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Putting Outlook Email Messages in Gmail

by William Jackson on 2006-02-14

I like Gmail. I like the idea of never throwing away email messages. But before I had Gmail, I was already hoarding email. Iʼve been keeping my messages in archives since 2001.

Ideally, I wanted to get these messages into Gmail, so I could search for them just like all my other messages. This is how I did it.

These are the steps I took to get email messages only from Microsoft Outlook .pst files into Gmail.

Hereʼs what you need:

  1. Microsoft Outlook. Iʼve been using Outlook for years, so all my email was stored in Microsoftʼs .pst format. It works really well for offline storage, as long as you have a copy of Outlook to read the files.
  2. Mozilla Thunderbird. If you are not aware, Thunderbird is an email client like Microsoft Outlook, but it stores email in a different format. It uses something called mbox format, which is a standard across most email programs (except Microsoftʼs of course). The latest version of Thunderbird can import messages from Outlook.
  3. Mark Lyonʼs Google GMail Loader. GML is the program that actually transfers the email messages from your computer to Gmail. It doesnʼt understand .pst files (yet), so thatʼs why we need Thunderbird: to get the messages into mbox format.

Hereʼs what you do:

  1. Make sure Outlook is installed correctly.
  2. For simplicity, move all your messages into the Inbox or Sent Items of your Personal Folders. If your messages are in an external .pst file, open it using File → Open → Outlook Data File…
  3. Exit Outlook. Install Thunderbird.
  4. When you run Thunderbird for the first time, it will ask you about importing stuff from other programs. Choose Outlook from the list and click Next. If you had a lot of messages, this will take a while. Click Finish when you get the chance.
  5. Check the folders in Thunderbird to make sure your messages really made it in. Exit Thunderbird. Youʼre almost done.
  6. Download, extract and run the GMail Loader program (gmlw.exe). Click the Find button and go digging for Thunderbirdʼs mail files. The default location is:

    C:\\Documents and Settings\\<username>\\Application Data\\Thunderbird\\Profiles\\Mail\\Local Folders\\

    For each folder in Thunderbird, there are two files in that directory. One ends in .msf, and the other doesnʼt have an extension. Select the one without the extension. 7. In GML, set the File Type to “mBox (Less Strict - Solves Some Problems)”. Set the message type according to your preference. If you are uploading files that you sent, choose, obviously, “Mail I Sent (Goes to Sent Mail)”. If itʼs mail from other people to you, pick the other option. 8. Enter your Gmail address and click “Send To GMail”. Then wait.

When the messages show up in your Gmail inbox, they wonʼt be threaded properly, but they will be there and searchable. And with Gmail, thatʼs what really counts.