Unfortunately, different email systems do not play well together and as a result, transferring your email from one system to another can be problematic. Many email systems have the option to "backup" or "export" your email, but the expectation is that you're going to pull it back in to the same system (e.g. on a new computer). At this time the easiest AND most supported method for retaining a copy is to install an email client such as Mac Mail or Thunderbird and copy your messages locally. The easiest method is our ZGET transfer #program.

Step One: Forwarding Email

Before backing up your old emails, you might want to configure [Zimbra] to forward any present and near-future emails to your new email account. To forward emails from [Zimbra] to another email account (such as Gmail):

  • Once in [Zimbra], click on Preferences along the top (Mail, Address Book, Calendar, Documents, Preferences).
  • In Preferences, click on Mail (the tabs are, from left to right: General, Mail, Mail Identities, ...)
  • Put the email address in the blank Address to forward mail to:
  • Click Save, which will appear above the General tab.

The check box Don't keep a local copy of messages: should only be checked if you do not want to look at your emails in [Zimbra]. This means that when your other account (e.g. Gmail) gets the message, it is permanently removed from [Zimbra].

Step Two: Backing Up Old Emails

For whatever method you choose to use in backing up your old emails, you may be forced to continue using that program in order to view those email in the future. Consider your options before going through the effort of backing up your email with a given application and you may want to simplify your life by setting the email program up with future email accounts.

Apple Mail (Mac)

  • Please see here for instructions on how to back up messages using [Apple Mail].

Zimbra for Desktop (For Windows)

  1. In [Zimbra] webmail (the usual web interface) go to Preferences > Import/Export
  2. In the lower Export area, make sure "Account" is selected, and click "Export" THIS WILL TAKE A WHILE (up to an hour is not unreasonable, depending on your computer and connection)
  3. Download and install [Zimbra] Desktop from Do *NOT* configure [Zimbra] Desktop for Carleton's mail server, instead you'll configure for your new off-campus account (gmail, yahoo, hotmail, etc...)
  4. In [Zimbra] desktop, go to Options > Import/Export
  5. In the upper Import area, make sure "Account" is selected, and in the file area, select the location of your downloaded webfile (.tgz) and click "Import" (again, save up to an hour or two for the import).

When this process is complete you will NOT be able to access your mail from your new account (some mail might show up, but not all). However, through the Zimbra desktop you can forward and interact with your past mail through your new account. If you have questions, call x4040.

Mozilla Thunderbird (Windows/Mac/Linux)

Though we do not have a successful mechanism for transferring mail from [Zimbra] to Gmail, you can backup all of your emails to a desktop email client, Mozilla Thunderbird:

  • After completing the installation of Thunderbird, launch it (either choose "Launch Mozilla Thunderbird now" at the end of the installation or double-click the icon).
  • For account type, choose Email Account.
  • Enter your name and Carleton email address.
  • For Incoming Server Type, choose [IMAP]. The name of the incoming server is, and the name of the outgoing server is
  • Choose your Incoming User Name, Outgoing User Name, and Account Name (these are your choice - they will not affect Thunderbird's functionality).
  • Click Finish. If you see the following window pop up, do not panic! Click OK

There are several settings to adjust to make sure the email is downloaded to your computer.

  • Go to: Tools > Account Settings
  • In Server Settings
    • Security Settings: Select "STARTTLS"
  • In Offline & Disk Space
    • Offline: Select "Make the messages in my Inbox available when I am working offline" (This option is what actually brings the messages from the Carleton network onto your computer)

Click "OK" In the main window, click Get Mail.


Once the process is completed you should be able to access all of your past email through the thunderbird client.

Step Three: Syncing your Contacts

Your email account will be deactivated in the middle of the summer after you graduate from Carleton. While you can setup an Alumna Email Account that will forward incoming email to an email address of your choice, you must both inform your contacts of your new email address and be sure to update any web services (Amazon, Facebook, etc.) associated with your email account, in addition to backing up the contacts found in your Carleton account.

Backing Up/Transferring contacts

For exporting from [Zimbra]:

  • Click on Preferences
  • Click on Import/Export
  • Under the Export heading, select Contacts
  • From the pulldown box that appears, select Gmail contacts (or format of your choice)
  • Click Export and specify the filename.
  • This will export to a CSV file

INTERMEDIATE As a lot of the contacts will be Carleton addresses, many of which are likely to be senior accounts which will be invalid after July 15th, we'd recommend some trimming of the file. Open it up in Excel and delete any entries that will soon be obsolete.


