Can I migrate my emails to another provider?

Email accounts. They’re our modern-day filing cabinets, where we keep more of our lives stored than we care to admit.

Over the years, my own email has become an archive of work, a store of vital documents, and a database of trusted companies that I’ve used before — and I’m sure that’s just the tip of the iceberg. 

So, when Microsoft introduced new fees for an email service I’d unknowingly taken for granted, I had no choice but to pay up. 

But then I got to thinking — what if it’s possible to move this patchwork of my life’s communications somewhere else? Somewhere that didn’t just try to railroad me into new fees. Maybe even somewhere that offered something slightly different. After all, it’s been a while since I properly looked at what email could do for me.

Is it even possible to move emails?

This was my first question. As you can imagine, my spider’s web of files and attachments takes up a fair few gigabytes. It seems like every time I’ve ever tried to move large quantities of data in the past, I’ve run into problems that should have been solved around the time Bill Gates got his marginally more stylish glasses. 

To my relief, there are ways to take the chaos out of email migration and mitigate the risk of data loss.

Looking for a wizard

Like anything, if approached incorrectly, migration can be a tricky business. So, when I was looking for a new provider, I focussed on ones that had a ‘wizard’ that made it easy. These migration tools typically allow you to choose what you want to move (emails only, emails with attachments, file structures, and so on) in a step-by-step process. 

Only a few years ago, these tools were not commonplace. Thankfully, there are plenty to choose from now. But we’ll come on to this and other ways to migrate a little later.

Reasons you might need to migrate

Perhaps you have a work or college email that you’re about to lose access to and want to keep your files or communication records. Although, it’s worth double-checking with your employer/administrator that migration won’t breach any data policies before starting migrations of these accounts.

Alternatively, and more dramatically. your email provider might be being ‘sunsetted’. Skiff is a recent example of this. When it was bought out by Notion, email was one of several products removed from their lineup. 

Reasons you might want to migrate

Beyond new fees, life events, and sudden closures, there are other reasons for considering a change. Some of these have come to light in recent years, as the importance of data security has been brought to the forefront of our minds. 


Laws like GDPR and CCPA have made it a felony not to guard sensitive data correctly, which is a big concern for those in business. If a business uses a service that compromises its customers’ data, it could be an issue. Some email providers — typically referred to as ‘business email’ providers — have a much greater onus on security for this reason. 


Excessive downtime may be causing delays in sending or receiving emails. Reliability isn’t something we think about being important until it becomes an issue. Others have fallen victim to overzealous spam filters that intervene when they shouldn’t. 

I experienced this personally with my Microsoft account. Companies I had frequent interactions with were suddenly sent straight to the junk folder without so much as a warning. As well as infuriating, this was costly, especially when it happened with time-sensitive invoices. 

Once again, so-called ‘business email’ (‘so-called’, because its enhanced features are actually useful to anyone) comes to the rescue. Usually, a greater emphasis is put on perfecting features like spam filters. 

Cost and security

Probably the main reason you’ll want to change providers is to reduce cost and/or increase security. 

When I decided to move away from Hotmail, these were my primary concerns. After all, Microsoft was involved in a data breach in 2023, and I knew there must be somewhere that was cheaper than the £19.99/yr ($24.99/yr) I paid to them just to keep my account. (And that’s without factoring in how annoyed I was at having to pay for something I had previously got for free).

Similarly, Google has also suffered its fair share of email security breaches.  On top of this, in 2022, it sunsetted some features for Gmail for users who didn’t upgrade to the premium Workspace option, causing outcry on channels like Reddit. This means the ‘big’ providers are no longer necessarily the ‘trusted’ providers. This has left many, especially small businesses, seeking alternatives

Are there any drawbacks to email migration?

We’ve covered the benefits of email migration, but are there any drawbacks? The short answer is no — with a couple of provisos. Let’s presume that, like me, you have a good reason to leave, and you aren’t migrating from an old, custom-built in-house system. You’ve also spent some time researching the best provider for you — and it’s one with an easy migration wizard. 

