Getting started with ProtonMail the easy way

Illustration of changing email provider

This article takes you through all the factors to consider when moving to a new email provider and leaving privacy-invasive companies such as Gmail, Outlook, and Yahoo Mail.

Switching your email provider may feel as difficult as moving to a new house or changing your name. There’s so much to do: telling your contacts, updating the email for all your online accounts, exporting your old messages. But the reality is it’s fairly simple, and you don’t have to do everything at once. We want to help you make the move pain-free. 

In recent months, we started a series of conversations with our users to find out how they made the switch. What we found is that many people make the transition gradually. They often start by directing the most sensitive emails to their secure ProtonMail inbox — such as those related to health, legal, and financial issues. Meanwhile, they may set up forwarding from their previous mail service while periodically informing their contacts and updating their newsletter and account preferences.

Others prefer a clean break. And we’ve made it easy to do this as well.

Whatever your preference, you don’t have to be chained to your email provider. Keep reading to find out why switching to a privacy-focused email service is worth it, along with information about how to make it happen.

Why switch email providers?

You might consider leaving your email provider because you want to avoid being profiled for advertising, to stay in control of your data, to avoid getting hacked, or simply because you need a fresh start with a more transparent service that puts you first. In 2014, when we started ProtonMail, we wanted the same things. Today, we serve millions of users — the largest encrypted email service provider in the world.

ProtonMail protects your privacy by encrypting your messages and attachments so that no one except you and your recipient can access them. Because transparency matters, ProtonMail is also open source and independently audited. Proton headquarters and data centers are based in Switzerland, so you are protected by strong privacy laws. 

Moreover, Proton is funded by our own users who choose to upgrade to paid accounts for more features and to support our mission to expand access to privacy. Because we depend on our users for revenue rather than on advertisers, our interests are perfectly aligned with our community.

Learn more about why people trust ProtonMail.

How to break away from Gmail, Yahoo, and Outlook 

We created a series of step-by-step guides for those beginning their journey with Proton.

We encourage you to migrate one step at a time. Our guides show you how to set up mail forwarding, export your existing emails, and protect your new inbox from spam.

Get started now

Should you transfer everything to ProtonMail right away?

Keep in mind that you don’t need to move every conversation to ProtonMail before enjoying the benefits of a private inbox. It’s a good idea to prioritize the most sensitive information first: update your bank accounts, medical providers, newsletters and ecommerce purchases to go to your ProtonMail address. This is also a great opportunity to start fresh and get rid of unwanted emails. 

You might not think about it, but your shopping data is among the most important information used by companies such as Yahoo to build your profile and target you with advertising (Google scans your inbox but not for ad profiling). You can keep your buying habits private by having your purchase receipts sent to ProtonMail instead.

You may decide to keep your old email account as a backup. But if you do want to transfer your whole mailbox to ProtonMail, our Import Assistant app, currently available in beta, makes it easy to select and transfer the emails you want to keep. Alternatively, users with paid plans can also use the Import-Export tool. In the settings of your ProtonMail V4 web version, you can also find links to our other import applications, Import Contacts and Import Events. 

Keep your new mailbox safe and organized

If you decide to transfer everything to ProtonMail, it’s easy to keep your mailbox clean of unwanted emails and protect it from phishing attempts. 

Here are a few options to consider to arrange your inbox:

  • Use your inbox as your to-do list, as your list of most important emails, or unread emails.
  • Star your most important emails or the ones you need to reply to.
  • Create and color code folders and labels by sender (“family,” “colleagues,” etc.), topic (“newsletters,” “finance,” etc.), or action items (“to pay,” “to reply,” etc.).
  • Create custom filters to automatically send certain emails to folders, or to tag, archive, or star them.
  • Create a habit to archive emails you won’t need in the near future and delete those that are not important.
  • Use Contact Groups to keep track of emails exchanged with a particular group of contacts.
  • Use sticky labels for conversation mode to label all future messages you send or receive in a conversation. To activate it, go to your ProtonMail account’s Settings. Then, go to Appearance.
  • Use extra email addresses to create different identities (for example, create an identity for your presence on forums that helps you keep track of the emails and notifications you receive from it).
  • Blacklist dangerous or unwanted senders and whitelist those that are safe. ProtonMail protects your account against such attempts also through the Link Confirmation and the Report Phishing features.
  • Use ProtonMail’s unlimited email aliases: add a + when you register with your email address to hide it from potential spammers, to calibrate your custom filters, or to help you later track the source.

