Transferring Emails

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This article provides instructions on how you can backup your email as well as importing the backup of those emails to DreamHost's mail servers.

This process can only be done one way with DreamHost. This method also requires the use of a third-party mail program.

Dh-kb-note-icon.fw.png Note: The Webmail interface is a read-only interface for mail, so you cannot download mail this way. You’d need a client such as Microsoft Outlook, Apple Mail, or Thunderbird.

How to back up emails

If you wish to transfer your emails from one host to another, you will first need to back them up so that you have them stored locally (on your home computer). The details below provide information for backing up your emails.

Backing up your email with DreamHost

As mentioned, there is only one way to backup email with DreamHost. This method requires the use of a third-party mail program configured as a POP3 connection to download the emails from DreamHost mail servers to be stored locally on your home computer.

The steps are as follows:

  1. Install and open your email client.
    Dh-kb-note-icon.fw.png Note: Thunderbird is a free mail program you can download to use for this process. You can read more about this mail program in the following article:

  2. Setup your email account as a POP connection. You can refer to the following article for mail configuration and port settings:
  3. Once the user is setup as a POP user and connected to DreamHost servers, enable the setting on the mail program to download the messages from the server. These messages are “popped” off of DreamHost's servers and downloaded to your home computer for storage. Since these pull the emails off the server, you will not see these messages any longer via an IMAP connection or through webmail.
    • Once you’ve “popped” (downloaded) your email from a DreamHost server, backups for those messages are no longer available, so make sure you keep the backups stored on your computer at least until you upload them to the new mail server.
    • The POP setup will only download mail from the user’s inbox folder. All other folders and contents within them must be moved to the inbox when you’re ready to download them. This will include folders such as ‘old-messages’, ‘Sent’, ‘Drafts’, and any other folders outside of the Inbox folder.
    • If you choose to move folders in this manner (while you’re also downloading them) you’ll need a second mail client. This second mail client will be setup as an IMAP connection and will only move the folders to the Inbox.The first email client setup as a POP connection will be the one to download the messages to your home computer.
  4. After the messages are downloaded to your POP user, create a new folder locally on your computer and click-and-drag all of the messages in the mailbox for that user to that new folder you’ve created. This will store all of the messages to your computer to be stored temporarily. Each message will be its own file.
    • To keep things organized, you can create folders within the local folder you create so that you move all of the mail to the correct locations. Do each folder one at a time to avoid confusion.
    • For example, start with the contents in the inbox. POP the messages off for the inbox and then store those messages into the local folder, which you can also name ‘Inbox’. Then, move onto the Sent Messages by moving them from the ‘Sent’ folder to the inbox through an IMAP connection or via Webmail. You can then POP the messages off via the mail program and move those messages into a new folder created locally named ‘Sent’. This will ensure that all of the messages you download are stored in the correct folders so it’ll all be organized when you upload them to the new mail server.
  5. If you are transferring the email address from one DreamHost account to another, delete the email address from the original account first so it can be recreated on the new account.

Backing up your emails at another host

The process of backing up mail with another host may vary from host to host. The mail host you have now may have another solution to backing up emails from their servers. If not, the POP setup for this process can be used as well. You can refer to the section above for instructions with that. Otherwise, you'll need to contact your current mail host for details on how to backup the emails from their servers so you can import them to DreamHost.

How to import your email

If you’d like to import your backed up emails to a new host, the details below provide you with instructions. You should have the messages backed up before proceeding with this section. If you need to backup the emails, you will want to look at the details above first, then come back to this section to import that backup to the new host servers.

Importing your email to DreamHost

The process for importing emails to your DreamHost mail server is done through an IMAP connection instead of a POP connection. You must use a third-party mail program for this process as well. The process is as simple as dragging-and-dropping the mail files from your home computer folder to the inbox for the email address connected via IMAP.

The following steps explain how to upload the messages to your mail server:

  1. Set up your mail program with the email address you wish to upload the backups to.
    Dh-kb-note-icon.fw.png Note: Thunderbird is a free mail program you can download to use for this process.

  2. Set up your email account as an IMAP user. You can refer to the following article for the mail program configurations and port settings for this setup:
  3. Now that the user is set up as an IMAP user, open up the folder you moved the backed up messages to (on your home computer) and drag-and-drop the contents into the user’s inbox (in your mail client). This uploads the messages to your mail server.
    Dh-kb-note-icon.fw.png Note: It is a good idea to open up the Webmail interface for your email address to ensure that the messages you moved to the inbox through your mail program show up in Webmail as well. This will confirm that the messages were properly uploaded to your server.

Once you’ve completed this process, all of your backed up mail will be stored on DreamHost's mail servers. You won’t need the backed up messages now that you’ve completed this. You can keep it for personal backups on your local computer if you wish in case there are important emails you may want to save offline.

Importing your email to another host

As with the backing up of mail, the importing of mail to another host may vary from host to host. But, the IMAP process outlined above should work for other mail hosts. You can try contacting the new mail host to see if they have an alternate way of uploading your backed up mail to their servers.

Importing from a DreamHost backup

When you use the one-click backup in your DreamHost panel, all data is stored as separate .tar.gz files.

If you unpack one of your email files, you'll see all messages appear in the following format:


If you drag and drop this file into your mail client, it will not work. You must rename the file first.

Add .eml to the end of any mail file. Using the example above, it would appear like this:


When you drag and drop this file into your mail client, it now appears.