How to cut the Google cord

Even longtime users of Gmail, Google Drive, and Google search will find switching to competing services a painless and ultimately rewarding process.


When it started, I had no intention of quitting Google.

As I described in a post from last June, my generic Gmail address had become more trouble than it was worth, so I switched to another Webmail service. Now the Gmail address is receive-only.

Likewise, back in July I tested two free services that let you encrypt files stored on Google Drive, which doesn't support encryption. Later that same month reports surfaced that Google was testing encryption for its cloud-storage service.

Rather than wait for encryption to arrive for Google Drive, I moved my files to a free Dropbox account, which by default encrypts all the files it stores in the cloud.

The decision to adopt Bing as my primary search service followed a simple experiment: I duplicated one workday's worth of Google searches on Bing and compared the usefulness of each service's results. In no time I found myself preferring Bing's links.

Except for a little maintenance, it has been more than a month since I signed into the Gmail and Google Drive accounts I previously relied on daily. I've conducted hours of Web research since I switched my browsers' default search to Bing and find Bing's results at least as accurate and helpful as Google's searches.

If Google services work for you, there's no reason to change. After all, it's no accident the company's worth a gazillion dollars. But if you're wondering whether a competing service might have more to offer, making the switch from Gmail, Google Drive, or Google search isn't difficult. It's got nothing to do with politics, economics, or philosophy. Honest.

Forward your Gmail to your new primary address
I've been using the Gmail address since the service was in private beta. It now serves solely as a repository for old sent and received mail, as well as for the important files attached to those archived messages.

All my new messages, including those sent to the Gmail address, are received by my address, and nearly all replies and new messages are sent from that account. Yes, instead of contributing to the Google hegemony, I'm contributing to the Microsoft hegemony. Pick your poison.

To add a Gmail address or other mail account to your inbox, sign into the address and select the gear icon in the top-right corner of the main window. Choose "More mail settings" and select "Your email accounts" under "Managing your account."

Scroll to "Add an email account" and click either "Add a send-only account" or "Add a send-and-receive account." Enter your name, the Gmail address, and the Gmail password. Click Next to start the connection. "Add an email account" options
Forward your Gmail account's messages to your inbox via's "Add an email account" settings. Screenshot by Dennis O'Reilly/CNET

By default, creates a new folder for the account based on its name. You can direct the account's incoming mail to an existing folder or create a new folder with the default name or a name of your choosing. When you're done, click Save. mail-import settings.
Stick with the folder name assigns for the imported mail, give it a new name, or add the mail to an existing folder. Screenshot by Dennis O'Reilly/CNET

In the confirmation message, warns that it may take a day or longer to import all the account's messages, but new messages will be forwarded to the Gmail folder in, and you can send mail in as if it were sent from the forwarded address.

(To configure the mail server settings manually, click "Advanced options" on the "Add an account" page to display fields for adding incoming and outgoing server addresses and for choosing other options.)

When you reply to a Gmail message from your account, your default address will appear in the From: field. To change the From: address, choose the down arrow next to the address in the top-left corner of the message and select your preferred From: address.

Without having to send any "I have a new e-mail address" notices, the people I communicate with via e-mail are beginning to use the new address. In many cases, their e-mail service automatically adds the address to their contact list. Over time, less and less of my mail travels through Google servers.

Transfer Google Drive files to encrypted cloud storage
To move your files from your Google Drive account to an encrypted Dropbox account, start by signing up for a free Dropbox account. Sign into the Drop box account and drag the files from the Google Drive folder in Windows Explorer/File Explorer or Mac's Finder into the Dropbox file list.

Once you've transferred your stored files to Dropbox, you won't need to sign into the Google Drive account very often. To ensure the account isn't deactivated for lack of use, use Google's Inactive Account Manager to ensure you're notified before the account is erased. Matt Elliott explains the process in "How to set up Google's Inactive Account Manager."

Reset your browser's default search engine to Bing
The simplest way to switch from Google search to Bing or another search service in Firefox is to select it in the drop-down search box next to Firefox's address bar. Firefox will remember your selection and use it for your subsequent searches.

To broaden your Firefox search options, choose Manage Search Engines on the search box's drop-down menu and then click "Get more search engines" to open the Search Tools page on the Firefox Add-ons site. If you see one you like, just click the program's Add to Firefox button.

You can change your default search service by typing "about:config" in the Firefox address bar, press Enter, and click through the warning. In the search box at the top of the screen, type "" and press Enter. Double-click the entry, type in Bing (or your search engine of choice), and press Enter.

Bing is the default search service in Internet Explorer 10. To select another search service, click the gear icon in the top-right corner, choose "Manage add-ons," and select Search Providers under Add-on Types in the left pane. Select "Find more search providers" at the bottom of the window, choose one of the search services listed, and click Add to Internet Explorer and then the Add button.

Internet Explorer 10 add-ons: search providers
Add a search provider to Internet Explorer 10 via options in the browser's "Manage add-ons" settings. Screenshot by Dennis O'Reilly/CNET

To set the newly added service as your default IE search provider, select it in the Search Providers list and click the "Set as default" button.

It's no surprise that Google's Chrome browser uses the company search engine by default. You can change the default to either Bing or Yahoo by choosing the settings button in the top-right corner and selecting Settings.

In addition to Bing and Yahoo, you can add another search provider to Chrome by clicking "Manage search engines" and choosing one from the "Other search engines" list. The option to "Make default" appears when you hover over each selection.

Google Chrome "Manage search options"
Change your default search engine in Google's Chrome browser via the "Manage search options" button in Settings. Screenshot by Dennis O'Reilly/CNET

The Chrome support site explains how to use the browser's address bar, which it calls the "omnibox," to craft custom searches, including specific sites, bookmarks, your browsing history, and related items. The site also describes how to enable the browser's Instant feature that searches as you type.