This is the follow up to last week’s “Get rid of those old email accounts” blog wherein I presented you two great reasons to thin out your collection of email accounts. Hopefully you’ve thought long and hard about this and have come to the realization that you can, in fact, give up at least one old or unused email account, but there are emails that you want to keep. Given how much drama “old emails” seems to have caused our country in the past months, it’s hard to imagine why anyone would want to keep them around, but we’ll assume (a) you have legitimate reasons, and (b) are not improperly storing classified data. If true, read on.
Why can’t I just leave them where they are?
In most cases, email is stored on a server somewhere on the internet, aka “hosted” email service. When that account is canceled, all data associated with that account is deleted, usually immediately. Sometimes there is a grace period of 30 days where you can recover the account, but don’t count on it, especially if it’s a “free” email account. If the account is located on a mail server that is managed by your (former) organization, this is known as “on premise” email service, and whether your email box is retained or deleted will be determined by that organization’s internal policy. In either case, the objective is to stop that mailbox from receiving email so that your problem isn’t compounding over time, especially since it’s likely all spam and malware, and the only way to do this is to remove that mailbox from the internet.
Most “freemail” providers like Yahoo, Gmail, Hotmail etc. offer a method to “export” your emails, and unless you’ve alredy been maintaining an archive through a program like Microsoft Outlook, this will be the quickest way to grab a full set of all emails. This process will typically provide you with an MBOX file which can then be imported into most major email programs like Outlook or Apple Mail. It’s also possible to use those programs themselves to “export” the email to dedicated archive files, allowing you more granular control over what is kept and what is not. OSX includes Apple Mail as part of its base installation, but if you don’t already own Microsoft Outlook, there are other, free mail clients that may work for you, such as Thunderbird or SeaMonkey, both of which are available for either operating system. Importing old emails into an archive creates an “offline” email box in your program of choice, which as you might have guessed by the name, is only available to that machine.
Another option you can consider is importing that old email into your current mailbox. Only do this if the number of emails you are importing is small and your current mailbox isn’t already too large. “Too large” is not a fixed number, but most email programs struggle when dealing with more than 500K old emails, or email file sizes in excess of 20GB, and that is even on a well-equipped computer with 8GB or more of RAM. Importing old email into your current mailbox will provide you with the ability to search your email from devices other than your computer, but may severely impact performance, so choose carefully.
Archiving email can be a complicated process, and is often fraught with strange issues. If the old emails are important, you may want to consider hiring a professional to ensure your old emails are kept safe and accessible.
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles from FreeDigitalPhotos.net