Frequently Asked Questions
UBC Mathematics: MathNet FAQ [Mail Transfer]

UBC Mathematics: MathNet FAQ [Mail Transfer]

Question: How do I export my mailbox to another Email account (like Gmail)?
Author: Joseph Tam
Date: Jan 15, 2013

This FAQ is intended for users who are in the situation where they have to transfer a large amount of Email messages from one Email account to another. By large, I mean over a hundred, and sometimes, several thousands messages, possibly spread out over many mailboxes.


  1. Direct file transfer

    Your MathNet mailboxes are stored in mbox format, which is essentially a text encoding of all your Email, one file per mailbox If the destination mail account uses the same mail storage format, and you have direct file access on the other site, you can simply copy your mail files there.

  2. IMAP copy using a mail reader

    A method that would work well, assuming both Email accounts support the IMAP remote mail protocol, is to use a mail reader application (e.g. MacOSX Mail, Thunderbird, Outlook), and add both your MathNet and other Email account so that both Email accounts can be accessed simultaneously. Messages can be copied from one mailbox to another (e.g. drag and drop using GUI mail readers).

  3. IMAP copy using utility script

    A command-line utility is available on our Solaris Unix workstations (see this FAQ on which hosts are available) that will automatically transfer all message via the IMAP remote mail protocol. The destination mail account must support IMAP for this script to work.

    For transfers, you will be prompted for two passwords. The first one is your MathNet password, the second is the remote Email account password.

    	# Run without arguments to print help message on its use.
    	# Check status of's INBOX
    	/usr/local/bin/imapxfer -c
    	# Copy mailboxes INBOX and FromJohn to
    	#       - messages will be labelled UBC/INBOX and UBC/FromJohn
    	#	respectively.
    	/usr/local/bin/imapxfer INBOX FromJohn
    	# Copy all mailboxes to remote account
    	#       - extensive diagnostics
    	#       - prefix mailboxes under MyStuff/
    	#       - the remote user accout is otheracc and the
    	#               remote  IMAP server is at
    	/usr/local/bin/imapxfer -V -lMyStuff/
  4. Forwarding

    You can forward messages from your mail account here to another account. A side-effect of this operation is that it will change the From header to your Email address here, and you won't see the sender without reading the content of the message. One way you can avoid this is to use pine's bounce command.

    If you must forward, it should be empasized that you should not forward an entire mailbox's worth of messages to the recipient account at one time. If you have many messages, this will cause both the sending and receiving mail servers to process messages as fast as they can, which could swamp one or both servers.

    Furthermore, if the recipient rate limits incoming mail (such as Gmail/Hotmail/Yahoo), you could cause the recipient site to block mail from the sending site which would cause mail delivery problems for all users.

    If you must forward messages, do it in managable batches (~100 message at a time with a suitable pause in between batches).

Gmail specific instructions

Before you can use IMAP methods, you'll have to enable IMAP access to your Gmail account:

  1. Log in to your Gmail account.
  2. Settings -> Forwarding and POP/IMAP tab -> Enable IMAP)

Transfers to Gmail via IMAP is somewhat slow. A large mailbox may take quite a while to fully transfer. Use the imapxfer -v flag to show the progress of a transfer.

You can optionally create nested labels and present your mailboxes in the same hierarchical fashion as your MathNet folder layout. To make do this, you'll have make intermediary labels that corresponds to the directories.

For example, you would need to create