How do I copy email (or export/import) messages from one account to another?
We’re occasionally asked how to copy email messages from one mailbox to another mailbox, perhaps with different servers involved.
The simplest way to do that is to set up a mail program on your own computer to make IMAP connections to both mailboxes, then drag the messages to copy them. This works even if one of the mailboxes is with another company — they don’t need to both be with Tiger Technologies as long as the other company also allows IMAP connections.
On this page:
- Copying messages using IMAP
- Can I use a different IMAP program?
- Can I use a command-line tool?
- How do I save messages from the server’s IMAP account to my own computer?
Copying messages using IMAP
An example will explain how this works. Imagine you want to copy messages from “firstname.lastname@example.org” to “email@example.com” (or vice versa).
To do this, you could use a mail program like the free Mozilla Thunderbird. First follow our Thunderbird IMAP instructions to add an IMAP account for “firstname.lastname@example.org” if you don’t already have it set up. Then follow Gmail’s instructions to add a second Thunderbird IMAP account for “email@example.com”.
Thunderbird will now show you both Inboxes (and other folders, if any). You’ll be able to drag messages between the mailboxes to copy or move them. You can drag multiple messages at once by highlighting multiple messages to start with (you can use “select all” or the shift key, for example).
When you’re actually dragging them in Thunderbird, you can hold down the CTRL key (on Windows) or option key (on the Mac) to make a copy of the messages instead of moving them. (Moving them deletes the original copy, which may or may not be what you want.)
Can I use a different IMAP program?
Sure thing. Although we suggest the free Mozilla Thunderbird program above, any modern mail program that supports IMAP connections should work.
Also, note that you don’t need to keep using Thunderbird (or whatever program you chose) to read your mail in the future. You can use this trick temporarily just to move the mail, then delete the IMAP accounts from the mail program. Because it copies the messages to the Inbox of the destination, you should be able to read the copied messages using any method when you’re done.
Can I use a command-line tool?
Technically advanced users may be interested in imapcopy, a command-line script that can be run on a server to do this without using a desktop mail program like Thunderbird. The imapcopy script is installed on all our servers.
Another alternative that is not preinstalled on our servers, but which does work and includes extra options like the ability to “incrementally” copy messages, is imapsync.
Note that although these tools are more technically flexible than simply setting up a mail program, they’re usually much more effort. Using a mail program is usually easier and more understandable.
How do I save messages from the server’s IMAP account to my own computer?
In addition to moving mail directly between two remote servers, you may want to archive it to your own computer for safekeeping.
We have a separate page explaining how to archive messages to your computer.