This is easy!?

  6. Maybe not easy, but definitively effective ;)

  7. Thank you for your services from the people who could not get services any other way.

  8. I used this Python script to migrate more than 2000 mails from an IMAP server to GMail:

  9. Great addition, Mrts!

  10. I was thrilled to chance on your web page but was dismayed by my inability to understand anything at all.

    I am a grandmother. I have been with for the past 16 years . Over time I have collected hundred of emails from my kids to my grand kids etc.

    Recently I created a gmail account and want to import all my numerous folders and sent folder to my gmail account. I managed to configure the incoming emails but have not a clue how to import the folders.

    Please help.

    Azra Buttar

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