How to Backup your Gmail



The inadvertent loss of all data on the Sidekick servers and devices has certainly questioned the viability of storing important data on the web. The situation has generated some good discussion around the need for redundant data. I think reader Dave said it best in his approach : “Everything is backed up in multiple places. It’s the only way to go, cloud based or not.” I completely agree and very little of my data isn’t living in two places, either on the web, on local storage or a combination of both. If it’s not, it’s data that I’ve deemed as data I can live without.

Having said that — and as a big user of Google’s Gmail — here’s a list of three ways to backup your Gmail.

1. Use a desktop client. This sounds like a no-brainer but some folks (like me) only use the web to access Gmail. If you simply use Gmail with a desktop client such as Microsoft Outlook, Mac Mail, Mozilla Thunderbird or any other standard email client, you can include the mail data as part of your standard computer backup approach. You are backing up your computer, right? ;)

2. Gmail-Backup for PC or Linux. This free download exports all of your Gmail conversations and attachments into EML files which you can then backup or store somewhere else online. EML files can be opened with mail clients like Outlook, Thunderbird and Entourage. Lifehacker says the Linux version will work on a Mac as well.

3. Forward all mail to a different mail platform. I’d use this strictly for archive and backup purposes because it can be a pain to manage multiple mail addresses. Also, by sending the mail to a different platform, you reduce the risk that one disaster can take out both your primary and secondary copies of mail. Of course, if the web-at-large goes down, you’re generally stuck.

I’m all for other ways too, so if you have them, please don’t hesitate to share. In the end, a combination of web and local backup may be the best of both worlds. This whole situation has me thinking of installing Outlook on my Windows Home Server! ;)


W B McCarty

I purchased GMail Keeper 36 hours ago. Within twelve hours, I had sent a message to support. I have heard nothing. My GMail is still not backed up. Meanwhile, I find a site offering the program for $10 US less than I paid on GMail Keeper’s home site.

Here are some of my woes. The download link I received was to an old version of the program stated on GMail Keeper’s blog to contain several errors fixed in the latest version. The program stalls trying to download headers. When I back off the configured number of headers in a batch by a factor of 4 from its default value, it downloads the messages. But, tagging them with the GMail labels fails. I don’t know why, because both dialog boxes that pop up are empty of text. Fit and finish is lacking. For instance, various dialog boxes and windows show what I suppose to be Chinese characters.

GMail Keeper has lots of little bugs and maybe some big ones. Frankly, the program seems unfinished and untested. I don’t think I could trust it even if it reported a successful backup. Not recommended at this time.


Just wondering – now that it’s a year later is GmailKeeper looking any better?

Frank McPherson

I use Gmail offline mode on one of My PCs so that it gets a backup. I think I would send critical email to secondary services (Evernote, my Exchange account, etc..) but I don’t think I have too much critical email.


PRINT!! Yep, print every email out. You know there are people that do this…. including Aunt Edna! That said, I haven’t worried too much about my gmail so far, but I think I will go for a solution offering local storage with my probably archiving it to CD’s or DVD’s on a quarterly or so basis.

Neil Shorey

Hi, I’d like to point out our own service,, which allows the backup up of GMail to several clouds including Amazon S3, RackSpace Cloud Files,, MobileMe, or to any FTP server or WebDav enabled storage. We also enable the use of Gmail as a storage cloud if you wish to backup from any of these services to GMail. Lastly we have a premium feature called Cloud Sync which will keep clouds in sync either hourly or daily.


I go with option 1. I know that since Gears is available, an extra e-mail client is not really necessary anymore. But I still use Thunderbird on the side because that way I can easily store my e-mail on my local HDD. Thanks to IMAP it’s really simple. Most of the time, however, I use Gmail, Google Reader and Google Calendar in the browser. But if the webinterface goes down for some reason (just like a couple of weeks ago), I can switch to Thunderbird with Lightning and access my mail, my RSS-feeds and my calendar, as well.

Matt Brubeck

Lifestream Backup ( is a very easy fire-and-forget backup service not just for GMail but for Google Docs, Facebook, Flickr, and other sites. However, their GMail support is still “beta” and only backs up the inbox folder, I believe.

Since I’ve linked to this twice now, I feel I should mention that I’m not affiliated with the company (just a happy customer).


This is a timely post, but I don’t see how any of the solutions address the key things I need for backups – they must be quick and easy to set up. I reckon people don’t backup generally because they don’t know how to do it (eg incremental backups) and don’t have time

For me, with 30,000 emails in my gmail account, Options 1 and 3 don’t sound practical in terms of time and Option 2 sounds like it just doesn’t work.

Gadget Merc

Option 3, in my opinion, is dead simple. Step 1, Go to another service and create an email account. Step 2, tell gmail to redirect all mail to that account. I would guess 10 – 15 minutes to create the new account and less than a minute to make the changes in gmail. The simplicity of it is that everything gets backed up as soon as gmail receives it.


Ok I guess I hadn’t thought that through.
I assume that approach only deals with new emails though?
How do I deal with the existing 30,000 emails?

Related to this , are any other free webservices actually retaining unlimited emails, “forever” like gmail does?
My hotmail account just being wiped due to lack of use…

Gavin Miller

Some email accounts, like Yahoo mail for example, can be a pain in that the email is forwarded but not kept on the Yahoo server. It’s like forwarding a phone call, you only get the call on the phone you’ve forwarded to.

Gmail is OK though as it doesn’t do this, i.e. you get a copy of the email in both Gmail and the account you forwarded to.


FYI, I also tried the program called Gmail Backup. Before trying that yourself read through the forums carefully, especially the forum called Bugs. There are lots of problems with not-so-special characters in the subject of e-mail messages and other things.

I’ve never been able to get this working at all and posting bug reports to the forums is pretty worthless. Like this message from August that still has no answer:


I have been watching this program, called GmailKeeper, for months and even paid for it. It seems to be a great solution for Windows users, except me. You can do full and incremental backups, and even schedule when they should happen.

Unfortunately, I have yet to get a complete backup. I have about 10,500 messages and for some reason it stops during my backup. Usually it gets anywhere from 1/2 to 4/5 of the way and then it stops with some error in a .dll. The developers are aware of my problem and blame some third-party software component.

But don’t let my experience discourage you from trying this for yourself – it could very well be something unique to my Windows system.


If you have a backup machine I recommend added your mail client to your machines logon script. Most mail clients have switches that you can pass it to open it as a service or in a minimized state. That will allow you to keep it out of your way. This is nice because every time it boots it starts backing up.

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