  • Select Contacts on the left
  • Select Import (top-right)
  • You can now select the CSV file from [Zimbra] by clicking on the Browse button.
  • If you want, you can add these contacts to be imported to a special contact list. This is a good idea because it can help you organize information stored in your gMail account.

An Ideal Solution: Gmail


This section of the knowledge base is a work in progress. While these details will lead you to the end product of transferring your Carleton emails to a Gmail account, it is a complicated, tedious process that will take you over a week to complete fully. You have been warned.


  1. Install Thunderbird.
  2. Setup your Carleton email with Thunderbird.(see above)
  3. Setup your Gmail account with Thunderbird.
  4. Double-check nitpicky details about Thunderbird with the two accounts.
    1. Be sure to check "TLS if avalable" for the Carleton account under Tools>Account settings>Server Settings
    2. Be sure to add google's SMTP server under Tools>Account Settings>Outgoing server (Server Name:; Port: 583; Secure Connection: SSL). Then configure the Gmail account to use Gmail's outgoing server with Tools>Account Settings>{the gmail account} and select the gmail outgoing server under "Outgoing Server".
  5. Make sure that Thunderbird actually works with BOTH accounts. If you do not confirm that Thunderbird can send and receive emails through both your Carleton and Gmail accounts, it will not be able to transfer any emails from one account to the other.
    1. For each account, click on the account name (not on the Inbox folder) and in the right-hand pane click "Read messages".
    2. After Thunderbird successfully loads your email for that account, send an email to the same account using Thunderbird. Repeat the above step to check if you have successfully received the email you sent.
    3. Be sure to check to see if the message actually came from the account from which you sent the message. This step is important because you need to make sure that you haven't accidentally sent email from one account to the other.
  6. Transfer emails This is the important part
    1. You can seamlessly transfer emails between IMAP accounts by right clicking on a selected message(s) and go to Copy to>{gmail account}>Inbox.
    2. IMPORTANT:Because of the way in which this transfer works, if you transfer too many emails at once gmail will temporarily block Thunderbird.
    3. We are doing testing to determine exactly how large of a chunk of email you can send to Gmail per day. At the moment we recommend transfering your email in chunks of 1000 messages, once per day.

An Ideal (Homebrew) Solution - Automated

ZGET: Zimbra to Gmail Email Transfer


This section of the knowledge base is a work in progress. While these details will lead you to the end product of transferring your Carleton emails to a Gmail account, it is a not-too-complicated, mostly-automatic process that will take your computer over two hours to complete fully (longest transfer time we've seen so far - 22 hours). You have been warned.

Now the actual caution: This method has been tested but is still being developed and we can offer little to no support (i.e. me) if anything goes wrong. Rule of thumb is: if something doesn't transfer that should - run it again. Otherwise, questions - contact and I'll try to get back to you.

Step 1: Manually save large attachments

Because Gmail's attachment size limit is much lower than Zimbra's, it is impossible for emails that are too large to be transferred. You will have to download any attachments you would like to keep on your own:

  1. Sign in to your Zimbra account.
  2. Just underneath the address bar, a text box should be displaying "in:inbox" (or something similar). Replace that with "larger: 24MB". This will display all messages with attachments that are too large for Gmail. Find the ones you want and save them somewhere on your machine.
Step 2: Download and run the transfer program
  1. Download the Windows transfer program
    Download the Mac transfer program.
  2. Unzip the file.
  3. Windows - Run "ZGET (Click me!)"
    Mac - Run "ZGET".
    The program will ask for you for your Carleton username and password along with your Gmail address and password.
Some quick troubleshooting

You may need to go to this site and click a link and flip a switch to make Gmail "allow access to less secure apps." Otherwise you may get a scary looking error:. After it's done be sure to switch back the gmail security setting!

If you get the error message: "imapsync.exe is not recognized as an internal or external command"

Make sure you extract the zipped folder instead of just double-clicking on it. Right click the folder and select 'Extract All,' then run the transfer program from the new folder. Or, if you can't find Extract All, double-click the zipped folder and copy the folder inside to somewhere else (like your desktop).

More troubleshooting here.

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