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Switching to Gmail from Another Email Provider

written by: Jennifer Claerr•edited by: Lamar Stonecypher•updated: 9/28/2011

It's simple to switch to Gmail from your old email address provider. Here's a basic guide on how to do it, both in webmail and in your email client.

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    Gmail Features and Benefits

    Gmail is a free email service offered by Google. Gmail is different from other email providers in several important ways. Gmail nests your email messages together by subject so that you can easily follow your conversations with others. Gmail also has a feature called IMAP which allows you to read your email messages using software on your computer without deleting the messages from the Gmail server. This allows you to access your email from any computer without causing it to become scattered in different places. Using IMAP in Gmail will also allow you to manage your email on the Gmail server from your email client. Switching to Gmail from your old email provider is a fairly simple process that doesn't take long to complete. These basic steps will get you started.

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    Sign Up for a Gmail Account

    In order to get a Gmail account, you will need a Google account. Create a new account by entering your current email address, choosing a password and accepting the Google terms of service. Once you're signed up, go to the Gmail site and click "Create an Account." Type in your first and last name, the login name you'd like and select a password. Then choose a security question and answer that you can easily remember. Make a note of your username, password, security question, and answers in a place where unauthorized persons will not be able to access them. Complete the Gmail signup and log into your account.

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    Import Email Addresses

    You can easily import your addresses to Gmail from your old email service provider or software program. You can import addresses from email providers such as Yahoo! Mail and Hotmail and popular email programs such as Outlook and Outlook Express. To do this, export your address book as a comma separated values (.CSV) file. On the left side of your Gmail account page, click "Contacts." Select "Import." Click "Browse" and navigate to the .CSV address book file on your hard drive. Select the file and click "Import Contacts." Once the contacts have been imported, you can access them by clicking "All Contacts" within the "My Contacts" interface.

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    Set Up Folders for IMAP or POP

    You can use either IMAP or POP to access Gmail in your email client. IMAP has many benefits over POP, in that it allows you to view your email messages on your computer without deleting them from Gmail's server. If your email client supports IMAP and you plan to access your email from multiple computers or just want to switch between your email client and webmail, you should choose IMAP over POP.

    You can access folders in Gmail both within webmail and from your favorite email software program. In Gmail, folders are referred to as labels. First, open your Gmail account in webmail and click "Settings." Select "Forwarding and POP/IMAP," then select "Enable IMAP." Click "Save Changes." You can find how to set up IMAP in your email client by clicking "Configuration Instructions" at the bottom of the screen. Within webmail, under "[Imap]/Drafts," select "Create New Label." Type in the name of the new label, then click "OK." Continue creating new labels for each folder you wish to create. When an email message that you want to organize enters your email inbox, select its check box and click "Move To." Choose the desired label to apply the label and move the message.

    If you prefer to use POP to access Gmail with your email client, select "Enable POP" within the "Forwarding and POP/IMAP" window. For best results, select "Keep Gmail's copy in the Inbox" under "When messages are accessed with POP." Directly below this setting are the instructions for setting up POP email for Gmail in your email client.

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    Notify Email Contacts of Your New Email Address

    Before you close your old email account, be sure to notify your email contacts of your new Gmail address. It's important not to close your old email account until you're certain that you've notified everyone from whom you receive email on a regular basis. Check your old email address regularly to see when new emails arrive. Send a notice of your change of address or log into your account to change the address if necessary. When no more new emails arrive at the old address, you can close the account if you like. Keep in mind that it may take several months to a year to complete this process if you don't have a complete contact list or save your old email messages.