Use Thunderbird to Migrate Gmail Labels Across Google Accounts

Labels in Gmail can be extremely useful for organizing messages, but Google didn’t add any export or migration options for them. You can do it yourself with Thunderbird.

Gmail has plenty of features for combining multiple accounts, even if some use Google Apps. However, if you’re a severe Gmailer, you’ve probably set up plenty of labels, and there is no built-in option to export or share these labels to another account. To get around this, we can use an IMAP email client, and Thunderbird is a free choice that works great. Thunderbird recognizes labels as folders, and Gmail recognizes Thunderbird folders as labels, so the two are interchangeable. Below I’ll show you the simple steps to use this for copying labels (and the emails attached to them) to a new account.

Copy/Export Gmail Labels with Thunderbird


Sign in to both accounts over IMAP using Mozilla’s Thunderbird. This can be done from Settings >> Options >> Account Settings…

To connect to Gmail or Google Apps mail via IMAP, you’ll need to enable IMAP within the mail account settings.

thunderbird account settings optionnew account

Now that you have both accounts added to Thunderbird, wait for the email lists to populate. You should see all of the tags appear as folders underneath the version that has them.

Now select the folders (labels) from the original email address, drag them into the other address, and they will automatically be copied.

drag labels from one account to another to copy them

Now you have to wait for a while. Grab a snack, eat a Snickers, or patiently watch each copy message scroll across the bottom-left of the Thunderbird screen. It can seriously take a while to copy all of your labels and the emails attached to them between accounts in Thunderbird, especially if you have a large number of emails connected to each label.

copying message

Done! Your labels should be copied; log in to Gmail or Google Apps mail and check it out to be sure!



  1. Henk

    June 23, 2017 at 11:47 pm

    For your readers looking to migrate labels only, note that missing labels will now be created whenever you import an exported filters file (which includes filters referring to the labels).

  2. Crystal

    June 28, 2018 at 4:55 am

    Can you uninstall the thunderbird app once the transfer has been made and maintain the folders?

  3. Alex

    November 9, 2022 at 1:50 pm

    Wow, thank you so much for this article! I have been looking for the label solution for a long time already!!

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