How to Back up and Save Gmail Messages Offline

Back up your Gmail messages on your PC, Mac, or mobile device

Gmail is a trustworthy service that won't randomly delete your emails or cancel your account. However, you may want to keep a backup of your Gmail messages in case you want to view them without an internet connection. There are multiple ways to save your Gmail messages offline.

Information in this article applies broadly to all PC, Mac, or mobile devices. Your OS may offer additional backup features.

How to Use an Email Client to Download Your Gmail Emails

If you use Outlook, Windows Mail, or another email client, your emails are downloaded to your computer every time you get a new message. However, your Gmail account and the program you use must both have POP enabled so that the emails don't get deleted if you delete them from Gmail.com.

To ensure that your email client downloads your Gmail messages:

  1. Enable POP in your Gmail settings. Select Settings (the gear icon).

    The Settings gear in Gmail
  2. Choose See All Settings.

    The "See All Settings" button in Gmail
  3. Go to the Forwarding and POP/IMAP tab.

    The Forwarding and POP/IMAP tab in Gmail settings
  4. Set up Gmail in your email client using the POP server settings. Messages will download automatically to the default folder where all emails are stored.

  5. Copy the emails to someplace safe on your hard drive.

For extra security, store your offline emails on an external hard drive or an online backup account.

How to View Gmail Offline With Google Chrome

If you use Google Chrome, view Gmail messages offline without downloading them. To set up offline mail:

  1. Open your Gmail account in the Chrome browser.

  2. Select Settings (the gear icon), then choose See All Settings.

    The "See All Settings" button in Gmail
  3. Select Offline.

    Gmail settings with the Offline tab highlighted
  4. Select the Enable offline mail check box.

    Gmail settings with Enable Offline Mail highlighted
  5. Adjust the sync and security settings to your liking and select Save changes.

    Gmail offline email settings with the Save Changes button highlighted
  6. To view your messages while offline, open the Chrome browser and go to mail.google.com.

How to Download an Archive of Your Gmail Messages

To download all your Gmail messages in a convenient compressed format:

  1. Open a web browser, go to myaccount.google.com, and sign in to your Google account.

  2. Select Manage your data and personalization.

    Google account management page with 'Manage your data & personalization' highlighted
  3. In the Download, delete, or make a plan for your data section, select Download your data.

    Gmail settings with the 'Download your data' option highlighted
  4. In the Products section, select Deselect all.

    Google account management settings with 'Deselect All' highlighted
  5. In the Mail section, select the All of the messages and attachment in your Gmail account in MBOX format check box.

    Google account management settings.
  6. Select All Mail data included.

  7. Choose which types of messages to include, then select OK.

    Google account management settings. The OK button is highlighted.
  8. Scroll to the bottom and select Next Step.

    Google account management settings with the 'Next Step' button highlighted
  9. In the Customize archive format section, choose a file format for the download as well as your preferred delivery method. You can also schedule automatic backups for the future and set a maximum file size for your archive. 

    Google account management settings with 'Send download link via email' highlighted
  10. Scroll to the bottom and select Create Archive.

  11. A message appears and informs you that an archive is being created; this process can take a while.

    A Google user archives their Gmail data
  12. When the archive is created, you'll receive a single file containing all of your messages.

Your messages appear in the MBOX format, which is a large text file. Email programs like Thunderbird can read MBOX files natively. For large archive files, use an MBOX-compatible email program instead of parsing the text file.

This method offers a snapshot-in-time view of your Gmail account. If you need to pull data more frequently than once a calendar quarter or so, find an alternative method of archiving.

Use an Online Backup Service

There are many online companies that incrementally back up your email and social media accounts for easy retrieval. For example, Backupify backs up personal information from Facebook, Flickr, Blogger, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Google. Backupify offers a 15-day trial for free before you commit to paying for the service.

Alternatively, try Upsafe or Gmvault. Upsafe offers up to 3 GB of storage for free, while Gmvault is an open-source project with multiplatform support and a robust developer community.

Selectively Archive Gmail Messages Using Data Rules

If you don't need all of your emails, consider more selective approaches to email archiving:

  • Manual Forwarding: When you receive a message you want to keep, forward it to another email account. To keep a copy of emails you send, enter the email address for the other account in the BCC line of your outgoing emails.
  • Auto-forwarding: Tell Gmail to copy or blind copy all received email to a specific email address.
  • IFTTT recipes: Use the IFTTT website to sync your Gmail account with a service outside of the Google ecosystem.
  • Forward to Evernote or OneNote: Set up the me@onenote.com alias to import emails into OneNote, or use your custom Evernote email address to log messages into Evernote.
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