GMail has a helpful import-from-POP3, to bring your old email when you migrate to GMail. But I wanted to import from a server which supports only webmail and IMAP. Here’s how:
Step 1 - Import Messages to a Desktop Email Client
Since we can’t go directly from the old server into GMail, we’ll pass through an intermediate step. We’ll set up a desktop email client to fetch messages from the old server. This will make a copy of the messages on the desktop. Then, in step 2, we’ll push the messages from the desktop into GMail.
Note: If you’re about to lose access to your old server, the step of copying the messages to your desktop is URGENT. Step 2 can be done at your leisure.
I’m going to describe how to do this using the Thunderbird email client. If you already use a different desktop email client, you can probably do something similar using it.
- Install Thunderbird from https://www.thunderbird.net/en-US/ .
- Just click on the default Next/Install/Finish buttons until you get to the “Set up an Existing Email Account” window.
- Enter your ordinary, human name next to “Your name”. e.g. Tom Smith.
- Enter your email address (from the old server) next to “Email address”. e.g. firstname.lastname@example.org
- Enter your email password (from the old server) next to “Password”. e.g. TopSecret1234
- If you are lucky, it will auto-detect your settings.
- If you are unlucky, you may have to press the “Manual Config” button and enter your information manually:
- Set Incoming to IMAP
- Set both host names to the server name for your old email server. e.g. example.com
- Set the Username Incoming field to your old email server’s user name. e.g. tom.s
- Set both Port fields to Auto.
- Set both SSL fields to Autodetect.
- Set both Authentication fields to Autodetect.
- Set the Username Outgoing field to your old email server’s user name. e.g. tom.s
- Press “Re-test”. It should report “The following settings were found by probing the given server”. Then press Done.
- You may get passed to a login form for your old email server. If so, complete it.
- At the left side of Thunderbird, you should see your old email account. e.g. email@example.com. Underneath the email address, you should see some folders. Explore those folders until you see the emails from your old server.
- Once you find the folder/folders with your old messages:
- Right click the folder.
- Choose Properties, then Synchronization.
- Set (put a check mark next to) “Select this folder for offline use”.
- Press the Download Now button.
- Be sure to do this for each folder which has old emails.
- If you have lots of messages, just let your computer sit, connected to the internet for a little while, while the old messages get downloaded to your computer.