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Leaving Gmail behind

/ 5 min read

I have had plans to make myself independent of Google’s services for a while now. It started with getting rid of Facebook. This was an easy choice, since I wasn’t really using it anymore, except as some kind of birthday calendar. The next one to get rid of was Whatsapp, which I haven’t regretted so far. Both were just a matter of deleting an app or an account. Changing your Gmail is a whole other level—or that’s what I thought.

Why no more Google?

There are several reasons why one should use the services of an email-provider, but even more to not stick to Google. For me, two factors were the most important ones:

  1. It is not for free If the product is free, then probably it is you, who is the product. This is well known, but there is no reason to not put a price-tag on my data.

  2. It is about control Your email-provider more or less controls all your accounts on any platform or service. If Google someday decided to block my Gmail for any reason, then I would have small to no chance to regain access. Justice would not matter, Google is a private company that decides in its own interest. I would have to play by their rules—no matter what. Therefore, moving away from Gmail also meant moving the game to my own turf.

Going to ProtonMail

Because I do not want to burden myself with a self-hosted solution (yet), I just had to make the decision between several email providers to host my emails. I decided in favour of ProtonMail.1

There are other great service providers and I truly believe it does not really matter which one you pick. One aspect of my decision to go with Proton was that they also offer cloud storage and a calendar solution. This surely comes in handy, as I am also planning on taking all my files away from Dropbox, Onedrive, and GDrive.

Eventually I stopped using Gmail. It took me a while to get through all the steps below. A custom domain already is mine, but this is not actually a requirement.

Migrating away from Gmail—step by step

  1. Sign up on ProtonMail
  2. Add paid subscription to your account (optional, but available free storage might not be enough; see pricing)
  3. Configure Gmail to forward everything to ProtonMail, so Gmail ‘shadows’ ProtonMail
    • In case someone does not know my new email-address yet, I will still receive it
    • Moreover, it is possible to return to Gmail, if I am not satisfied or regret moving away from Gmail (I won’t, but it feels ‘safer’)
  4. Use Proton’s Easy Switch to migrate (copy) all existing emails from Gmail to ProtonMail
  5. Connect custom domain to ProtonMail
    • That wizard was a pleasant experience
    • I only struggled one time with setting up the MX record properly, because I forgot to add the required full stops at the end of the domains
  6. Update all accounts and services to send emails to the new email-addresses
    • This last step was the most satisfying, albeit the most time-consuming
    • It was a good opportunity to delete old and unused accounts
    • I simply went through my password manager—entry by entry—and updated (or deleted) every account

It’s not all sunshine and roses

Of course, there are downsides:

  • Due to the integration of Gmail and Google calendar, accepted invitations are not synchronised anymore. This feature is still being implemented, but it might be important to know for some.
  • Google’s Gmail App feels polished. The ProtonMail App does not give me that feeling yet, even though I would say it is a well implemented app. I do not use my phone often to write emails, anyway. Reading them works perfectly well.
  • The (email) web app also feels unfinished at times. For example, it is not possible yet to change the size of inlined images. Currently, I can only inline an image with a fixed size or add it as attachment to an email.

Bottom line

  • It feels like true freedom. I am not looking back and only regret not having this done much earlier.
  • I know, Proton could block me, just like Google could. But: my accounts are connected to my custom domain. I could move to another third party provider, just by reconfiguring my DNS record or even setting up an email-server at home, if necessary.
  • It costs money. However, a free Gmail account also comes with costs. I am tired of giving companies like Google any more power than they already have. They stopped being the good guys a long time ago.

UPDATE By now, I have received my own referral link from Proton. If you want to test Proton’s paid features for free for one month, you can click here to test them. If you decide to continue using Proton and become a paying customer, I will receive a small reward (though I’m not sure how much, as it hasn’t happened yet).


  1. I recommend to also check out Tutanota and FastMail, but there are several other services, which I did not take into consideration, because I did not know them at the time.