Weblog Work/Technical

My Email Migration Journey

Everyone has email. Some people access it via a blackberry, iphone/iphone 3g or other internet capable mobile phone, some people use outlook, thunderbird or one of the other desktop email clients. Then there are those of us who use things like gmail, hotmail so that you can access your mail easily anywhere in the world.

When i first started using the internet (over ten years ago) i used things like claramail and hotmail – just because they were free and easy to use. I then started actually messing about with the internet, building websites and learning about domain names and pop3 etc. I then took the logical step (at the time) to outlook. I had also started an IT job and needed something more professional that came with calendar sharing options.

Outlook was good, i had folders and filters set up so that when mail came in it was delivered to the right box and i even had a good spam filter called ihatespam. It seemed to work pretty well at the time from what i can remember.

I soon grew tired of outlooks limitations, i wanted my mail with me all the time! So i got someone to invite me to gmail – I quickly registered my usual username@ gmail address. I was quite lucky as it was early gmail days so i managed to get the address i wanted.

I loved gmails interface straight away. They had a totally different approach to how you store your mail, plus you use a google search to find your mail, so looking for things deep and buried (which i often do) became a sinch! I simply forwarded @maxxd email addresses to @gmail then set the @gmail “reply to” address to the @maxxd domain and you have a loop. It worked well until my server was down as it broke the forwarder, but i suppose thats true for most peoples email.

I used gmail for many years, and ended up with about 10 different addresses for different things, when i suddenly hit a wall when looking for some old emails that i needed to clear a burning question i had in the back of my head. My emails didn’t quite go far back enough, it was literally a few days out. So i looked at ways of extracting my emails from the mail files i had hung on to from the early days.

I soon located a copy of outlook, set it up then replaced the mail files and hey presto, i had my mail. I had got it into my head that it would be a good idea to copy all that across to thunderbird, and pull all my gmail emails from gmail down to thunderbird too, so i have everything in one place.

All was good for a while, apart from maxing out my hard drive and having to move the local thunderbird mailfile located. Oh and then, my laptop died. And i was without every single email i had ever received (and kept).


I quickly switched email forwarders back on to how i had them set up when i used gmail previously, in order to catch any new mail i received, and i continued to use it like this while i sorted a new charger unit for my laptop. Once that was sorted i powered the laptop back up and started researching the best way to actually store all this info and have reliable professional email system.

We decided to go back to google, and try out google apps. We made the changes to the dns so that the domain emails go to googles servers, set the accounts up and cracked on with it. It seems to work really well, and its customisable. The only problem i find is when i need to log in from a random pc i have to piss about as i haven’t set the custom url thingy up yet – but that’s just my fault.

As i wanted all my emails in one place, i looked to find a way to get emails from thunderbird BACK to gmail! I located a really helpful set of guides here and here that enlightened me on the best way to do this successfully. It works well, but WARNING – DO NOT log in to another gmail account in your browser on that pc until the copy process has completed. I couldn’t figure out why it kept failing at first but it soon dawned on me. Also dont forget gmail has restrictions on attachment sizes so that can always be a reason if it keeps crashing or failing.

Anyway, im pretty much in the last stages of moving the emails back, im on over 11,000 in one and over 2000 in the other, with emails dating back to 2002.

The next step is to do some work on the servers to spruce them up a bit. Great stuff.

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