How I switched from Gmail to Outlook.com (and how you can too)

How I switched from Gmail to Outlook.com (and how you can too)

Summary: So long, Gmail, it was nice knowing you. After nearly a decade, I've finally moved my personal email away from Google's service. If you're considering doing the same, here's a step-by-step guide to help you set things up the right way.

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As I wrote in my last post, after nearly a decade, I've finally given up on Gmail. Last weekend, I moved several thousand messages to a new account at Outlook.com, leaving my once busy @gmail.com address as a plain-vanilla forwarder going to a more modern service, one that works effortlessly with all my devices.

gmail

A little background first.

My primary work email address is associated with my business domain and is hosted on an Exchange Server run by Intermedia. (I list the reasons why I made that choice in this post.)

I keep my personal mail separate from my work correspondence. Over the years I've accumulated a  collection of addresses on a variety of free email services: Hotmail and its successors; Yahoo (barely used); and, of course, Gmail. With this consolidation, all of those widely scattered addresses are now going to a single inbox, with an address hosted on a domain I own.

This post explains how I did it, and how you can do the same. Note that the steps I list here will work with any service, not just Outlook.com, although you'll have to dig around to find the corresponding settings for other services.

Step 1: Set up your new primary email address.

You can use a generic Outlook.com address if you want simplicity. I'm a firm believer in the value of owning one's own email address, though, even for personal mail. If you depend on an email address that someone else controls, you run the risk that the owner of that domain will suspend your account for a real or imagined infraction of their terms of service. If that account is on a free service run by a large corporation, good luck getting anyone's help in restoring your account.

The domain I use for personal email is registered with the Microsoft Custom Domains Admin Center, and I've set up my personal account as well as accounts for various family members there. To access mail from that account, I just go to Outlook.com and sign in with my personal email address. (If you want to do the same, follow the instructions in this post: Why I use Outlook.com for my custom email accounts (and how you can too.)

Step 2: Forward your Gmail account to the new address.

You'll find the forwarding options under the Settings menu in Gmail. After you log in to your Gmail inbox, click the gear icon in the upper right corner and then click Settings. On the Settings page, click the Forwarding and POP/IMAP heading to display the page shown here.

forward-gmail-to-new-address

If you haven't set up a forwarding address yet, click Add a forwarding address and then enter the address you set up in Step 1. Gmail will send a confirmation message to that address with a link you need to click before forwarding is enabled.

Note that you have the option to keep forwarded messages in your Gmail inbox. I've chosen to delete Gmail's copy. As a result, the only messages that remain in Gmail are those that are classified as spam and filtered to the Junk folder.

(Note: It's possible to enable either POP or IMAP access on the Gmail account and then "pull" the messages from your primary account. I don't recommend this approach, because it introduces extra complexity and delays the receipt of mail sent to your secondary accounts. The only time to use this option is if you're consolidating messages from a POP or IMAP account where you are not the administrator and thus can't set up forwarding.)

Step 3: Set up Outlook.com to allow you to send messages from your Gmail account.

You can skip this step, but I recommend doing this for those occasions where you need to reply to a message using the address it was sent to. as email sending in Outlook.com.

To enable this feature, sign in to Outlook.com, click the gear icon in the upper right corner, and choose More mail settings from the menu. Under the Managing Your Account heading, click Your email accounts and then, from the bottom of the page, click Add a send-only account.

send-only-gmail

Enter your Gmail address and password and Outlook.com will set up the server addresses automatically. (To see the values it enters, click Advanced options.)

Note: If you've enabled two-factor authentication for your Gmail account, this setup step won't work properly with your regular Gmail password. You'll need to either disable the extra security or, better yet, generate an application-specific password. You'll find this option at the Google Accounts Security page.

Step 4: Remove any rules you've set up for your Gmail account.

