In my previous article in this series, How-To Collect Email From Other Accounts, I examined the most common way in which you can consolidate two or more email accounts in the cloud. But it's not the only way. In addition to configuring your primary email account to collect email from other, secondary, accounts, you could alternatively configure your secondary accounts to forward mail, automatically, to your primary account.

As I noted previously, the advantage to this type of configuration is that it happens automatically as mail comes in, so depending on the speed of your main account's email collection, this could actually be more immediate. (Some email services don't let you configure how frequently to check for mail at secondary accounts.) The disadvantage, however, is that you lose the ability to automatically act on behalf of the secondary account when accessing forwarded mail (and sending new mail) from the main account. That's because the main account has no real understanding of where your email has come from. But, as it turns out, there is still a way to configure this capability separately, and manually, as you'll see below.

As with the previous article, this article will utilize two of the most popular (and free) email services, Microsoft Hotmail and Google Gmail. But as before, this general process should work with almost any email services, though the details and capabilities will vary from service to service.

OK, let's jump in. First, we'll look at forwarding Gmail-based email to Hotmail, and then the reverse.

Forwarding Gmail-based email to Hotmail

In this scenario, Hotmail is the main email account and Gmail is the secondary account. You will configure Gmail to automatically forward any incoming mail to Hotmail.

Using Gmail's web interface, navigate to Options | Mail Settings | Forwarding and POP/IMAP. Under the top section, Forwarding, you will see options to disable and enable forwarding, and a button for adding a forwarding address.

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Click the Add a forwarding address button and then enter the (Hotmail) email address to which you'd like to forward mail. Then, click Next. The next screen notes that a verification email has been sent to the email address you configured.

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Click OK to close this screen.

In a separate browser or tab, logon to your Hotmail account. You will have received (or soon will) an email from Gmail Team titled Gmail Forwarding Confirmation (#12345678) - Receive Mail from [account-name]@gmail.com‏ (or similar). This email includes a confirmation code, which you'll need to paste into Gmail's Mail Settings. Copy that code to the clipboard and return to Gmail.

In Gmail Settings, paste the code into the Verify box in the Forwarding section and click Verify.

Now that you've configured an account to which you will forward your Gmail-based email, you need to actually enable that forwarding. And this is done via the top two options in the Forwarding section of Gmail Mail Settings. By default, the top of these two choices, Disable forwarding, is selected. To enable forwarding, you'll need to click the bottom choice, whose name begins with "Forward a copy of incoming mail to".

Then, in the first drop-down box, select the Hotmail email address you previously configured for forwarding.

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Then, in the second drop-down box, you can choose from the following options: Keep Gmail's copy in the inbox, Mark Gmail's copy as read, Archive Gmail's copy, or Delete Gmail's copy. I happen to choose "archive Gmail's copy" here because I like my inboxes to be clutter-free, but obviously this is a personal decision.

Then, scroll down to the bottom of the page and click the Save Changes button.

OK, that will do it for email forwarding. But two issues remain.

First, when setting up forwarding in this manner, only new messages are forwarded. So if your goal was to move previously received email from your older (Gmail-based) account to your new (Hotmail) account, you might consider using the "collection" method described in Email Consolidation: How-To Collect Email From Other Accounts instead of this method. Or, you could later load both email accounts into a Windows email application--either Windows Live Mail or Microsoft Outlook--and manually drag and drop email messages between the two accounts. This latter activity is a possibly a good topic for a future article in this series, but it's pretty straightforward if time consuming.

Second, while forwarding email solves one of the issues with email consolidation, it doesn't do anything to help your main email service send email as if it were the secondary email service. That previous "collection" method does do this. But if you want or need to forward and not collect email, you can in fact still configure your new main account to send mail on behalf of your secondary account. You just need to configure that manually and separately. So let's look at that now.

In Hotmail, choose Options | More Options | Sending/receiving email from other accounts. At the bottom of this page is a section titled "You can send mail from these accounts." When you set up Hotmail to collect email from another account, that secondary account is automatically configured here too. But since we're forwarding mail to this account, we'll have to set that up separately.

Click "Add another account to send mail from."

In the next screen, enter your Gmail email address and then click the Send verification email button.

