After moving my church to Google Apps, I have decided that I like the GMail interface so much that I want to use it for my own personal email address. I want to move my copious existing email archives to Google, and that’s where the complications kick in:
First, my mail archives are in a Dreamhost IMAP account, and GMail can only retrieve POP3 mail.
Second, if I change my DNS, I may not be able to tell Google where to find my mail at all.
After pondering it for a bit, here are some informal, probably incomplete notes about what I did (in brief):
- Download a local backup copy of the Dreamhost IMAP mail. You can never be too careful.
- Copy all mail from all folders into your Inbox. This includes your Sent Mail, so copy that into your Inbox as well. GMail will handle the threading (mostly) correctly when it downloads your mail.
- Change the MX records in your Dreamhost panel to point to Google. Check the box for Dreamhost to keep accepting mail for your domain.
- Tell your GMail account to check mail for your Dreamhost account using POP3. Point it at mail.YOURDOMAIN.com, which isn’t affected by the MX record change (because you told them to keep accepting mail) and tell it not to delete mail off the server.
- Wait for GMail to grab all of your mail. It’ll take a while. (It took about 24 hours to move 7000 messages. You can check the progress in Settings:Accounts)
- If you copied your sent mail to your Inbox (recommended), you’ll notice a lot of conversations that only have mail from you. Just archive these in GMail and they will end up in Sent Mail where they belong.
- After Google has retrieved all of your POP3 mail, check your Dreamhost account one last time to pick up any mail that got delivered there while the MX record was changing.
- Log back into Dreamhost and tell them to stop accepting mail for your domain (and just use the custom MX entry).
- Viola! Now you use GMail!
I’m pretty happy with the results – all of my mail moved over, properly threaded, easily accessible. Life is good! Of course there are some things that aren’t so good. Right now I am afflicted / bothered / annoyed by these issues:
- The Google Apps personalized home page is not as fully featured or good looking as the one that comes with a normal Google Account. For example, you can’t add the shiny widgets (like Google Reader).
- If you already were signed up for a Google Account with the email address you are now using with Google Apps, some things are going to break. For example, Google Calendar won’t accept invitations to use new calendars until you disambiguate which account uses that email address. You can only do that by changing the email address associated with the Google Account.
- Nothing will get pulled across from your regular Google Account. For example, you start fresh with a new Calendar.
As of now I’ve moved my calendar and mail over, and I have a separate Google Account for using Google Reader, and it’s working pretty well for me. By the way, I’ve added a link to my Google Reader Shared Items in the sidebar on my homepage.