Summary: migrating from Gmail to FastMail

I thought I would group together links to my set of six posts about how I have migrated from Gmail to FastMail:

  • In part 1, I explained the complexity of my email setup.
  • I used part 2 to talk about why I wanted to migrate away from the (admittedly very good) tools provided by Google
  • Part 3 went over the steps I took to prepare for the migration
  • Part 4 proceeded to talk about how you can copy email from Gmail to FastMail and also included some links to some other useful resources online
  • In part 5, I covered some of the specific issues that arose duing the migration (e.g. DNS configuration)
  • Finally, I used part 6 to list the good and bad things that I have experienced during (and since) this migration


Migrating From Gmail To FastMail: Part 6

Okay, so I have been negligent in finishing my series of blog posts about my Gmail to FastMail migration. But that negligence ends today.

This is my final post in this series. First, I will list the things I don’t like about FastMail and discuss the problems that I’ve had during my migration from Gmail. Then I’ll cover the things I like about FastMail.

Bad things about FastMail

The list of problems that I have experienced is almost non-existent, and the few issues I have had were my own fault! At one point in my migration, I had my Apple Mail app (on OS X) set up with both my Gmail and my new FastMail account. This meant that I effectively had duplicates of everything.

When I was trying to, ahem, ‘tidy up’ my soon-to-be-defunct Gmail account and check that everything had migrated over to FastMail properly, I accidentally deleted my Gmail ‘Spam’ folder. Only it turned out that this was actually my FastMail Spam folder.

It took me a while to troubleshoot this, but only because a lot of FastMail’s online documentation specifically refers to a folder called ‘Junk Mail’ and not ‘Spam’. E.g. (click to enlarge)

When I later noticed that I was unable to mark mail as junk on the FastMail website, I realized that I had maybe deleted the wrong folder. A quick email to FastMail confirmed that in their new web interface, they have renamed ‘Junk Mail’ to ‘Spam’. Their support team quickly rebuilt my Spam email folder and all was well again.

So that’s my sole criticism of FastMail: because of an error that was my fault I was temporarily confused by some of their documentation which is not up to date. I can live with this!

Good things about FastMail

  1. It works just as you want a mail service to work. Stable, reliable, and powerful.

  2. If you use a custom domain (as is the case for me), they set up a default subdomain at that lets you check your mail [1]. I found this was a nice little touch.

  3. The Desktop web app is good. Really good. Supports all of your Gmail keyboard shortcuts and many more besides.

  4. The mobile web app is also fantastic, and supports many great ‘slide’ gestures that makes it feel like a native iOS app. E.g. (click to enlarge):

  5. There is a great set of default settings (click to enlarge):

  6. But when you need them, their Advanced settings are there and they could probably keep you occupied for several days (every option in the left-sidebar opens a whole page of preferences). Click to enlarge:

  7. Fantastic, and timely, support from real people!

  8. Integration with 3rd party mail clients is straightforward and seems to work as expected.

  9. The web app has four main components: Mail, Address Book (I easily imported my addresses from OS X Contacts app), Notes (a simple way of collecting some thoughts in the style of Simplenote [2], and Files.

  10. The aforementioned file storage space can be used to host files or photo galleries.

Native or web app?

I’m really impressed by the web app experience when using FastMail. So much so, that I’m currently switching a lot between the web apps (on my Mac and on iOS) and 3rd party mail clients. FastMail is working beautifully with Apple’s mail apps (on OS X and iOS) as well as apps like the fantastic AirMail (OS X) and Triage (iOS).


I’m loving FastMail, and still discovering many new things about it every day. I’ve no regrets about migrating away from Gmail and am happy to pay a fair price for this level of quality, functionality, and service.

  1. You can, of course, still access the web mail interface at  ↩

  2. Though there is no easy way of searching notes that I could find.  ↩

Gmail, FastMail, and Mavericks…can't you all just get along?

As a brief interlude to my never ending series of blog posts about migrating from Gmail to FastMail, I'll quickly note that:

a) Gmail has some problems when used as an account in the Mail app of  Mac OS 10.9 (Mavericks)

b) FastMail also has some issues when being used with Mail on Mavericks (these would seem to be due to changes Apple made)

So on the one hand, the former news might encourage more people to move away from Gmail but the latter news item means that Apple's Mail app needs some fixes before being ready to work with FastMail under 10.9 (of course, web access to FastMail is unaffected). This is making me consider waiting a little while before upgrading to 10.9.