If you've set up Gmail filters to automatically process messages by adding labels, you should remove those rules to avoid interfering with forwarding. You'll find them in Gmail Settings, under the Filters heading. (If you're the cautious type and you're trying forwarding as an experiment, you can either skip this step or export the filters to an XML file so you can restore them later.)

Step 5 (optional): Move your old Gmail messages into your new Outlook folder.

This step is a bit more difficult than it should be. If you use Outlook, you can set up your Gmail and Outlook.com folders side by side, but you can't drag messages between them. For that task, I used the decidedly unmodern Windows Live Mail, part of the Windows Essentials package.

Install the Windows Live Mail program and set up two accounts: your new primary account and the Gmail account you're migrating from. Wait for all your messages to download from each one (this can take a while if you have a lot of mail) and then drag messages out of the Gmail folder hierarchy and into the Outlook.com folders.

And you're done. Your @gmail.com address is still active and accepting incoming messages, and you can use that account to sign in for any Google services you still use. But your mail now comes to a single inbox.

Any questions?

Topics: Mobility, Google, Microsoft

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228 comments
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  • why abandon the best email?

    google has the best email by far.
    The Linux Geek
    • Freedom of choice

      Amazingly, people have different preferences. If you want to continue using Gmail, please do. No one is trying to force you to do otherwise.
      Ed Bott
      • Gmail v. Outlook.com

        I use both Gmail and Outlook.com. My personal account, which I have had for years, is in Gmail. I see no reason to change it. I very much like that I can organize by labels rather than folders. This means I can assign an email chain which includes both my son and daughter the appropriate labels for each of them.

        For work I use Outlook.com set up to get mail from my business email account (myname@officename.com) and to reply from that same address.

        The biggest advantage for work is that as I reorganize my folders I can just drag the contents of entire folders into a new folder as a subfolder. For example I started have a separate folder for each client but then it became expedient to organize the folders geographically. I created a geographic folder (e.g. Kansas) and then dragged the appropriate folders into Kansas where they became subfolder. I do this sort or reorganizing fairly frequently as it fits my needs and that is the main reason I do not use gmail for my business.

        As an aside this means that I know use IE for work since Outlook.com does not work nearly as well in Chrome as in IE.

        Gmail also has Outlook.com beat for ease of taggin. In Gmail I can go to the label drop down list and start typing the label. This will quickly take me to the right label and then I just hit "enter." I cannot do this in Outlook.com, which makes assigning emails to the right folder more work than in Gmail.

        I actually just wish that either one of them would combine the best features of each and give us a cloud based email that works really well instead of just OK, which is how Gmail and Outlook.com presently work.

        I prefer cloud based email because I use three computers regularly and having the exact same file structure available from each of the computers is critical to me.
        robbackus
        • Search function in Outlook

          If you use Outlook to access your Outlook.com email, then the searches are just as instantaneous as they are in Gmail. Plus, you can specify search types with keywords, such as "From:Ted" or "Subject:Accounts Payable"
          mozzism
          • huge file size: search

            outlook and windows search runs in the background. i have mine disabled.
            Spaztic888
          • Search funktions in Outlook and Gmail

            And you can do the same specify search with keywords in GMail too. Search in GMail is realy great, go figure. :-) You don't need to run a client to do that.
            Jxn
        • use 3000 computers and have the same file structure

          I have been using several computers for years all with the same file structure by using a imap email server.
          balsover
        • Categories = Labels in Outlook.com

          Labels allow you to easily categorize or label your mail. Giving you the best of both worlds folders when you want them and Categories(Labels) if you choose to use them.
          eferron@...
      • Short time freedom of choice

        You have the freedom of using Microsoft legacy products for a few more years, so go ahead and enjoy them while you can. Eventually though, you'll have to step up to premium Linux grade products and save money like everybody else.
        StevenAbaby
        • Save money? You know they're both free, right?

          Also, since there's no product just a service -- no one cares what is running the service.
          alsw
      • Relax ED!!!!

