How to import emails with Import Assistant

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

Transferring your emails to ProtonMail is an important first step towards transitioning away from privacy-invasive companies. If you need more help making the switch, see our dedicated migration guides for Gmail, Yahoo, and Outlook.

Import Assistant is fully integrated into ProtonMail and can transfer email messages from any email provider that supports the IMAP protocol.

To launch Import Assistant, sign in to mail.protonmail.com and go to SettingsGo to settingsProtonMailImport & exportImport AssistantStart import.

How to start an import

Once configured, Import Assistant works in the background so that you can use your computer as normal while your emails are transferred from your old account to ProtonMail. 

Import Assistant can transfer data from up to two different email accounts at the same time, but you can only run one transfer at a time from the same account. If you want to run two imports from the same account, you’ll need to wait until the first import is completed before initiating a second import.

1. Prepare your old account

You will probably need to adjust some settings in your old account before starting the import. This can include enabling IMAP access and setting up an app password

To export emails from Gmail or Yahoo Mail, simply follow the preparation guides built into Import Assistant. 

To export emails from a different account, click Skip to import and follow our guide on allowing IMAP access and adjusting settings before import for popular email services.

Verify that your Proton storage is not full before you begin importing emails to your ProtonMail account. If it is, ProtonMail will automatically pause the import before you run out of storage space.

2. Authenticate your old account

Enter the email address and password for the external email account you are exporting from. This allows ProtonMail to access your data so that we can import it into your ProtonMail account. 

We delete your login details once the import is complete. See our privacy policy for more details.

Start a new import

3. Plan your import

Import assistant will display a summary of the data it expects to import.

When you are ready, click Start import

This summary includes:

  • Folders found – the number of folders found in your external email account, including default system folders such as Inbox, Archive, Sent, and Drafts. If you are importing from a Gmail account, please note that Import Assistant treats Gmail labels as folders.
  • Time range of the imported messages 
  • Label of the imported messages in your ProtonMail account

By default, Import Assistant will import all folders and all emails since your account was created. All imported emails are labeled in ProtonMail to help you find them easily. 

  • If you are importing from Gmail, the following system folders are imported by default: Starred, All Mail, and Important (imported as a custom folder). 

To create a new label, choose a different time range or select and manage the folders to import and click Customize import (see the following section). In some cases, Import Assistant may require you to customize your import options to address issues it has discovered. These issues include:

  • Folders in your old account have names that exceed 100 characters, including spaces. We recommend using short folder names to ensure they are properly displayed on your screen
  • You are trying to import over 2,000 folders 

How to customize your import

To help you easily find your imported email messages, Import Assistant will automatically add labels to all imported emails. Click Edit label to change the name of this label, making it even easier to find your old data. 

Additionally, you can customize which ProtonMail address to import your messages to, what timeframe to import emails from, and specify which folders and/or labels you would like to import.

Customize import screen

The Import interval setting allows you to change the time range of your import. You can choose between: 

  • Import all messages 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 email messages. 

Click Import to email address to change which of your ProtonMail email addresses to import your old emails to. By default, Import Assistant will import emails and associate them with your default ProtonMail address. You can change this to a different ProtonMail address. 

For example, if you migrate your custom domain, you can configure your custom domain on your ProtonMail account, create a custom domain address, and select this address before initiating the import.

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

For providers such as Gmail that only offer labels, Import Assistant will automatically create labels inside ProtonMail.

Importing from a Gmail account

When importing from Gmail, your labels will automatically be recreated as labels inside ProtonMail, and emails will be labeled as they were in Gmail.

Messages from Gmail’s Inbox, Sent, or Draft folders will be automatically placed in the same folders in ProtonMail.

Example: A message labeled To-do in your Gmail inbox will be imported into your ProtonMail inbox with the To-do label applied to it.

Messages that are not in one of the three default folders (such as emails that were archived in Gmail) will be placed in the All Mail folder in ProtonMail. You will still be able to find them using the labels you applied to them in your external email account. 

Note that ProtonMail does not offer nested labels. If a label in Gmail is nested under a parent label, ProtonMail will create a new label with the name <parent label>-<nested label>.

To make your original categories easier to distinguish, the color of all nested labels will be the same as the parent label.

Customizing import forders

Importing from other providers

When importing messages from other email services, the custom folders from that account will be created as custom folders in your ProtonMail account.

Note that editing a folder name only changes its name in your Proton account — not in your external email account.

Editing folder names
  • If you import a folder that has the same name as a folder that already exists in ProtonMail, Import Assistant will merge the two folders in your ProtonMail account.
  • If the folder you are importing has 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, and Drafts) will show up in the respective system folders in your ProtonMail account, so you can’t edit these names. 
  • If your system folder has more than one subfolder, the first subfolder will become the root custom folder for the rest.
  • Deselecting a parent folder automatically deselects all its subfolders, and Import Assistant won’t import them.
  • ProtonMail supports three 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:

Once you have customized your import, click Save.

4. Start importing your folders and emails

Once you are happy with the import settings (either the default settings or your customized settings), click Start import. 

Start import process

You will be shown a notification that your import has started. This process can take days to complete if you have used your old email service for a long time. However, it is handled entirely by our servers, so no additional input is required from you.

Your import has started!

