Mail Conversion

VMS -> mh/exmh -> Netscape -> IMAP

Adapted from Alan Jonckheere and Paul Russo, D0 Experiment

This fairly basic procedure to convert VMS mail to IMAP mail. The procedure isn't perfect and you may see some fine details of the message (headers only) that look funny but no information is lost. No files are destroyed at any step. So there is no chance of losing any of your mail until you explicitly delete it. The downside is that you need disk space in three places, perhaps lots of it.

The conversion is a multi-step process:
VMS -> mh (on Unix) -> netscape (on Unix) -> IMAP.

NOTE: you can stop at any stage. Going just to the "netscape" stage will leave you with a flat text file per VMS mail folder. You can then ftp it anywhere and use grep, search, find etc. as well as any normal editor on them. This is fine for archival purposes.

It uses some old VMS->mh conversion procedures from several years ago to do much of the work. That doesn't really do the conversion correctly, even for mh but mh is forgiving enough that it works anyway. This is fixed in the mh -> netscape step.

The procedure below is pretty convoluted, it's not pretty, but it does work.

  1. Set your forwarding
    • on your VMS machine
      • mail
      • set forward "SMTP%""<username>"""
        note the use of ": the 1-2-3 rule; ", "", """
    • set your forwarding on FNAL.GOV
      • login to FNAL.GOV, follow menu
      • Forgot your password: ask to reset it for you.
  2. Determine Disk space needs
    • on VMS
      • dir/size=all/grand […]*.mai
        get the total size of your VMS mail. This will be in 512byte blocks
    • on Unix (fcdfsgi2)
      • quota -v
        get the space you have available on your home/spool area. This will be in kilobytes. You need a bit over 2 times the space that your mail on VMS is taking.
      • Not enough quota? Ask to increase it temporarily.
    • on Imap Server (using a Web browser)
      • go to (or imapserver1 or 2 as appropriate)
      • you'll be asked for your username and password
      • forgotten your password? Ask to have it reset for you.
      • Click on "Quota Information"
        the summary will give you your quota and the amount used. You'll need enough to store your new mail. The default is 20 Mbytes but you can request more. Contact to have your quota increased. Tell them why and to how much.
  3. Save your current mail directories if they exist
    • On Unix
      • mv Mail
        save your mh mail, if any
      • mv nsmail
        save your netscape mail
  4. VMS mail -> mh
    This will copy all of your mail from your default VMS mail "drawer" to your Unix home area, creating a directory in your home area: Mail/ which will contain one directory per vms mail folder. Inside those directories each mail message will be a number for the name.
    • On VMS
      • Create a .rhosts file containing the line: <your Unix username>
        e.g. buckley
      • set file/prot=(g,w) .rhosts
        change the file protections to those required by rsh.
      • Make sure your sends no output to the screen when using rcp from Unix. If it does, just "rename" temporarily.
    • On Unix (fcdfsgi2)
  5. mh -> netscape (on Unix)
    NOTE: this is not a general mh -> netscape converter. It will not handle subfolders. Since there are no subfolders in VMS mail this is not a problem here.
    • mkdir nsmail
      create an empty netscape mail directory
    • setup mh
    • setup mailtools
    • mh2netscape on fcdfsgi2. If you need it on other machines contact or save and run the script. This command converts the mh format files (correcting their format on the way) in ~/Mail/* to netscape format mail files, one file per folder, in ~/nsmail/. The filename is the folder name.
  6. Netscape (on Unix) -> IMAP server
    • setup www
    • netscape &
      start netscape
    • Start Netscape Messenger
      from "Communicator" pull down menu for example
    • Configure Netscape for IMAP
      • Edit/Preferences
      • Under Mail & Groups
      • Set your Identity
      • Mail Server
        • set Incoming Mail Servers to "" or "" or "" as appropriate.
        • set Outgoing Mail server to ""
        • Click the IMAP4 button, click the Move deleted mail to trash button
      • Look under other headings and customize as you wish.
    • Exit and restart netscape and messenger.
    • Open the Message Center (from Communicator pull down)
      You should get a password dialog box. This is your imapserver password.
      You should see entries labeled "Mail on imapserver…" and "Local Mail". Local Mail is the mail you've just created.
      • Check that all your mail is there. Clean up anything you don't need/want.
      • Open each of the folders in Local Mail. If you don't the next step will copy the folders without their contents.
      • You can now drag and drop the entire "Local Mail", individual folders or individual messages into the appropriate place on the IMAP server. This can take a while, so be patient. If you do "Local Mail" you should probably rename it: right click on the folder after the copy.
  7. Make the new mail folders visible to your normal IMAP reader (Netscape or Outlook Express)
    • Start your normal mail reader
    • Outlook Express
      • Right Click on the imapserver "folder" icon
      • Choose "Subscribe"
      • Wait….
    • Netscape
      • Choose Subscribe in from the File menu (on V4.6 anyway)
      • Find any folders that don't have a check mark next to them
      • Highlight those folders, chose Subscribe
  8. Clean up, if you wish
    • You can now delete:
      • On VMS
        • del […]*.mai;*
          delete all of the original mail.
      • On Unix
        • rm -rf ~/Mail
          remove the mh version
        • rm -rf ~/nsmail
          remove the netscape version
        • mv Mail
          restore your original mh mail directory
        • mv nsmail
          restore your original netscape mail directory

Any questions or problem reports should be reported to the
CDF Task Force(