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How to migrate your emails to Microsoft 365 Exchange Online
This article is aimed at solopreneurs, the self employed and very small businesses who are looking to migrate their emails to Microsoft 365.
If your email accounts are currently with a company such as GoDaddy, IONOS, 123-Reg etc, and you are looking to migrate them to Microsoft 365 (also known as Microsoft Exchange Online) then this article is for you.
Let’s take an example that you have a domain (eg. yourdomain.co.uk) and you have email addresses such as firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com. We’ll assume you’ve had these email addresses for years, you manage your emails in Microsoft Outlook and the accounts are either setup as POP3 or IMAP.
Why move your emails to Microsoft 365
Here are some reasons for why you might want to move your emails to Microsoft 365:
- Limited mailbox storage space with current provider
- Lack of calendar and contacts synchronisation between Outlook on your computer and your mobile phone
- Unreliable email delivery through current provider. You find emails are ending up in recipients junk mail boxes
- You receive a large number of spam messages because your current provider doesn’t do any spam filtering
You might also be interested in my experience of using IONOS / 1&1 email service and why I migrated to Microsoft 365 Exchange Online in this blog post.
Microsoft 365 gives you fully synchronised email, calendar and contacts across all your devices
The Steps to Migrate your Emails
The steps to migrate your emails from your current provider to Microsoft 365 are:
- Setup new Microsoft 365 account
- Verify domain ownership with Microsoft
- Make changes to DNS records so all new emails come into new email account
- Backup all existing emails into PST file and/or copy them to new outlook.com email address
- Copy all existing emails into Microsoft 365
- Copy calendar entries and contacts into Microsoft 365
I will explain each of these steps in detail below.
Migrating your Emails to Microsoft Exchange Online
Depending on who your current provider is Microsoft might be able to import the existing email messages into 365 mailboxes. The Microsoft 365 setup wizard will tell you if it can import the messages. If not, then you will need to do a manual transfer. Regardless of whether Microsoft can or can’t import the emails, calendar and contacts will still need to be done separately. I will now outline how to do a full manual transfer of emails, calendars and contacts.
Setup Microsoft 365 Account
Go to Microsoft website to purchase a Microsoft 365 business account. If you already have Outlook installed as part of another Microsoft 365 package or another installation then you only need the Microsoft 365 Business Basic package. For all other users, the Microsoft 365 Business Standard package should suit your needs.
Setting up your domain in Microsoft 365
Before you can use Microsoft 365 Exchange Online for your emails you need to verify you own your domain name with Microsoft. The wizard provides step-by-step instruction on verifying your domain. For a lot of popular web hosting accounts such as GoDaddy and IONOS, Microsoft will ask you to login to your account and then do the verification for you. If Microsoft can't verify automatically then you will need to add some TXT records to your DNS records and then manually verify the domain ownership.
The next step is to continue with setting up the domain in Microsoft 365 so all your emails are routed through Microsoft 365 instead of through your old email provider. These steps involve changing DNS records, and we recommend you do this step either early morning or late evening when you are less likely to receive any emails. The chances of losing emails are small and doing it outside of normal working hours reduces the risk further.
Checking Emails are working properly
Once the DNS changes are complete you will also find that any devices you use for your emails will come up with an error message about invalid server details. Don't worry, this is normal! So if Outlook on your computer or your phone can't receive or send emails this is good!
You can check you emails are working by going to Outlook online. You can send an email to your personal email (eg. Gmail, Hotmail) and vice versa to make sure everything is working as expected.
Backing Up Your Emails before Migration
As it’s not possible to setup the same email address in Outlook or any email program (eg. Apple Mail. Thunderbird) with two different server settings (IMAP and SMTP) it will be necessary to remove the existing account and then set it up again with the new Microsoft 365 Exchange server settings. But if we remove the existing account then we will lose the emails we want to migrate!
My approach is twofold:
- Create a PST file of all existing emails. On a Mac it's called an .olm file.
- Create new Outlook.com email account eg. NameOfCompanyArchive@outlook.com
This way you have two copies all your emails. PST/OLM files can and do go wrong so having everything backed up in outlook.com adds an extra layer of backup.
How to Create a PST File in Outlook on Windows
1. Go to File menu and click Open & Export.
2. Click Import/Export.
3. Select Export to a file and click Next.
4. Select Outlook Data File (*.pst)
5. Select the title of the email address so it is highlighted in blue. Make sure Include subfolders is selected. Click Next.
