The following post was originally published in Chapter 1 of our new book, Upgrade Your Life: The Lifehacker Guide to Working Smarter, Faster, Better.
You’ve finally decided to move all your email online to Google’s web-based service, Gmail. Great! But what about messages still going to your old email address(es)? You don’t have to notify all your contacts that your email address has changed—again. Gmail is not only an email host, it’s an email client, which can fetch mail from any number of external services and consolidate it all right there in your Gmail inbox. Here’s how to move your email to Gmail without missing a single message from an existing account.
Receive messages for other addresses in your Gmail inbox
There are two ways to receive email from other addresses in Gmail: using Gmail’s Mail Fetcher feature or by forwarding your other addresses’ mail to Gmail automatically.
Option 1: Set Up Gmail’s POP Mail Fetcher
Most likely your former email provider offers POP (Post Office Protocol) access for retrieving messages for it. Gmail's Mail Fetcher feature can retrieve those messages via POP and display them in your inbox alongside messages that come directly your Gmail address, too. You can fetch email from up to five other email addresses via POP in Gmail.
To use Gmail's Mail Fetcher, your old email account must offer POP access. Not all free addresses offer POP, but most do. Check the other account's settings or contact customer support to find out if POP access is available on your non-Gmail account. You'll need three settings: the POP server address, port, your username and password. Also, if you haven't already, you'll need to sign up for a free Gmail account at http://gmail.com.
Once you're logged into your Gmail account, configure Mail Fetcher to retrieve messages from your old account. Here's how.
- From the top of any page within Gmail, click Settings.
- Click Accounts.
- In the Get mail from other accounts section, click Add another mail account.
- Enter the full email address of the account you'd like to access, then click Next Step.
- Gmail will fill in the username, POP server and port fields when possible, based on the email address, as shown. Enter your password.
- If Gmail will be the single place you check mail, uncheck the box labelled "Leave a copy of retrieved messages on the server." If you want to access the other mail from other software (or if you're just using Gmail as a backup), do check this box. You can also set options to use SSL (a secure connection) to retrieve mail (some servers support this, others don't) and whether or not to label or archive incoming messages.
- Once your options are set, click Add Account. Gmail will issue an error if your username, password or other settings are incorrect. Once Gmail can fetch messages successfully, it will give you the option to set up a custom From: address. (See the section below for more on that.)
Note: Gmail checks for new messages at different rate, depending on previous mail fetch attempts. You can't customise the default frequency of mail fetches.
Option 2: Forward messages to Gmail automatically
If your old address doesn't offer POP access—or you have more than 5 addresses you'd like to consolidate in Gmail—you can set your former address to automatically forward messages to Gmail instead. The exact way to do this will differ depending on your email account, but if your provider offers auto-forwarding, it will most likely be listed in your account options area.
For example, to auto-forward email from your Hotmail email (which does not offer POP access), click on your account options, and under "Manage Your Account" click on "Forward mail to another email account." There you can set your new Gmail account as the destination address, as shown.
Write messages from non-Gmail addresses
Now that you've got email addressed to several different accounts arriving in your single Gmail inbox, you may want to use those various From: addresses when replying to those messages. For someone who maintains several different online personas - but accesses them all in Gmail - the option to use various From: addresses when sending mail is crucial. Here's how to set up multiple From: addresses once you're logged into Gmail:
- Click Settings along the top of any page, and then select the Accounts tab.
- Click Add another email address in the Send mail as section.
- Enter your full name in the Name field, and the email address you'd like to send messages from in the Email address field.
- Click Next Step >> and then click Send Verification to complete the process. Gmail will send a verification message to your other email address to confirm that you'd like to add it to your Gmail account. If you are already receiving this mail in Gmail, it will appear in your inbox. Click the link in that message, or enter the confirmation code in the Accounts section of your Gmail account, to complete the process.
You can add several possible From: addresses to your Gmail account, as shown.
Set one as your default for new messages, and you can also set the From: name and a different reply-to address if you'd like (by clicking "edit info.")
Once you've verified that you'd like to add the address to your account, you can start sending messages using your custom 'From:' address. When you click Compose, you can choose the From: address to use from the dropdown list, as shown.
Note: Your Gmail address will be included in the email headers of your message in the sender field, to help prevent your mail from being marked as spam. Most email clients do not display the sender field, though some versions of Microsoft Outlook may display "From [email protected] on behalf of [email protected]"—unless you're using Gmail for your domain.