Moving mail from one GMail account to another with tags intact.

I recently had to move my mail between a GMail account and a Google Apps GMail account. It is possible to move mail from one to the other with all tags intact, however there are several steps (the exact number depends on the number of tags you have) but the process consists mostly of repeating the same step.

Enable IMAP on both Gmail accounts and configure your mail client for both.  I used Windows Live Mail since it has a “Copy to folder …” option (and of course is free and readily available for Windows 7).

Replicate the tags structure for your destination GMail account so that it has all the tags of the source GMail account.  You can do this from inside the GMail web interface (while you enabling IMAP support).

Configure and sync both accounts in your mail client so you have a full list of tags (folders in your mail client) for both.

Your mail client sees the GMail tags as folders.  Go to the first folder you want to transfer – in the image I am copying my sent mail.  Select all the mail you want to copy.

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Right click on your selected mail and select “Copy to folder” and then select the same mail folder of the GMail account you are copying to.

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Click OK and you will see a progress bar as your mail client copies the mail from account to account.

You must repeat this for every folder/tag you want to transfer including the all mail folder (if you want to move everything or untagged email).  Keeping copying them to their corresponding folder on the destination account.

When you have finished the tagging/folder structure should be identical for both accounts.

You may also want to move your incoming mail filters and contacts from account to account as well.  Google provides a Google Labs feature for moving your filters, and you can export your contacts in a Google friendly format for moving from one account to another.

That’s it.  If you have a few hundred Mb of mail the transfer doesn’t take too long (depending on your connection speed).  You might want to do this at a quiet time of the day so that Google’s servers are under less load.

Update: I’ve just found an excellent piece of software that does automatically what I was doing manually.  It is called GMail Backup and is available from here.   Download the email from the account you are moving from, then change the settings and restore to the email account you are moving to.  The software takes care of labels etc (I’ve tested it with Google Apps and Gmail and have used it to move email in both directions).

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