Moving from Hotmail to Gmail

Over the last couple of days I have been making the transition from Hotmail to Gmail (using google apps) for my main personal email address.

The main reason I decided to do this, is that i’m planning on getting an Android powered phone in the next couple of months, and the integration between the Android OS and the google applications is a big draw for me. However the extra functionality Gmail has over Hotmail is also appreciated.

Exporting Mail From Hotmail

As far as I know, the only way to export all your mail from Hotmail is to use microsoft outlook connector (you may be able to use the POP access if you store all your mail in your inbox, but I didn’t want to destroy my folder structure to try it).

Outlook connector, as the name suggests, is a plugin that connects outlook (in my case Outlook 2007) to the Hotmail service. It allows you to sync mail (preserving folder structure), contacts and calendar data into Outlook. It will take a while to download all your mail, especially if you have a lot. After it has fully downloaded, I would suggest taking a backup of the data by exporting the entire Hotmail mail box to a .PST file, so if things go pear-shaped you’ve got something to fall back on.

At this point I setup IMAP support for my Gmail account in Outlook (instructions here) and setup labels in Gmail that corresponded to my folders in hotmail. All you need to do then, is to copy the mail from the Hotmail folders to the corresponding IMAP folders (which should have appeared in Outlook after you set them up in Gmail). If you do this though, transfer only small groups of messages at a time, as it takes ages to upload to Gmail, and apparently Gmail limits the number of emails you can upload during a given time period and blocks you out.

Another issue to lookout for, is that Outlook connector has a nasty habit of sometimes incorrectly downloading mail. It will sometimes download blank mail instead of the actual mail in your account, which is incredibly annoying (I think around 30-50 messages of around 3000 emails where blank). I tried re-downloading by deleting my Hotmail account and adding it again, however this seems to make things worse with more blank email being downloaded.

Exporting Contact Information from Hotmail

This was fairly straight forward, you just export your Hotmail contacts in a .csv file (options > more options > Export Contacts), which can then be imported into Google Contact manager.

Conclusions/Lessons Learned

Exporting email from Hotmail to Gmail using the above method took absolutely  ages, if i’d known how long it would take, I would have been very tempted to give up my folder structure, move all my email into the inbox and get gmail to import it all via POP (assuming Hotmail will make the entire inbox available through POP). This would have lost my folder structure, but it would have been a lot quicker, and I wouldn’t have  had the issue of losing some of my email to the Outlook connector blank email problem. Suffice to say even with the loss of some email, i’m very glad to have escaped Hotmail. Gmail is by far the better product, i’m very tempted to upgrade to a payed account in order to get the outlook sync and Postini features.

Another surprising development, was that the data syncing capabilities of Google apps with Windows Mobile 6.1  are far better than that with Hotmail! I will put a post up about that at some point.