Shift website hosting – part 2 (leftover emails)

In part 1, I wrote about shifting static sites from one server to another. This is a small addendum to that post and other posts that I will write about shifting sites. This one is about how to retrieve left-over emails. I kept this separately because the same steps apply whether the site is static or dynamic. It also doesn’t matter how you backup/restore your site. Steps to retrieve emails will remain the same.

Here are the steps in brief. Please note that these steps are to be used after DNS propogation is over and not before that. This is for retrieving mails from “old” hosting account. In my opinion, at least for a week, you need to have access to both the hosting accounts – old and new.

  1. IP Address:
    Before you change DNS, get the IP address of the mail server from the old hosting provider. You can also get it by using the ping command from the command line.
    (syntax: ping
  2. Configure mail client:
    In your mail client (Outlook, Outlook Express, Evolution, KMail, Bat, Eudora, etc.) change the POP3 server to the old IP address.
  3. Old password:
    In the password field, type in the old password of your email account and then check the mail. This will download all your mails from you old server.
  4. Revert back:
    After this, you should revert back to new POP3 settings and password.

Done if you are using POP3. 🙂

However, if were using web-based mail interface, then instead of your domain name, you will have to use the IP address to login to your mail account. For example, instead of something like OR, you will have to use http://old.ip.add.ress/webmail/ or http://old.ip.add.ress/mail/.

If someone is wondering how can there be any left-over emails on the old server, here is a very simplified example of what can happen.

  • 10:00 am Friday:
    You decide to switch hosting and get a new hosting account.
  • 4:30 pm Friday:
    You transfer all your files, setup your mail accounts and are ready for a DNS change.
  • 5:00pm Friday:
    You check your email and make the DNS change, leave office.
  • 5:30pm Friday:
    A client sends you an email with bulk requirements. If this order is carried out, the profit will let you take that dream world tour that you have been postponing. 😉 But the mail goes to your old server because DNS propogation takes upto 48 hours and its still not even one hour since you applied.
  • 11:00am Monday:
    You are back in office after a nice weekend. The DNS propogation has taken effect. When you check your mails, you get some mails that are on the new server. But you never get the mail that could have given you your dream vacation!

In part 3, I will ennumerate general steps for transferring a dynamic, database driven website.

Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 License.


  1. Yes, its better to lower TTL for speedy cache refresh. But for changing TTL, you need co-operation from the present (old) hosting provider and most of the times the old hosting provider is hostile to the transfer.

  2. Changing Time To Live (TTL) value of the domain name to low period would make the DNS resolve quickly but it is to be done 4-5 days in advance. Generally value is set to 3 days I think, so we can change it to say, 1 hour and wait for 4-5 days so all the ISPs have new TTL value in their cache.

    So this will make whole process faster…

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