How to transfer email history from one computer to another

Updated March 23, 2017

To transfer your e-mail history from one computer to another, you must first export the email from your chosen e-mail application. The process differs between applications, however most use roughly the same system. If you plan to use the same e-mail application on the second computer, the process is easy; every application will be able to import files exported from the same application. However, not all applications can import files made with other applications, so check for compatibility between the applications before exporting. If your e-mail application is not listed, look for similarly named options in your own program.

Export e-mail from Outlook or Outlook Express by clicking on the \"File\" menu and choosing \"Import and Export.\" Choose the \"Export to a file\" option and the file format PST. This will save all e-mail messages into a single archive file named filename.pst (you may choose the filename of your choice). Move this file to your second computer either by saving it to a floppy drive, CD, flash drive or some other removable media. Then, open Outlook or Outlook Express and access the \"Import and Export\" menu. Choose \"Import from a file\" and point the application to the PST file you saved.

Find the mail profile folder for Thunderbird on your system. On a Windows PC, this folder will be located at C:\Windows\Application Data\Thunderbird\Profiles\yourname (replace yourname with the name of your Thunderbird profile). On Mac OS X, this folder is located at /Library/Application Support/Thunderbird/Profiles/yourname. Copy all of the files in this directory--including those with no file extension--to your floppy drive, CD, flash drive or other removable media. Then, find the same folder on your second computer. Paste the files into this folder and restart Thunderbird, which will automatically detect and import the old e-mail messages.

Copy all of the .mbox files to transfer your Apple Mail history. The .mbox files are located in /Library/Mail/accountname, where accountname is the name of your system user account. Each mailbox will have its own .mbox file, and you will have to copy every file in order to move your entire e-mail history. Copy the .mbox file onto your floppy disk, CD, flash drive or other removable media, and paste the files into the same folder on the second computer. Mail will automatically import all of the old e-mail messages.


If you are moving to a different e-mail application, consult the help files associated with the new application. Most mail software will include instructions to guide you through the process of importing mail from a different application. These steps will vary based on the application you are moving from and the application you are moving to.

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About the Author

Brian Richards is an attorney whose work has appeared in law and philosophy journals and online in legal blogs and article repositories. He has been a writer since 2008. He holds a Bachelor of Science in psychology from University of California, San Diego and a Juris Doctor from Lewis and Clark School of Law.