How to leave GMail and move the emails to IMAP provider

This page explains how to leave GMAIL and move all emails to IMAP provider.

Why leave Gmail?

This is often the first question. Remember the saying: "If it's free, then YOU are the product".

.. Might not be enough to convince you? Well.. Browse your Google data and check out the 'Reservations' and 'Online shopping' sections. Even though you bought things and services on Amazon / Booking / Whatever ; Google has parsed your emails + extract data + categorized and summed them up.

In other words: Google is reading your freaking emails!! ... If they can parse your vacation trips, they can surely parse your other emails such as banking note / password notifications / taxes / doctors appointments / etc. Privacy is long gone with GMAIL.

Process description to leave Gmail:

  1. Create a redirection from @gmail to the new email (ex:
  2. Download all the GMAIL data from your Google account
  3. Import the GMAIL data into a messaging software that supports the MBOX format
  4. Configure the messaging software to access your new email with IMAP protocol
  5. Move the emails you want to keep from the "local imports" to IMAP server
  6. ... Switch back to online web-client / another messaging tool (ex: outlook)


  • email address: you must have an email that is NOT @gmail with, at least, 5 Go storage
  • The new email provider must offer IMAP access
  • You must send the new address to all your contacts

🛈 Hint: at the end of this process, while you will wait for your contacts to move to your new email address, you can setup a GMAIL redirection from @gmail to the new provider

Warning: the process describe in this article cannot be done with a mobile device. You must use a computer or a laptop (no matter the operating system)

Create a redirection in GMAIL

  • Go to GMAIL > Settings
  • Go to Transfer and POP/IMAP section
  • Click on add a new transfer email
  • Enable transfer to that email
  • Save changes

From now on, you do not need to use GMAIL for your new emails. :-)

Export Google GMAIL data

  • Go to GMAIL
  • Click on your account picture on the top left corner > Google account
  • On the left click on Data and personnalisation
  • Scroll down the page to Download your data
Google account download my data

  • Click un-select all, then just select GMAIL only
  • Click on include all GMAIL data and really include them all!
  • Click next step and choose ZIP max 1 Go
  • Trigger the archive creation

.. Wait a little while .. You will receive an email with a link to download the archives.

  • Download all the archives
  • Unzip all archives and regroup the files into 1 folder

Congratulations! You have successfully backup your GMAIL account and your are ready to import emails to the new account.

Email client setup (Thunderbird)

As mentioned earlier on, you must use a client that supports MBOX. Mozilla Thunderbird is the best option.

  • Download and install Thunderbird
  • Open Thunderbird

Add new email

  • On first opening, please configure new email inside Thunderbird, as IMAP client
  • Make sure the configuration is working:
    • Send an email FROM Thunderbird to another account
    • Send an email to that account and check that you receive it in Thunderbird


To import the Google data you need some add-ons.

  • Click on the menu icon (☰) > Add-ons > Add-ons
  • Click on "see All" (top right) of the first banner
Thunderbird see all add-ons

Install extensions:

Other add-ons (optional)

These are other interesting add-ons:

Import emails into local inbox

  • Right click on local folders > ImportExportTools > Import mbox file
Import MBOX

  • Select the 3rd option: Select a directory where searching the mbox files to import
Import MBOX mode (3rd option)

  • Choose your Google backup
  • .. wait for import

Move your emails

At last you are ready for the migration.

  • Create folders on the IMAP account
  • Move your emails from "local inbox" to the IMAP folders

🛈 All the emails that you put in the IMAP folders will be uploaded to the remote server. make sure you have enough storage!

What's next?

You should NOT close your gmail account. You might still need it for Android and other services that requires a Google link.