6. Click Browse.
I recommend you create a new folder in your Documents folder for this. I like to include the date in the folder and file name so I always know what the correct PST file is.
7. Click Finish.
The process can take some time to finish so now is a good time to take a break and come back when it is finished.
How to create an .olm file in Outlook on a MacBook
- In Outlook go to File menu and click Export
2. Choose the items you want to export and click Continue.
3. Enter a name for the archive file and click Save.
4. Click Finish.
How to Copy Emails into an Outlook.com Email Address
The first step is to create a new outlook.com email account. What you call the email address is up to you but something like firstname.lastname@example.org would certainly work. You get a free 15GB mailbox which should be more than enough for most mailboxes. Once you have created your new email account you can set it up in Outlook on your computer.
1. Go to File menu and select Add Account.
2. Enter the new email address and then the password.
You will now see the account in Outlook. The next step is to copy emails into this account in batches. Don't try and copy thousands of emails at once. Start with the inbox and its subfolders and then move onto sent items, drafts etc.
3. Go to your inbox and click the first email and then scroll down. How far you scroll down depends on how many emails you have. I would recommend no more than a few hundred. Now hold down the shift key on the keyboard and click an email. You will now have a bunch of emails highlighted in blue. Make a note of the last email highlighted in blue in terms of who and date so you know which email to start with on the next batch.
4. Right mouse click in the blue area and select Move and then Copy to Folder.
5. Scroll down to the new email account and select the Inbox folder and click OK.
Repeat for the next batch of emails.
For subfolders you can right click on them and click Copy Folder and then select parent folder in the outlook.com mailbox to copy it to.
Repeat this for sent items, draft items and other folders you want.
Once complete you will want to leave Outlook to upload all the emails to outlook.com. A mailbox with thousands of emails will take time to upload. If you go to Outlook online you can see the progress and can make sure everything is uploaded.
How to Set Up the 'New' Email Account in Outlook
Once all of the above is complete you will be in a position to setup the 'new' email account in Outlook and then import the old emails via the PST or via the Outlook.com account. You now have two options:
- Remove the 'old' email address account and then set it up again with the new Microsoft account details
- Create a new Outlook profile and add the new email address and the PST / Outlook.com address.
I prefer creating a new profile because you have an easy way of going back to the 'old' account if required. This option doesn't exist on MacBooks.
How to Create a New Profile in Outlook
1. Close Outlook.
2. Open the Windows Control Panel
You can type Control Panel into the search box next to Windows start button.
3. Change View by to Small icons and then click Mail (Microsoft Outlook 2016)
4. Click Show Profiles
5. Click Add and enter a name (eg. M365 account) and click OK.
6. Enter Your Name, email address and password and click Next.
7. A new Window will open where you will have to enter the email address and password again.
8 Under Always use this profile change it to the new profile you have just created and click OK.
9. Open Outlook again and your email address which is being handled by Microsoft 365 should be present. It's always a good idea to test it works by sending emails to another email address, such as a Gmail address.
How to Import Emails into the New Account
You can eithe open the PST file or the Outlook.com email account to start importing your emails.
To add the outlook.com address
1. Go to File menu and select Add Account.
2. Enter the email address and password.
To add the PST file
1. Go to File menu and select Open & Export.
2. Click Open Outlook Data File.
3. Navigate to folder where you saved the PST file and click Open.
Copy the Emails from the outlook.com address
Now you can copy the old emails into their relevant folders in the 'new' account, just like you did earlier in the section titled How to Copy Emails into an Outlook.com Email Address
Again, once all the emails have been copied across, either via the PST file or the outlook.com email account you will need to leave Outlook running so all the emails can be syncronised.
Once complete you can close the outlook.com account or the PST folder by right mouse clicking the name of the account and clicking Remove account name
If you check Outlook online account you should see all your emails.
How to Import Calendar and Contacts
To transfer your calendar and contacts across to the new email account you will need to use the PST/olm file.
1. Click File menu and select Open & Export
2. Click Import / Export
3. Select Import from another program or file and click Next
4. Select Outlook Data File (*.pst) and click Next
5. Scroll through the list and select Calendar and click Next
6. Repeat these steps for adding Contacts.
I hope you found this guide useful. Please let me know your views and experience of migrating emails to Microsoft 365. If you know better methods then please share them.
If you would like MCS to help you migrate your emails to Microsoft 365 then please get in contact with us. I'd love to help.
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