        Jeez, just as you spout your preferences on your "blog" here, others will do the same. Wish you'd learn to tolerate other people's opinions as much as we have to with yours! Amazing how you don't mind spouting off your preferences, but when others do the same, you suffer a relapse.....
        Charles_B
        • Charles_B

          Spouting hogwash again...
          Moosehouse
          • Where did you see his intolerance

            Charles, I for one, really enjoyed the article as I've been having some problems with gmail and I thought it was just me. Anyway, I thought Ed has been very gracious in his responses to people who like Gmail. I wish more writers would give us insight on how they do things. I like hearing from people who really know the industry.
            larsonjs
        • Say what?

          Different people have different preferences. I'm not trying to convince anyone of anything. As I said very clearly here, I described my decision process and how I implemented this transition. It's not about which service is best, it's which one an individual prefers. That decision will be different for everyone.

          Is that so hard to understand? Unless, you're just trolling...
          Ed Bott
          • It's much appreciated!

            I want to thank you, Ed. I have have used Outlook for email for quite some time, and I have found it to be very user friendly, especially for someone like myself who is technologically inept. I was forced into using Gmail within the last couple of years, as that is the service that my university uses for their student email system. I have never grown used to it, and I much prefer Outlook. Thank you so much for taking the time to provide step-by-step instructions on how to combine the two accounts! : )
            Christine0902
      • 31 + votes, 40 - votes

        would seem to indicate a slight disagreement with Ed's POV. That's fine because if there's one area where people should NOT complain it's whether someone chooses to use one method of using email vs. another.
        Personally I am baffled by his critique of gmail as being difficult to use with a standalone email client. Maybe that's just me but I have no problem with using Thunderbird and I prefer its ability to create folders and filters that let me put email exactly where I want it, rather than the GMail default (with their web based app) that generalizes my email into just three categories and which AFAICS doesn't do it very well.
        In spite of that latter "fault" I still use the webmail app occasionally since it's easier to use for a quick check of my email on my phone or tablet, knowing that when I use my laptop all those emails that I've already read can be filtered into the folders where I want them for archival purposes.
        bunkport
      • We want to understand why

        Ed: We want to understand why you were so disenchanted with Gmail. I have both Gmail and Outlook.com. I like both but Gmail is linked to Outlook desktop and also to all my Android devices. What's not to like? Please tell....
        ryork272
        • Missing the old days...hate the lack of standards in email, contact and cal

          Pre Gmail I used outlook on all my pop3 accounts and exchange server no issues. As Gmail came and integration to an Android platform, I tried to not leave Outlook (even with its few issues). Then Google dropped support for non business users, so even though i have android devices, I lost my contact sync and cal sync. Add on products caused and do cause problems. Thunderbird, Postbox etc as desktop do not provide all the functions of Outlook, and I am not happy being forced to pick one combination of mishmash to try and keep things in sync. IT is PAST time for a functioning standard for a email, contacts and calendar, and Google is not a Standards group.
          eas_trader
      • GMail

        The web user interface in GMail are far much better than in Office365, and I guess that would be the same in outlook.com

        Is it possible to print out mails from outlook.com from IE? That isn't possible from Office365. Even MS themself recommend another web browser.

        The IMAP interface to Office365 are a drag, the one in IBM Notes was far better in that, except it had is own shortcomings, like max length of the combination of all maps names.

        And where are the standard documentation of the Exchange protocoll? IMAP have an RFC, I have not seen one for Exchange.

        Yes, there are some things that I do think Google are doing bad. But that isn't GMail. Googla Apps where they removed your own domain name for non paying users. And removed XMPP from GTalk/Hangout. That is very bad and argumentations they have put forward are even worse.

        So yes, we do have different preferences. .
        Jxn
        • Printing

          It is possible to print out mails from Office 365 using Internet Explorer: more actions > print. Just allow popups for that web site. It's also possible to print out from outlook.com: actions > print.
          I'm using IE 10.
          JNicholas