The most important thing you’ll need to do is make absolutely sure your new account has enough space. Running out of space midway through migration can cause some files not to be transferred or, in worst-case scenarios, the process to fail. 

Another small thing to consider is the fact you may experience disruption to your usual email service as the migration takes place, so it’s advisable to run the process overnight, or when you know business will be quiet. Perhaps a public holiday.

What if the email provider I want doesn’t have a migration tool?

There are a few options you could try in this instance. 

Merge accounts first 

There is software out there (like Thunderbird) that lets you add and access all your accounts, messages, calendars, and contacts in one place. By adding both accounts (old and new) to the same mailing software using IMAP, you can drag and drop emails from one account to the other. If you do this on a cloud-based platform, it will sync everywhere.

Third-party tools

There are some third-party migration tools, like MailJerry, that can help you with migration. These can be quite costly, however. For example, migrating mailboxes over 250 MB in size costs $12.99/mo from MailJerry. And you have the hassle of finding, downloading, and operating a third-party tool.

Hire an expert

If the above methods won’t work, you could consider hiring a technical expert for manual migration. A process like this requires adjusting domain settings, DNS records, and MX record configuration. It can easily become jargon-heavy and intimidating to a novice. 

While hiring someone to do this would take the stress out of doing it yourself, it means giving access to your precious data to a third party, albeit a professional. It could also cost up to $150 per mailbox

Of course, this can all be bypassed if you choose a new email provider that offers a built-in migration tool, so it’s worth factoring this feature into your search. 

Built-in migration tools 

Around five years ago, there were very few platforms with built-in migration tools. Now the feature is included as standard with many providers. But to keep things simple, let’s take a closer look at Spacemail business email from Spaceship and its migration tool as an example of how they work. 

From your Spacemail account panel, you simply go to ‘Settings’, and then click ‘Email migration’.

Fill out the form. Your ‘source email account’ is the one you are importing the data from. In this case, the destination account will automatically be your new Spacemail account. You will need to find out the IMAP server name from your source email account, and the port number. Usually, this information can be found in ‘Preferences’ or ‘Account Settings’. It should be easy to find the exact location directly from your service provider. After you’ve inputted everything, click the purple ‘Migrate emails’ button.

The migration process will begin. Now that you’ve initiated the process, you can relax while the migration is handled securely and efficiently. 

Final tips for successful migration

To ensure your migration is successful and hassle-free, choose your provider carefully. You need an intuitive and reliable platform when it comes to moving your emails. 

As I mentioned earlier, ensure you have enough space in the destination account to avoid any errors or failures. It’s advisable to clear unwanted emails and attachments before the migration to save paying for storage you don’t need. You could also take this opportunity to implement a clear file structure so you know where everything is. Spacemail’s migration tool preserves the structure of your emails including folders and sub-folders, so it’s a great choice for those with a careful system already in place.

Frequently asked questions

Usually, it doesn't take long to migrate an email account. If you have a big mailbox, or your Internet service is slow, you may want to ensure you set aside more time than you think you’ll need to be safe. In our experience, time can vary from just several minutes to up to 12 hours (for really huge mailboxes). Nighttime, off-peak hours, or holidays are the best time to initiate the process to avoid downtime when your mailbox might be busy.

Yes, it is generally possible to migrate emails from one email address to another.

It's not strictly required, but having everything in one place is advisable if your new provider has advanced domain management features. Typically, it would make the setup and management processes easier too. 

It depends when they’re sent and to which address. Your emails will either be routed to the new email provider or to the old one. If it’s the latter, you'll need to re-sync them after the end of migration.

Typically, yes. For example, when I migrated to Spacemail, my file and folder structure were preserved and appeared as it was in my previous email account.

Your emails will retain the timestamp from your previous inbox, which means you will still be able to manage them conveniently.

Your emails will retain the read/unread status from your other provider.

Those are the settings that cannot be transferred, unfortunately. That's why it’s worth dedicating some time before or after the migration (as you wish) to make your new email account truly yours.


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