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Move Emails from Computer to Gmail

written by: Meryl K Evans•edited by: Jean Scheid•updated: 7/5/2011

Use Outlook? Thunderbird? Eudora? Some other email application? You can move all those emails out of them into Gmail. Why? Because you can connect to Gmail from anywhere outside your home office. All you need is a computer and internet connection and Gmail is there for you.

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    Gmail vs Computer Email Client

    I love Gmail. It's the first free web-based service that I keep open all the time. With others, I only checked emails on a weekly basis, if that. Gmail feels more accessible and does a good job integrating various email features for easier organization and management.

    Because of this, I have all email newsletters going to my Gmail account. Then I realized that I should check my computer-based email application (Thunderbird) and see what needs moving over to Gmail. It turns out, plenty of newsletters and other messages should live in Gmail as well as go there instead of my computer's inbox.

    Gmail also taught me not to obsessively clean my delete folder. I don't bother with Gmail's trash folder as the service deletes those on a set basis. For my computer email, I delete those once a week now. It used to be daily.

    Using Gmail gives you access to your email messages from any computer, anywhere. It also offers better email back up and lightens the load on my computer with attachments going into Gmail or elsewhere.

    Not everything is moving over to Gmail. Computer email clients have several advantages. Faster access and no reliance on an internet connection or Gmail availability.

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    Moving Emails to GMail

    Most email clients come with Internet Message Access Protocol (IMAP). Simply put, it lets you access another email server from within your email client and treat it as if you have two email services coming in one client. For example, you have an Outlook and Gmail account. You can set up IMAP in Outlook so you can get your Gmail messages from within Outlook. In essence, you can move emails between the two accounts. Post Office Protocol (POP), on the other hand, only lets you get messages one way.

    Because of IMAP, I easily moved hundreds of messages off of my computer in Thunderbird to Gmail's web-based server. Both accounts appeared in Thunderbird with their own folders. I dragged 'n dropped emails from my personal account into Gmail's folders. It can take time for the messages to transfer, but not too bad.

    The first thing to do is enable IMAP in Gmail.

    1. Sign in Gmail.
    2. Select Settings at the top of Gmail.
    3. Select Forwarding and POP/IMAP.
    4. Select Enable IMAP.
    5. Select Save Changes.

    Since the email client you use may not be Outlook or Thunderbird, here's a generic overview of how to move the messages between your computer and Gmail. You simply create a new account, select IMAP, enter your email ID information and Gmai's server info with as the incoming server and as the outgoing server. Gmail has instructions for setting IMAP on various email clients.

    Now you can freely move emails between your two accounts. You made it this far. Why not go the extra mile and clean up your email?