What’s next for your private inbox

We are developing more features for both ProtonMail and other Proton products connected to your email account, such as ProtonCalendar and ProtonDrive (coming soon). Together, they will help you break away from digital companies that invade your privacy and exploit you. 

When you decide to make the switch, let us know about your journey in the comments or on our social media channels below, where we have an active and engaged community. We’re looking forward to hearing your stories!

You can get a free secure email account from ProtonMail here.

We also provide a free VPN service to protect your privacy. ProtonMail and ProtonVPN are funded by community contributions. If you would like to support our development efforts, you can upgrade to a paid plan or donate. Thank you for your support.

Feel free to share your feedback and questions with us via our official social media channels on Twitter and Reddit. Note that while blog comments also remain open, questions and feedback will not be responded to individually. Where relevant, we will incorporate the most frequently asked questions or comments into a blog update.

About the Author

Proton Team

Proton was founded by scientists who met at CERN and had the idea that an internet where privacy is the default is essential to preserving freedom. Our team of developers, engineers, and designers from all over the world is working to provide you with secure ways to be in control of your online data.

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20 comments on “Getting started with ProtonMail the easy way

  • I think it would be good to point out that ProtonMail supports private domain names. I always advise people to get their own domain name, so that it becomes more easily portable. Of course, if you share your domain name with family members, that means that only ProtonMail Professional or Visionary is suitable, but I think that is still the best way to go.
    I’m not ashamed of having a ProtonMail account, but I still don’t want the world’s evil misgovernments (all of them) to know it.

  • Dear ProtonMail teeam
    I would like to ask where ProtonDrive will be available for users? Could you tell more about this? What will be the capacity of drive and will there be PDF viewer (I mean sharing the link to document allow other people to see PDF in their browsers)? Will ProtonDrive be paid feature?

  • Another good reason to switch to ProtonMail is the ability to send end-to-end encrypted emails to non-Proton email accounts I use this feature often when transmitting sensitive information to non-Proton users.

  • Pro account here and I certainly believe in the mission but the aesthetics are horrendous! I asked about them adding the theming capability especially for Android since Android users actually care about how apps look aside from their functionality and all I got fr tech support was that they were thinking about it and it may come to a future release. Like really?? Adding the ability to theme to an app is the easiest thing to do and wouldn’t affect the functionality of the service so why isn’t someone working it and releasing it this week?? I cannot stand untrue or false reasons so they should just tell me that they have no clue how to modify the code to enable theming. Hell, they should just ask to hire me and I’ll do the mod. But whatever, I won’t be switching my other email accounts to an app that has horrible aesthetics or until they actually understand what Android users actually care about.

  • Yes! I’ve been with yahoo since 911. They sell my information and probably look at my sensitive information. Moreover, they are ideologically counter to what I believe in. Why stay with a company/corporation that hates me? Also, I dont trust government at all. It’s time for a total switch, so I thank you for making that a possibility.

  • I wish I can get away from gmail and I started to use Proton mail but as long as calender and contacts can not been sync in any application other than inside protonmail webinterface, this is not realistic. No way to sync your mobile with laptop and PC.

  • Bonjour
    Comment passer d’une messagerie iCloud qui requiert une authentification à deux facteurs ?

  • Maybe it’s just my Android10, but I loose all inputted text if I switch task & back to PM app

    Doesn’t happen any other app.

    That’s why I haven’t gone paid/pro

  • I don’t understand how the email functions. Do I have to encrypt every email I send and then how does the person I send it to unencrypt it? Does everyone have to have a key?

  • How about moving from an E-Mail that dropped its Free option to a Pay Only option, before another address could be procured?

  • I would love to move my email from Gmail but I have 90 GB. .. that would cost almost $100 per month on Protonmail.

    • You could use the Import-Export tool to save your Gmail mailbox to hard or encrypted cloud storage, and only import the emails that you need to have handy to your Proton mailbox.

  • Thanks for the lovely proton mail service – its great.
    BUT the onion system does not open on my browser and
    I wish to go back to normal proton mail
    How do I do this please?

    • Hi Mark, you can always access your ProtonMail account via The .onion link will only work if you’re connected via the Tor network.

  • I have two free proton mail accounts and am debating a change from fastmail. With fastmail I often lose emails when trying to send several to a new folder, or read them but don’t delete, or any number of ways…and it’s getting worse. I know imap is safer than pop, but I don’t want to keep losing emails (and have Fastmail “recover” them, which doesn’t always work)! Is Proton better at not losing things? :)