How do I copy email (or export/import) messages from one account to another?

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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

An example will explain how this works. Imagine you want to copy messages from “address@example.com” to “address@gmail.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 “address@example.com” if you don’t already have it set up. Then follow Gmail’s instructions to add a second Thunderbird IMAP account for “address@gmail.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 stop using 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.

Are there free services online that can copy email?

Several services like this exist, including the online imapsync service for mailboxes up to 3 GB in size.

If you use a service like this, be sure that you don’t share your real password with them. It’s best to first temporarily change your email password to a random one you can safely share. Also keep in mind such a service can theoretically see all your email, so you would need to decide whether you trust them.

Can I use a command-line tool?

Technically advanced users may be interested in imapsync, a command-line script that can be run on a server to do this without using a desktop mail program like Thunderbird. The imapsync script is installed on all our servers.

The preferred way to securely run imapsync is something like this:

export IMAPSYNC_PASSWORD1='oldpassword'
export IMAPSYNC_PASSWORD2='newpassword'
imapsync --host1 oldhost.example.com --user1 address@example.com \
         --host2 mail.tigertech.net --user2 address@example.com \
         --noemailreport1 --noemailreport2 --addheader

You can run it repeatedly to copy any messages that have changed since you previously ran it.

We also have a different command-line program, imapcopy, installed on our servers if you prefer that.

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.

Can Tiger Technologies copy my mail for a fee?

While most customers use one of the solutions above to copy mail themselves, we do offer paid IMAP email migration services.

Our Business Hosting plan includes free migration of up to three mailboxes when you sign up. The service is also available as a one-time separate $25.00 fee for customers on another plan. If you need more than three mailboxes migrated, it’s an additional $5.00 per extra mailbox.

The other mailbox provider must support password-based IMAP connections, and each mailbox must contain under 20 GB of mail. You’ll need to send us the IMAP hostname, login username, and password at the other host.

Tip: Use a temporary password.

We don’t want to know your permanent password, so when you send us login information, it’s best to first temporarily change the password to a random one you can safely share.

To get started with this service, just contact us.

Can I download all my email messages using FTP or another file-management tool?

Yes. The messages are stored as files in gzip-compressed Maildir format on our servers, and if that format is useful to you (such as for exporting them to another company), you can download them using common file transfer tools.

For example, you can retrieve the files by FTP if you add an additional FTP account that has access to the mail directory, or you can use any command-line shell tool like scp or rsync.

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.