How to import emails with Import Assistant

Import Assistant is Proton’s newest tool that safely transfers your messages and folders from your external email account to ProtonMail. Your messages are encrypted the moment they arrive in your ProtonMail account, making your transition to a secure email provider easy and risk-free.

Transferring your emails to Proton is an important first step as you gradually transition from privacy-invasive companies. If you need more help making the switch, check out our migration guides for Gmail, Yahoo, and Outlook.

Import Assistant is fully integrated into ProtonMail and available in beta version to all Proton paying users (Plus, Professional, Visionary, and Lifetime users) through ProtonMail V4. The tool can transfer messages from any email provider that supports the IMAP protocol.

If you would like to know more about a particular step during the import process, you can skip to:

To launch Import Assistant, go to your ProtonMail Settings. In the Import & export section from the menu on the left, select Import Assistant. Then, go to the New import section to Start import.

Import Assistant lets you transfer data from up to 2 different email accounts at the same time. This means that if you want to run 2 imports from the same account, you need to wait until the first import is over before initiating a second import.

Prepare your accounts for import

Importing your messages into ProtonMail is likely to require adjusting some settings in your external email account before starting the import, such as enabling IMAP access or setting up an app password. 

If you are a Gmail or Yahoo user, you can follow the steps from our quick guide when you launch Import Assistant. If you are importing from a different provider or your external account is already prepared for import, Skip to import directly.

Import Assistant Prepare for import

Read more about adjusting your settings for major email providers.

Before starting the import, please verify that your Proton account storage isn’t full. Otherwise, Proton will automatically pause the import before you run out of storage space. 

Authenticate

To start the import, enter your email address and the password associated with your external account. This will allow Proton access to your data to fetch it and import it securely into your encrypted account. We will delete your credentials once the import is complete.

For more details, read our privacy policy

import assistant authentication

If your email provider requires setting up a so-called app password to allow data transfers, please use it instead of your regular password. This is the case for Gmail users who have enabled 2-step verification and all Yahoo users.  

If you encounter any unexpected issues while authenticating, please read our section on common import errors

Plan your import

Once you have successfully authenticated, Import Assistant will show you a summary of the expected imported data. 

Import Assistant plan import

The summary will include:

  • Folders found – the number of folders found in your external email account, including default system folders such as Inbox, Archive, Sent, and Draft. Please note that Import Assistant treats Gmail labels as folders.
  • Time range of the imported messages 
  • Label of the imported messages in your Proton account

Import Assistant selects by default all folders and messages since email account creation and labels all imported messages so you can easily find them in your ProtonMail account. 

If you want to create a new label, choose a different time range, or select and manage the folders you would like to import, you can customize your import. 

Import Assistant may ask you to customize your import if, for example, the names of the folders in your external account exceed 100 characters, including spaces (keep your names as short as possible, however, as some screens might truncate them). You will also have to customize your import in case you are trying to import more than 500 folders. 

Read more about import customization.  

Please note that Import Assistant might not import all your messages and folders from the external account. This could happen because Proton doesn’t import duplicate messages or messages labeled as spam or trash.  

How to customize your import

Import Assistant allows you to customize your import by creating a new label for the imported messages, choosing a different time range, or selecting and managing the folders to import.  

Import assistant customize import

If you want to change the time range of your import, you can choose between: 

  • Import since account creation
  • Import since 1 month ago
  • Import since 3 months ago
  • Import since 12 months ago 

Your import will always start with the most recent messages. 

If you change the import label, all messages imported from your external account will carry the new label. 

In the Manage folders section, you can choose the folders you want to import into your ProtonMail account and edit their names. 

Editing a folder name only changes it in your Proton account, and not in your external email account. 

Import Assitant Manage folders

Using the same name for a folder you are importing as the name of an already existing ProtonMail folder will merge the 2 folders in your ProtonMail account. If the folder you are importing has any subfolders that don’t exist in ProtonMail’s corresponding folder, Import Assistant will create the subfolders.  

All the messages from your external account’s system folders (such as Inbox, Sent, or Draft) will show up in the respective system folders in your ProtonMail account, so you can’t edit these names. 

Keep in mind that deselecting a parent folder automatically deselects all its subfolders and Import Assistant won’t be able to import them. 

Generally, ProtonMail folders can have a maximum of 3 levels of hierarchy, including the parent folder. If the mailbox you are importing has deeper levels of hierarchy, Import Assistant will reorganize your subfolders based on the following logic: 

Import Assistant Folder Hierarchy

Once you have finished customizing your import, Save it and return to the import summary. You can then start importing. 