Update: 31st October

Turns out the 2nd item above was not FastMail's fault and was an issue with a particular user.

Update: 4th November

Marco Arment's piece on the wider issue of Gmail not adopting standard IMAP protocols is well worth a read.

Migrating from Gmail to FastMail: part 5

In this part, I will discuss the changes that I had to make to get FastMail working with my own personal domain.

When I was only using Gmail, I used a personal domain name that I had purchased from the excellent Hover domain name registrar[1]. For just $5 a year, Hover will forward email from a personal email address (using your own domain) to another email account. If I borrow from the fictional example in part 1 of this series, let’s assume I own the domain name and I was previously using Hover to forward mail to to my Gmail address ( How does this happen with FastMail?

One of the reasons I chose FastMail was that I knew that they supported personal domains[2]. You still get your own FastMail email address as well (and this becomes your account name) but I don't intend to ever use this as an email address.

On following FastMail’s guide to setting up your own domain name I was surprised to find that I had to alter my Hover name server settings for the domain name. I.e. I had to configure Hover to redirect all traffic heading towards to instead go to FastMail’s servers.

2013-10-25 at 9.34 AM.png

I thought I would just be configuring the mail settings at rather than redirecting all traffic to FastMail. One of my concerns about this was that I was also using Hover to forward web traffic from to another domain that I own (er…let’s call it As soon as I changed the name server settings in Hover, this forwarding was broken.

I needn’t have worried. Turns out that FastMail provides a lot of options for custom DNS configuration. By visiting Settings->Advanced->Websites/Redirects I could configure my web traffic to be redirected just as before:

2013-10-25 at 9.44 AM.png

So I now have FastMail set up to use my custom domain, though when I set up mail clients such as Apple’s Mail app, I need to use my underlying FastMail email address[3] in the 'User Name' field. To make my custom domain name the default email account, you need to place it first in a comma separated list of email addresses in Apple Mail’s ‘Email address’ field:

2013-10-25 at 1.47 PM.png
  1. If you want to give me some Hover referral love, please use this link when signing up for a domain (I will get $5 in credit)  ↩
  2. Though you have to sign up for the more expensive enhanced plan to have this feature. On the flip side, I’m no longer paying Hover $5 a year for the email forwarding.  ↩
  3. FastMail provides many different options for your account email address with maybe 50 different domain name extensions (e.g.,, I went for the default format.  ↩

Migrating from Gmail to FastMail: part 4

I’m falling behind on my (seemingly never-ending) series of posts about migrating from Gmail to FastMail. I still have lots that I want to write about, but for this post I’ll point you towards some resources I found helpful, and will briefly discuss FastMail’s IMAP migration tool.


FastMail provides a lot of really detailed and useful help online. They appreciate that many of you will want to work with FastMail on specific desktop and mobile clients and have created different help pages to address these scenarios. E.g. here is the advice on configuring Apple’s Mail app to work with FastMail folders. Their support team are also very quick to deal with emailed requests.

Here are some guides for migration of Gmail to FastMail:

FastMail’s IMAP migration tool

If you decide that you like the free trial of FastMail and want to move to using it 100%, then you will want to bring all of your Gmail (or other email) with you. FastMail has an IMAP migration tool which worked well for me. After logging in to FastMail, navigate to your Account page and select Migrate IMAP under the ‘Maintenance’ settings.

After entering your Gmail credentials, you just let this tool run in the background. It took about 4 hours to copy all of my ~15,000 emails [1]. The best part of this is that it sends you a detailed report when it finishes.

As I mentioned in an earlier post in this series, I was initially confused because my Gmail ‘All Mail’ folder seemed to shrink by several thousand emails. But this is because Gmail — which does many non-standard things with email —counts all sent emails as part of ‘All Mail’. FastMail resolves these into separate folders.

The only hitch in this process was due to my own stupidity. I use SaneBox to pre-filter my Gmail and I needed to tell SaneBox to work with FastMail instead. Foolishly, I did this while my mail was still being imported in the background. This may or may not have been the reason why I ended up with two sets of my SaneBox folders under FastMail. This was easy to resolve though [2].

In my next post, I’ll talk about how I migrated my personal domain settings over to FastMail.

