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How to Back Up Your Gmail Using Apple Mail or Outlook

Living in the cloud isn’t without its risks. Gmail (s goog) outages are rare, but they do happen. Your Gmail password could also get stolen or hacked. Before HTTPS was the default option in Gmail, that’s exactly what happened to me. I learned my lesson. Fancy options exist for Gmail backups, but I’ve got an incredibly simple way to do it that even comes with some bonus features.

Since Gmail supports POP, all you need is a POP email program to download your emails from the cloud while still keeping a copy out there on the server. Built into OS X (s aapl) is Apple Mail, but you can easily do this with Entourage/Outlook(s msft). Stick with a program that supports OS X’s built-in Spotlight search and indexing system, though, for reasons that I’ll describe below.

  1. You’ll need to login to your Gmail as always and then go to “Settings” and then to “Forwarding and POP/IMAP.”
  2. In the middle section will be “POP Download.” Click on the radio button next to “Enable POP for all mail.

This will allow your mail program to download old and new mail as well as your sent items. In that same section are “Configuration Instructions” for supported programs, including Apple Mail and Outlook. If your program isn’t listed, like Entourage, check “other” for general configuration instructions that seem to work pretty well in general.

Each time your open up your desktop email program, all your emails since your last connection will be downloaded, while also leaving them intact on Google’s system. On average, I open that program once a month or so as part of regular maintenance . No need to keep the program running or actually use it for sending email — just leave it open long enough for it to download your recent messages.

Now that the emails are physically on your computer, you can then incorporate them into your backup routine with online backup services, Time Machine, or whatever other local backup option you choose. If you use a Spotlight-enabled email program, you can then search your Gmail and your desktop computer all with one search. I find this handy when I can’t remember when a date for an event is. A Spotlight search will look in my iCal and my previously-downloaded Gmails in one query.

Another added bonus of regularly downloaded Gmails is that should your Gmail get hacked and you are locked out, Google will sometimes ask you questions about recent emails or contacts. Having that information downloaded in your desktop program means you can easily answer their questions. When my account was hacked, the hacker deleted all sent emails to cover her/his tracks so my backup was incredibly helpful in this case.

Living in the cloud is great, but occasionally it’s a good idea to ground yourself and back up your important data. Luckily, with Gmail and your Mac, that’s incredibly easy to do.

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6 Responses to “How to Back Up Your Gmail Using Apple Mail or Outlook”

  1. When I set this up, it downloads emails, but not all of them (my work gmail account has a lot in it, as I tend to archive messages rather than delete them)

    Then next time, it downloads the same ones again. Any way of fixing this?


  2. Brilliant! I use Outlook as my main e-mail software, but I link my diary to Google and onward to my Google phone. I just sync them when I make a new entry on either system.

    The suggestion to download e-mails from gmail to Outlook makes a lot of sense, even from the point of view that I prefer a central point to read and deal with my e-mails and transfer dates/appointments to my Outlook diary at the same time.

    Thanks for this article, I’m printing it off now to set up the systems!

    • This is good advice if you want your emails accessible on the web to depending on your preferences.

      I always have my mac to send the copy on server to the bin in gmail (but not delete completely). This way, even if I am at work or on vacation I can see what I was sent. I usually delete from gmail after reading. I also delete the contacts if I sent an email through gmail web interface instead of apple mail.

      It seems more secure – if people hack into your account they would just see spam email. and maybe a few emails in trash. No contacts or other items in email to hack your other accounts.

  3. @Gary: Only if you have a yahoo plus subscription. The free accounts do not allow pop3 access. If you need to back up, you can create a free gmail id, import the yahoo mail into gmail then follow the above to give pop3 access to gmail.