I have to move many, many emails (over a thousand) from an old IMAP hosting provider to a new IMAP hosting provider. I know I can just set up the old and new accounts in Thunderbird and drag and drop, but it's very slow and keeps timing out. Is there a better, more automated way to copy all messages (and all mailboxes) between IMAP servers?


5 Answers 5


IMAPSync is the tool your looking for. IMAPSync

In the FAQ there are plenty of good examples

  • On linux, it's also packaged in many distributions.
    – ETL
    Sep 28, 2015 at 18:33
  • 1
    Totally recommended! Just did some migrations from Windows command line. One thing for the impatient: after the program displays number of messages in both accounts, it seems that it has hung up. But it does something in the background and one has to wait a longer while before it starts displaying info about copied messages.
    – boryn
    Nov 23, 2020 at 11:08
  • 2
    The basic parameters to run the sync: ./imapsync --addheader --automap --host1 SERVER1 --host2 SERVER2 --password1 'PASS1' --password2 'PASS2' --user1 [email protected] --user2 [email protected]
    – boryn
    Nov 23, 2020 at 11:10

Use the reliable Mutt (http://www.mutt.org/).

  1. mutt -f imap://username@sourceimaphost/INBOX/folder
  2. Tag selected messages by t, or tag all messages by T and entering ~A. (With T, you can specify various patterns (http://www.mutt.org/doc/manual/manual-4.html#ss4.2).
  3. Move tagged messages by ;s("save") and enter imap://username@destimaphost/INBOX/folder. (This marks the source messages as deleted(D); if you don't want that, use ;C("copy") instead.)
  4. You can repeat 2 and 3 as needed.
  5. Quit by q. You may choose to purge the deleted messages.

This allows to move a folder from one account to another. Repeat this for multiple folders.

  • 4
    You can also use imaps: instead of imap:. If the username part already contains a @ (e.g. as in Google Apps), replace it with %40. Example: imaps://username%[email protected]/INBOX/folder.
    – musiphil
    Aug 19, 2015 at 20:41

OfflineIMAP is another option (http://offlineimap.org/).

  • I didn't know it could do synchronisation too, but it does, and seems stable. Good idea!
    – qris
    Mar 6, 2014 at 10:24

You can also use isync/mbsync. Just used it (over a few days, due to quota limits imposed by Google and (specially) Apple) to copy a few dozen thousand emails from Gmail do iCloud. After the copy, deleting the emails on the GMail side was easier and faster (to delete everything) via the web interface.

For continuous retry (after disconnection due to quota limits) until successfully copying everything, one could run it like (bash):

$ while date +"%F %T Restarting..." && ! mbsync channel_name; do sleep 3600; done

Originally we wrote this article on email migration issues: http://alloraconsulting.com/it-solutions/28-transferring-email-from-one-host-to-another

The article is pretty old, but after many years of occasional bulk migrations from IMAP into Exchange / IMAP it's OpenSource solutions that worked the best, like this one:



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