Import Assistant customized import

If Import Assistant estimates that the size required for the import might exceed the storage size currently available in your Proton account, you will get a warning message. 

The estimated storage required for your import is based on the size of each folder in your external account. Your final import will likely be smaller than estimated because of duplicate messages, compression, encryption and possible errors during the import. 

Import Assistant notifies you once it has started your import: 

You can then track your import in the Current imports section of your dashboard. When your import is complete, you will receive an email notification together with a report.  

Track your current imports 

With Proton’s Import Assistant, it’s easy to follow the progress of your import. In the Current imports section, you can find the following details:

  • the external email address you are importing from
  • the status of your import – % Processed, Canceling, or % Paused
  • the progress of your import – the number of messages processed out of the total estimated number
  • the date and the time the import started
  • The list of actions you can take: resume or reconnect a paused import or cancel an ongoing import. 

How to restart a paused import

Proton can pause an import because of 2 reasons:

  1. your account is running low on storage space. Proton automatically pauses the import when your available storage space drops below 150 MB. This allows you to continue accessing your important mailbox features, such as sending or receiving emails, or other features associated with your Proton account.

To resume the import, you first need to free up storage space by deleting unnecessary data or to upgrade your Proton Account. 

Paused Import Assistant low space

To upgrade, go to your Proton Account’s Subscription section. 

2. Import Assistant lost the connection with your other email provider. While there could be other reasons, this will happen if: 

  • you change your external email password or generate a new app password while the import is in progress
  • IMAP access was disabled in your external account while the import is in progress
  • you changed your 2-step verification status while the import is in progress
  • Import Assistant encountered an unexpected connection disruption 

To reestablish the connection, make sure that IMAP access is still enabled and then Reconnect. You then need to enter your credentials again. 

Paused import assistant reconnect

If you encounter any issues while you are reconnecting your account, please read our section on reconnection errors.

You will also receive an email notification when Proton pauses one of your imports. Please note that in both cases your imports will be paused for a maximum of 1 month. 

If you haven’t resumed your import, Proton will automatically cancel it after 1 month. You will receive an email notification in advance.

How to cancel an ongoing import

To cancel an ongoing import, go to the Current imports section and select Cancel

Please note that the process of canceling an ongoing import might take a few minutes. Meanwhile, the status of your import will change to Canceling and you won’t be able to start any new imports from the same external account.

Once the import cancelation is over, the import disappears from Current imports and moves into the Past imports section. You will receive an email notification together with a report. 

Manage past imports

In the Past imports section, you can keep track of completed, canceled, and failed imports.

Import Assistant Past Imports

The section also allows you to delete the record of an import and contains information regarding the time and date when Proton finished processing the import and its final size. 

What are completed imports?

All imports finished without cancelation or failures are considered completed. When Import Assistant transfers all available data, the import moves to Past imports

You will get an email notification together with a report.  

What are canceled imports?

When an import is canceled, it moves into the Past imports section. You will also receive an email notification together with a report. 

While you can’t resume a canceled import, Proton automatically saves any messages or data already transferred up until you canceled the import. Please note that your import always starts with the most recent messages.

To import any remaining messages or data, you need to restart the import from the beginning. Proton won’t duplicate any messages or data already transferred.

What are failed imports?

An ongoing import could fail if Import Assistant runs into unexpected issues. 

When an import fails, you receive an email notification together with a report, and the import moves into the Past imports section. 

Similar to a canceled import, you can’t resume a failed import. However, Proton automatically saves any messages or data already transferred up until the import failed. Please note that your import always starts with the most recent messages.

To import any remaining messages or data, you need to restart the import from the beginning. Proton won’t duplicate any messages or data already transferred.

How to delete the record of an import

To delete the record of an import, click on Delete record next to the import you selected. This only deletes the record from this list and it doesn’t delete any actual data you imported. 

What are import reports? 

After each completed, failed, or canceled import, you will receive a report by email. The report includes a list of all the successfully imported folders and the messages and folders that failed to import, as well as the number of imported messages and list of duplicates. 

Import Assistant Attachment

To view the .csv file, open it in a program for spreadsheets, such as Microsoft Excel, Google sheets or OpenOffice Calc (please note that you might need to adjust the CSV data rendering settings if the file doesn’t display correctly). 

The first table in the report lists the messages and folders that were imported, while the second table is a summary of the messages and folders that Import Assistant didn’t import because of an error or because they are duplicates. 

