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Backup your Gmail account

by Steve Wiseman on February 17, 2009 · 5 comments

in Backups,Gmail,Spam,Utility,Windows


I have almost 4 years worth of emails in a Gmail account. I have tried using other services, and even ran my own email server – but I always find Google calling me back with their top notch spam protection.

The problem with that is…well I have 4 years worth of emails. Many of them contain serial numbers to products, important answers to customer questions, and stuff that is simply not replaceable. I never trust computers when it comes to keeping my data secure. I always assume that today it is here, and tomorrow it could be gone.

Backups are easy when it is your own system, but when you have all of your email on a service like Gmail it makes it more difficult to make it part of a backup procedure. I started to get worried about losing it all, so for a few weeks now I have been trying to use MS Outlook to download it to a local PST using IMAP. The account has over 30,000 messages, and Outlook always dies at about the 12,000 message mark.

After some digging (About 3 seconds on Google) I found a free utility that will backup your entire Gmail account to a folder.

Let me start out by telling you the best things about it:

1. It is free – I would pay for a pro version if it would automate the process for me

2. It can restore a backed up account to a current email account

3. The backup is stored in standard eml format – This means you can open messages using Outlook express.

You can download the latest version from

Backing up is a simple process. You download the program, enter your account info, and press the backup button. (The hosted version of Gmail is supported too)

A single form is displayed when you launch the application:

Gmail Backup

Enter your login information, and a destination for the backup files. Click on the backup button.

Once it is finished, it organizes the backups by date in the destination folder you selected:

Gmail backup folders

You may notice the 1969, and 1970 folders – those are from a few improperly formatted email messages that have an invalid date stamp…it is not a bug.

You can view any of them using Outlook Express by double clicking on a message:

Gmail backup outlook express

This is a fantastic utility and I highly recommend it.

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

1 iwan knelissen March 25, 2009 at 4:37 am

How much can you store??Because i work at a company that uses a free g-mail account up to 7gb account and it’s almost full!!!Can they transfer their old e-mails to this??And up to how many mb/gb??
Thanx iwan

2 iwan knelissen March 25, 2009 at 4:38 am

And another question,can send mail also be archived??Greetings iwan

3 Steve Wiseman March 25, 2009 at 10:39 am

I am not sure if sent mail is archived. Also…not sure if it can handle 7GB, but I don’t see any reason why it couldn’t. It was able to handle over 28,000 messages in my mailbox – no other tool could do it. It is free, why not just give it a shot and see?

4 Robert March 28, 2009 at 11:21 am

Gmail Backup seems to work pretty well, but before trying it yourself read the recent comments on their forum. There are several problems where individual mail messages do not get backed up. And when making backups all of the files end up in one large directory with no subdirectory structure. That can cause problems because Windows isn’t happy about 10,000+ files in one directory. Some people are reporting problems when they hit about 8,000, but others have gone beyond that.

Another concern is that the developers have not responded to the reported problems in over a month.

Anyway, it looks like the program has a lot of potential because it is very easy to use and mostly works. I hope the developers learn to communicate better, and turn around updates for reported bugs faster. I’m sure a lot of people would be happy to pay for a good Gmail backup solution.

5 Matt Silverman August 22, 2009 at 12:20 pm

I wrote a tutorial on how to backup Gmail using Thunderbird. Check it out:


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