  1. It leaves all the original emails in Gmail, so there is no real risk of using this tool.  ↩

  2. SaneBox gives folders a prefix to make sure that they appear at the top of your list of folders. On Gmail it uses the ‘@’ symbol, but it turns out that different providers sort email folders differently. On FastMail, these folders use a ‘+’ sign (e.g. +SaneLater). During my email migration from Gmail, I also ended up with underscores being used. This gave me a +SaneLater and a _SaneLater folder. I simply moved the contents of _SaneLater into +SaneLater, deleted the former and everything was okay from that point. But really, don’t migrate SaneBox to FastMail until you have finished the Gmail->FastMail migration!  ↩

Migrating from Gmail to FastMail: part 3

I promise that I will get around to explaining the gory details of my Gmail to FastMail migration (and also how I’m finding FastMail as a service), but one final post before then. This time I want to talk about ‘preparation’.

If you are thinking of taking FastMail for a test drive, you can of course do this as a 60 day free trial (no credit card needed as well[1]). If you do this, then you don’t need to do much preparation other than set Gmail to forward your email (and keep a copy in the inbox or Archive folder):

Something else to bear in mind is that Gmail applies spam filtering rules before email gets forwarded. I’ve had issues where Gmail routinely flags some emails as spam (even though I’ve set up filters to tell it not to[2]). This is where I’ve found the SaneNotSpam tool by SaneBox to be really useful.

Michael Crusoe gave me a useful tip on twitter about this. Simply make a filtering rule in Gmail to forward all spam email. I did something slightly different and made a rule to not move any email to the Spam folder[3].

If you set up forwarding like this then you can continue using Gmail as before, but everything will also end up in FastMail. To be able to send from your Gmail address within FastMail, you’ll need to set up a Gmail personality. FastMail also allows aliases, but these differ somewhat from personalities[4].

Go on a Gmail diet

My final preparation tip — for those who are considering a permanent migration to FastMail — would be to slim down your Gmail archive. The much-touted advantage of never needing to delete emails when using Gmail is great…except for when you want to switch providers.

Although FastMail has a decent IMAP migration tool, it can take many hours to migrate thousands of emails (and I’m assuming that most Gmail users have thousands, if not tens of thousands, of emails). When I first started thinking about leaving Gmail (over a year ago now), I realized that I should probably start slimming down my Gmail archive[5].

It wasn’t until I completed the migration to FastMail that I realized that Gmail’s Archive folder also contains all of your sent mail. Initially I thought that the FastMail migration tool had made an error because I was missing about 6,000 emails. Turns out these were all of my sent messages, which FastMail — like other email providers — only keeps in the Sent messages folder.

Coming next

In part 4 I will explain a bit more about how the actual migration went for me, and what other things I needed to do in order to use my custom domain with FastMail.

  1. I wish more services would let you try them without having to hand over credit card details  ↩

  2. In particular, emails from Amazon often end up in my Gmail spam folder.  ↩

  3. Though this is only catching spam email that is directly addressed to me. I’m still seeing some spam email where I’m presumably bcc recipient. But I can live with this.  ↩

  4. I now have a personality in FastMail for each account that I want to be able to send email from.  ↩

  5. Over the course of the last year, I’ve shed about 3,000 emails from my archive. This might seem like a lot, but my starting point was about 18,000 emails so I’m not sure how much time this saved me during the actual migration.  ↩

Migrating from Gmail to FastMail: part 2

In my last blog post, I explained the complexity of my email setup before I began the migration from Gmail to FastMail. Although I will move on to explaining how I did the migration, I thought I should briefly touch on why I did it.

Gmail is powerful, full-featured, very robust, and most importantly…it is free. Why would anyone want to move away from this premium email service?


When you don’t pay for a service or app, you can’t necessarily expect any problems you encounter to be dealt with any sense of urgency. It is true that Gmail doesn’t exactly break very often, but what if you needed help or feedback on a particular issue that might only be of relevance to you? If you pay for a service like FastMail, then you get fast and effective support [1].

Privacy and security

It is no surprise that Google’s business model relies on advertising. They not only want to generate revenue by putting ads across all of their products, they also want to benefit from all of the information that they have gleaned about their users.

Although you may never notice or care about the personalized adverts that can appear in Gmail, since last March Google has effectively started sharing your personal data across all of their products and services. Although their privacy policy initially suggests that they do not share this information without your consent, they allow sharing to ‘affiliates … and trusted businesses’ for the vaguely defined category of ‘external processing’:

Privacy concerns such as this are among the chief criticisms of Gmail.

The future

Google experiments with lots of different products and increasingly they are honing down their portfolio to a smaller number of (revenue-generating) services. They have discontinued more services than most companies will ever launch. Many of these are products that you will have never heard of, but closure of services like the popular Google Reader sparked outrage across the web[2].

