I’ve had a Gmail account since the day they were first offered, back in April 2004. Then at the end of 2006, I opened up a new Google-hosted mail account under my own domain name using Google Apps, which I highly recommend. It provided me with all the great archiving and spam filtering that made me move to Gmail, plus it solved the Gmail Custom From issue that I’ve written about before.
The only downside is that all my mail from 2004 through 2006 is in my old Gmail account, which is a pain if I need to look up some old software registration number (bringing up my repaired desktop today, I’ve been having to do a lot of this). First I’ll usually check my existing mail account, then I’ll go over and check my “old” mail in Gmail. Wouldn’t it be nice if I could move all the email from the old account to the new one?
Well, you can. It’s not even new, but it’s been on my mind since Matt Cutts reminded me of the option with his 11 Power Tips For Gmail blog post earlier this year. I explored a few more posts offering advice, and Google Operating System probably has the best write-up I found. So how did it go for me?
Slow would be the best description. But I’ve got a lot of mail. My old Gmail account has 3GB of mail, or 90,542 messages. On Saturday afternoon my time, I configured it to allow downloading all mail via POP, even mail that’s already been downloaded. And away it went, slowly pulling across 200 messages every two minutes.
Hmm. Whipping out the old calculator, that means about 450 “fetches” of 200 messages each to get all my mail. Two minutes per fetch, that’s 900 minutes or 15 hours. A long time, but it should be done by now, right?
Nope. Sometime last night, despite Google talking to Google, there was a timeout error. I had to restart the process today. How’s it stand?
To figure it out, first I’d go to my All Mail option in my new account, then click Oldest and click my way back on the Newer link until I saw the gap between old mail that came in (dated in 2004) and existing mail (which began at the end of 2006). To go faster, I’d just change the number after P in the URL to jump ahead, say from P511 to P475.
After a full day, I’ve gotten to June 2004. Two months. That’s it. That leaves me with 16 months or so to go. I sure hope it speeds up.
I also discovered a number of issues. First, despite the mail coming in under the old date and being immediately archived, my mail program thinks some of it is new and wants to download it. For example, if I try to POP download now, there are 305 messages that Outlook would pull across, if I let it — and all of these from April, May and June 2004.
This is a pain. To stop it, I have to go into Settings, then to Forwarding & POP/IMAP, then change to Enable POP for mail that arrives from now on. If I do that, voila! Those 305 messages are treated as old by Outlook, and it doesn’t try to download them. Unfortunately, more messages keep coming in. So it’s rinse and repeat — you have to keep going back and enabling that “arrives from now on” setting, since it will magically reset itself back to enable download of all mail since whatever is the oldest date it has fetched (at the moment, after just doing this, it has set itself to May 15, 2004).
The other problem is that any real “new” email you want won’t get pulled into your Outlook client, if you do this. Fortunately, the weekend has been quiet. I’ve mainly been getting messages about people subscribing to my Twitter feed. As a sidenote, there’s been such a rise in activity that I feel real pressure to be a more interesting Twitterer. I’ll try! Plus, with Jason Calacanis going all out to be a top Twitterer as rated by Twitterholic, I’m thinking hey — only 700 more people and I could crack the top 100. So tell a friend, at least if you want a search person up there. But sorry, I have no Macbook Air to give away.
I digress. So new mail has been slow, but at least I can see the “real” new mail showing up when I log into my account using the web interface. To be clear, if I do a POP download, some of the “old” mail shows up as “new” despite being dated from back in 2004 plus any real new mail shows up as well. But in the web interface, only that new mail is showing up in my Inbox, probably because the imported mail is set to automatically be archived.
So my workaround? It looks like I’m going to be using the web interface a lot over the next few days, until this import process completes.
Here’s another tip. A faster way to see how far things are along is to go to your old account, the one you’re importing from. Go to Forwarding & POP/IMAP, then look at the POP download section. The status line above the options should say that POP is enabled for all mail that has arrived from a particular date — and that date will get newer as the export process to your old account continues.
Postscript: One last observation. It’s amazing to watch how much Gmail’s spam filters have improved over the years. Hundreds of imported emails that previously came to my old Gmail account as not spam are not being nabbed by the spam filter as the import process reexamines each email. For the record, my current account had about 51,000 messages before the process began. When it’s over, I’ll be able to tell how much of that imported email turned out to be spam.