Ask LH: Can I Export Mail From One Gmail Account To Another?

Ask LH: Can I Export Mail From One Gmail Account To Another?

Dear Lifehacker, I love Gmail, but now everyone is getting Google Apps for university. How can I import via IMAP or POP from one Gmail account to another? Thanks, Google Shift

Dear GS,

This isn’t as easy to do as you might think, but there’s a couple of potential solutions you can adopt here. Firstly, there’s nothing to stop you maintaining a separate Gmail account while using your new Apps account. The advantage is that you’ll have entirely separate accounts, which will be useful when you leave university. (Indeed, we’d advise keeping your existing account even if Apps becomes your main focus, purely as a precaution.)

The disadvantage of actively maintaining two accounts is that you won’t be able to search in just one place for all your messages, and you’ll need to use a little trickery if you want to access both accounts on a single machine. You have a few options to do that.

Google Chrome now has pretty decent support for multiple profiles, and that should move from the canary builds to the main release this year. Using a desktop client for one account and sticking the browser for the other is another option, as is having both accounts feed into a desktop app. Finally, you can always open a second window in private browsing mode and use that for a different account.

If you do want to work primarily in one account, you have a couple of options. Annoyingly, Google doesn’t directly support exporting one Gmail account into another one, so some kludging is required. One potential option is to sync your existing Gmail account with Outlook using Google Apps Sync, and then use Google Apps Migration for Microsoft Outlook to import that account into Apps. Google’s help page has details on both options.

More simply, you can set up a system to automatically forward mail sent to one account to the other pretty simply. That means if a message goes to your ‘old’ address, you’ll still get a copy in your ‘new’ account. We’ve detailed how to set that up before as a means of backing up to Gmail, and the same instructions apply for forwarding from one Gmail account to another.

If you want to grab your contacts from one Gmail account for use in another, that’s easy to accomplish. Click on Contacts, then select Export from the More actions menu under the main contacts list. Choose the Google CSV format and click Export. Sign into the other account, choose Contacts, select Import contacts in the left menu and select the CSV file you’ve just created.

My gut feel? Importing your contacts from your existing account and setting up auto-forwarding is a lot less trouble, and gives you more flexibility in the future, then the one-time-via-Outlook method. Failing that, having both work in a single desktop email client is relatively easy.

As usual, if readers have additional wisdom to share about their experience shifting between Google accounts, we’d love to hear it in the comments. Good luck with the move!


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  • I did this once by setting up both accounts via IMAP in a desktop client, then dragging and dropping all email from one account to the other (All Mail to All Mail).

    It took a long time to complete the transfer but it retains the emails in their original state which was the big thing I wanted to preserve.

  • To add to the auto-forwarding point, Gmail also has a ‘send mail as’ feature which allows you to send emails that seem to come from other accounts. This has the option “Reply from the same address to which the message was sent”, so you don’t need to worry about checking which address it was sent to.

    That’s how I manage all my Gmail accounts in one inbox – as well as non-Gmail accounts, for that matter.

  • Delegate your gmail account to your apps one? Then you can have access to both email accounts (on seperate tabs) using your primary login to access them both. I use this technique for accessing work and business gmail at the same time.

    Mail Settings >> Accounts & Import >> Grant access to your account

  • There is no difficulty in using multiple accounts, just set both accounts to ‘allow multiple logon’, you can then switch between them in the menu, just as you’d switch into a delegated account.

    As for pulling in mail, what’s wrong with just pop’ing it into your new account? This retains your mail headers as opposed to setting up a forward which will alter them (although not particulalry important, this will break things like the senderid, spf data etc.).

    And finally(!) if you’re using ‘send as’ feature to retain the illusion of separate accounts remember to specify outbound SMTP servers (if the Google Apps admin has allowed it), this prevent the adding of the ‘sent on behalf of’ nonsense as the email actually comes from the other account’s real SMTP server. I do this even if the other account is also gmail – just makes your mail more ‘correct’ from a standards viewpoint.

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