Although it seems unfathomable that Google would kill off Gmail, it can’t be assumed that Google will not introduce changes that limits the functionality of Gmail or annoys users in other ways (e.g. more ads).


Companies that charge a fair price for a service can use their revenue to provide you, the user, with all the support and help that you need. They also don’t need to look at your emails to mine personal information for the purpose of selling you stuff.

Also, companies not based in the USA may not have to hand over their data to organizations like the NSA [3].

  1. I’ve already had my first FastMail support request submitted and dealt with…all within 24 hours.  ↩

  2. Though if you don’t pay anything for a product, I’m not sure that such outrage is justified?  ↩

  3. FastMail is an Australian company and have been very upfront about where they stand with respect to situations such as NSA requests for information. This is not a big reason why I have switched to FastMail, but I appreciate their openness on the matter.  ↩

Migrating from Gmail to FastMail: part 1

I have recently migrated my email setup from Gmail to FastMail. This has not been as simple as moving a single email account from one provider to another, so I thought I’d write about my experiences of getting setup with FastMail.

Before I address the question of why I wanted to move away from Gmail, I thought I would first explain my email setup. In future blog posts, I’ll cover the minor hiccups I’ve had as I’ve switched to FastMail and will also talk about my overall experience of FastMail.


My email setup: the early days of relative simplicity

Like nearly everyone on the Internet (or so it seems), I’ve had a Gmail account for many years. This has not always been my primary account though and I’ve had an Apple-related email service ever since the days of iTools and .Mac. And of course I’ve also had a work email account plus other unwanted-but-necessary email accounts[1].

For a long time, I had these three main accounts (Apple, Gmail, and Work) all connected to my main Mail client (Apple Mail on Macs) as separate accounts.


My email setup: getting more complex

About the time I bought an Android phone[2], I started using Gmail more and more. So that was when I decided to redirect all of my Apple email to Gmail. If you didn’t know, one of the great things about Gmail is that you can connect other accounts to it and send email through Gmail but make it appear that it comes from those other accounts (go to Settings->Accounts):

You can even do this for email aliases. My Apple email account lets me set up a few free aliases. This allows me to have one email address that I can use for me and my wife (emails to this account go to me, but get autoforwarded to her[3]). So my Gmail account contained four accounts at this point.


My email setup: fewer accounts, but more complexity

The above configuration works well when using Gmail’s web interface, but initially I thought I had to keep my Work and Apple accounts in my desktop Mail app for those occasions when I wanted to send an email from my Work account. But it turns out, you can have one Gmail account in Apple’s Mail app, and still send from different accounts. You can also do this is in iOS, though you paradoxically have to set up your mail as a non-Gmail account.


My email setup: even more complexity

For a year or so, I was happy with my email setup. Everything was routed to one place (Gmail) but on my Mac or iPhone I only needed to have one account set up and yet I could still send email from my Work or Apple email accounts (including aliases).

At some point though I realized that I might not be with Gmail forever. So I decided to invest in a domain name which, in theory, would stay with me forever and would give me the opportunity to have a stable email address for the rest of my life. This email address could be moved between providers as and when I needed to move.

So I bought a domain name with the awesome Hover registrar (please click here to use my referral link if you consider using them). For $5 a month, Hover will forward email from your chosen email address (e.g. to another address. So while I could have used Hover as the email host, I decided to stick with Gmail and just forward email to it as before.

So how did I end up being able to send from my new address ([4]) from within Gmail or Apple’s Mail clients? Well in Gmail, you can add other accounts to your account and either treat them as an alias or make them the default account:


So in my case, I made the default email address associated with my Gmail account. Setting this alias to be the default email address for your Gmail account in Apple’s Mail clients is trickier, especially on iOS. But it can be done.


Moving on

Over the last few days I have finally decided to leave all of the above setup behind and move to FastMail. Why and how I did this, will be the subject of future blog posts in the coming days. However, my early experience is that FastMail is excellent and I have no regrets about making this move.


  1. Comcast (my ISP) required me to setup an email account. I never use this but forward the billing-related email announcements on to my main accounts. Also, I have a Yahoo email account which is solely because of the Fantasy Football league that I play in.  ↩

  2. My Android experience lasted about a year, I’m now an iPhone user  ↩

  3. You can setup a filtering rule in Gmail to do this  ↩

  4. This is not the address I am using!  ↩