To check the Status of your current import, go to SettingsGo to settingsProtonMailImport & exportCurrent & past imports.

Track import progress

Here you can find:

  • The external email address you are importing from
  • The status of your import – % Processed, Canceling, Delayed, or % Paused
  • 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.

Paused imports

If your import is paused, ProtonMail will also send an email alerting you to this fact. ProtonMail will automatically cancel the import if it is not restarted within one month. We’ll send you another email notification before doing this.

There are two reasons why an import may be paused.

1. Your account is low on storage space

We will automatically pause the import when your available storage space drops below 150 MB. This allows you to continue accessing important mailbox features, such as the ability to send and receive emails, plus other features associated with the day-to-day use of your ProtonMail account. 

To Resume the import, you must either:

2. Import assistant was disconnected from your old email server

Possible reasons for this include:

  • You changed your old email password or generated a new app password while the import was in progress
  • IMAP access was disabled in your old account while the import was in progress
  • Your two-step verification status was changed while the import was in progress

Import Assistant encountered an unexpected disruption to the connection. Please see How do I reconnect my account? in the FAQ section of this article for more information on what to do if this happens.

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 one month. 

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

Delayed imports

Some email providers limit the amount of data that can be transferred in a short period of time. For Gmail, this is called a bandwidth limit. The most likely cause for a delayed import is that you have hit this limit for your old account. 

This can also happen if you initiate a second transfer from the same email account, even if you have already finished or canceled the first transfer.

Delayed imports will resume automatically when your old email provider resets the daily limit for your account. You don’t need to take any action.

How to cancel an ongoing import

To cancel an ongoing import, go to Current & past importsActionsCancel.

It may take a few minutes before the import is fully canceled. During this time, its status 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 Status for that import will change to Canceled. You will receive an email notification together with an import report.

Learn more about import reports

Managing past imports

To manage past imports, sign in to the ProtonMail web app and click SettingsGo to settingsProtonMailImport & exportCurrent & past imports.

View past imports

Past imports will have one of the following three Status designations:

  • Completed — Import finished with no cancelations or failures. 
  • Canceled — You canceled the import before it was completed (see above). To import any remaining emails or data, you need to restart the import from the beginning. Proton won’t duplicate any messages or data that were already transferred.
  • Failed — The import ran into unexpected issues and failed to complete. To import any remaining emails or data, you need to restart the import from the beginning. Proton won’t duplicate any messages or data already transferred.

If you wish, you can delete all records of any past imports by going to Current & past importsActionsDelete record.

Common questions and import errors

I can’t authenticate my external email account 

You may need to adjust the settings in your old email account to import from it. For full details, see allowing IMAP access and adjusting settings before import.

1. Ensure IMAP access is enabled in your external account.

2. Ensure the email address and password you entered into Import Assistant are correct. If your old email provider requires setting up an app password to allow data transfers, use that instead of your regular password. 

This includes Gmail users who have set up two-step verification (or, as Google refers to it, 2-step verification), all Yahoo users, and all Yandex users. If you use Gmail without two-step verification, enable Less secure app access in your Google account settings.

3. Ensure you have entered the correct IMAP server address and port number. These details are usually available on your old email service’s website. Here are the settings for some popular email services (which also work if you have a custom domain hosted by that service):

  • Gmail — imap.gmail.com / port 993
  • Yahoo — imap.mail.yahoo.com / port 993
  • Outlook.com — imap-mail.outlook.com / port 993
  • Apple Mail — imap.mail.me.com / port 993
  • Zoho Mail — imap.zoho.eu / port 993
  • AOL Mail — imap.aol.com / port 993

4. Unlock CAPTCHA in your Google account. This is not always required, but if you are Gmail user and still can’t authenticate:

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

5. If you are a Gmail user, confirm that you tried to sign in using Recent security activity on your Google account

Google can block a sign-in from a third-party application as a suspicious sign-in attempt. To resolve this, you’ll need to confirm that you are the one trying to log in to your Gmail account.

To do this, log in to your Gmail account and:

  • Click on your profile icon in the top right corner → Manage your Google Account → Security.
  • There should be an entry in the Recent security activity showing your failed sign-in attempt. Click on Review security activity.

Confirm recent security activity in Google

3. Click Yes, it was me to confirm you were behind the sign-in attempt.

Google's confirm activity dialog box

4. Go back to Import Assistant and sign in to Gmail using your Google account details.

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

It is usual for the size of a completed import to be smaller than the size it occupied in your external email account. Reasons for this include:

  • Compression and encryption will change the file size
  • Import assistant doesn’t import duplicate messages or messages labeled as spam or trash
  • Errors during import may mean that some data failed to transfer. You can find these details in the import report

What do I do if the names of the folders in my old account are too long?

Folder names longer than 100 characters long cannot be imported as folders into ProtonMail. If they exceed this, Import Assistant will show a warning. 

Select Customize import to change folder names that are too long

To fix the issue, click Customize import and Rename the folder.

Rename the folder

What happens to Gmail labels with the same names as my ProtonMail folders?

It is not possible in ProtonMail for a label to have the same name as a folder. If you are importing a label from Gmail that has an identical name to an existing folder in your ProtonMail account, you will see the same warning as above. To fix the issue, click Customize import and Rename the folder.

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