The summary of your imported messages and folders will look like this: 

Import Assistant Report
StatusDescription
CompletedFolder imported successfully 
Failed to importFolder not imported

The summary of the messages and folders that weren’t imported will look like this: 

import assistant report
ReasonDescription
Download failedAn unexpected error occurred and Import Assistant couldn’t download this message
Failed to scan emailImport Assistant couldn’t parse the message and add into import task
Failed to save emailImport Assistant failed to save message in ProtonMail 
DuplicateImport Assistant already imported a copy of the message

Common questions and import errors

I can’t authenticate my external email account 

To authenticate your external account, you may need to adjust the settings in your external account. 

Read more about adjusting the settings for major email providers.

1. First, please check that IMAP access is enabled in your external account. 

2. Then, make sure that your email address and password are correct. 

-> If your email provider requires setting up a so-called app password to allow data transfers, please use it instead of your regular password. Users who need to do this include Gmail users who have enabled 2-step verification, all Yahoo users, and all Yandex users.  

-> If you are a Gmail user with 2-step verification disabled, turn on Less secure app access in your Google account settings.

3. Then, make sure that you entered the correct IMAP server address and port number. You can generally find these details on the website of your email provider. 

  • For Gmail users (including those with custom emails hosted by Gmail), the IMAP server address and port number are:

    IMAP server address: imap.gmail.com
    Port number: 993
  • For Yahoo users (including those with custom emails hosted by Yahoo), the IMAP server address and port number are:

    IMAP server address: imap.mail.yahoo.com
    Port number: 993
  • For Outlook users (including those with custom emails hosted by Outlook), the IMAP server address and port number are:

    IMAP server address: http://imap-mail.outlook.com/
    Port number: 993
Unlock CAPTCHA in your Google account

Google often locks third-party applications such as ProtonMail, creating an extra hurdle for Gmail users at authentication. 

If you are a Gmail user and still can’t authenticate, try the following steps:

  • Log out of all the Google accounts in your browser, except the one you want to import from. 
  • Follow this link 
  • Click on Continue to allow access

I can’t reconnect my account 

When Proton paused your import because it lost the connection with your external email provider, you need to reestablish the connection. 

If you fail to reconnect, please check that: 

  • IMAP access is still enabled in your account
  • Your password or your app password is correct. If after Proton paused your import:
    • you enabled 2-step verification in your Gmail account, use your app password instead of your regular password. If you don’t have one, you can create an app password in your Google account settings. 
    • you disabled 2-step verification in your Gmail account, use your regular password and turn on Less secure app access in your Google account settings.
  • If you are a Gmail user and still can’t reconnect, unlock CAPTCHA in your Google account following the steps above
  • If you are a Microsoft Outlook user and can’t reconnect, go to your account’s Security section and select Sign in activity. You will then need to confirm that it was you trying to access your Outlook account. 

Why was my import paused?

Import Assistant might pause your import if it lost the connection with your external account or if your Proton Account is running low on storage space. You can read our section on paused imports for more details and to learn how you can restart your import.

How do I resume a failed or canceled import?  

You can’t resume a failed or canceled import. However, Proton automatically saves any messages or data already transferred up until you canceled the import or the import failed. Please note that your import always starts with the most recent messages.

To import any remaining messages or data, you need to restart the import from the beginning. Proton won’t duplicate any messages or data already transferred. 

Why is the size of my completed import different from my other account?

Generally, the size of your completed import is likely to be smaller than the size the imported data occupies in your external email account. 

Compression and encryption will change the file size. Possible errors during the import might also have impacted the amount of data imported. 

Please keep in mind that Import Assistant doesn’t import duplicate messages and messages that have been deleted from your external account while the import is in progress.

For the full details of your import, please consult the import report

Issues while managing folders 

The names of the folders in my external account are too long

If the names of the folders in your external account are longer than the maximum number of characters accepted by Proton, Import Assistant will inform you before starting your import. You can edit the names by customizing your import. Select Manage folders and choose how the imported folders will be named in your Proton account by selecting Edit.

Proton will also inform you whether the folder names are too long during the import customization if the selected names exceed the number of characters accepted by Proton.  

The folder name already exists 

Import Assistant merges a folder from ProtonMail with an imported folder if their names are identical. In this case, Import Assistant will show you with the following warning message:

This folder name already exists. Messages will be imported into the existing folder.

If the folder that you are importing has subfolders that don’t exist in ProtonMail’s corresponding folder, Import Assistant will create the subfolders.

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