Now, return to your Gmail inbox in the web-based version of that service. You should have a message from your Hotmail account (or soon will) titled Windows Live Hotmail: Verify your email address. That message includes a URL you need to click to verify your ability to send email on behalf of Gmail.

When you click that URL, a success message will open in Hotmail.

To test that this works, start a new email message from Hotmail. If you click the large "From" address at the top of the screen, a drop-down menu will appear letting you choose between your main (Hotmail) and secondary (Gmail) account.

You can also optionally configure Hotmail to use that secondary Gmail account as your default account for sending email. If you do this, the Gmail account will be preconfigured as the "From" address for all new email messages. (You can still change to the Hotmail address via the drop-down, of course.)

Forwarding Hotmail-based email to Gmail

In this scenario, Gmail is the main email account and Hotmail is the secondary account. You will configure Hotmail to automatically forward any incoming mail to Gmail.

In the Hotmail web interface, choose Options | More Options | Email forwarding. By default, Hotmail is configured to not forward email. So select the option titled Forward your mail to another account. Then, in the text box titled Where do you want your messages to be sent?, type your Gmail-based email address. Then, optionally, check the box titled Keep a copy of forwarded messages in your Windows Live Hotmail inbox.

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Note: Hotmail does not allow you to automatically file forwarded email in a different folder than the Inbox, which would be nice.

Click Save.

And ... That's it. There's no email verification, nothing. Hotmail email will simply be forwarded to Gmail, with no further effort on your part. (That said, it's not particularly fast in my experience.)

As with the Gmail forwarding to Hotmail described above, however, two issues remain. First, only new messages are forwarded. So if you wanted to move previously received email from your secondary (Hotmail-based) account to your main(Gmail) account, you might consider using the "collection" method described in Email Consolidation: How-To Collect Email From Other Accounts instead of this method. Or, you could later load both email accounts into a Windows email application--either Windows Live Mail or Microsoft Outlook--and manually drag and drop email messages between the two accounts.

Second, you may want to configure your primary account (Gmail) to be able to send mail as if it were the secondary (Hotmail) account. The previous "collection" method does configure this capability automatically. But if you want or need to forward and not collect email, you can in fact still configure your new main account to send mail on behalf of your secondary account. You just need to configure that manually and separately. So let's look at that now.

In Gmail, navigate to Options | Mail Settings | Accounts and Import. In the middle of this page is a section titled Send mail as. In this section, click the Send mail from another address button. This will trigger a setup wizard that appears in a smaller, separate window.

In the first step of the wizard, edit your name if required and enter your secondary (Hotmail-based) account's email address. Click Next Step.

In the second step, you need to choose Send Mail (SMTP) server, which can be Gmail (the default) or Hotmail. You should choose the Hotmail option, as the Gmail SMTP server will change your From address to indicate that Hotmail-based mail is being sent through Gmail. Click Next Step.

Next, you are asked to send a verification email to your Hotmail address to ensure that you own that account. Click the Send Verification button.

Now, open the Hotmail inbox in a different browser window or tab. You should have received a new email from Gmail Team called Gmail Confirmation - Send Mail as [Hotmail account].‏ This email contains a confirmation code. Copy that code into the Windows clipboard and return to the Gmail wizard. Then, paste the code into the waiting text box and click the Verify button.

The wizard window will disappear and you're now free to send mail from your Gmail or Hotmail account from within Gmail. To test this, start a new email message in Gmail. As you can see, the From address is now displayed as a drop-down box, and if you click this box you can choose between your main/default email address (Gmail) and your secondary account (Hotmail).

As with Hotmail, Gmail also lets you optionally use a secondary account as your default email for new messages. To configure this, navigate to Options | Mail Settings | Accounts and Import in Gmail and then select the default account you prefer in the section titled Send mail as.

Final thoughts

As with the collection method, email forwarding gives you another way to consolidate two or more email services into a single location, which can be very convenient. Unlike with email collection, however, email forwarding will not automatically forward previous email message or configure your new main email account to send email on behalf of secondary accounts. You can do both manually however, and if you're required to forward and not collect, because of a limitation of your main mail service's account type, this is certainly a viable alternative. I find email collection to be simpler, and generally better, but it's nice to have forwarding available as an option. And if you're consolidating multiple account as I am, you may even find that you need to mix and match between these two consolidation types.