How to Back Up and Save Gmail Messages Offline

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

An illustration of email being received and backed up automatically.

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Gmail is a trustworthy service that won't just randomly delete your emails or cancel your account. However, you may still want to keep a backup of your Gmail messages just in case you want to view them without an internet connection. Fortunately, 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 some other email client, your emails are already downloaded to your computer every time you get a new message. However, your Gmail account and the program you're using 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 by going to the Forwarding and POP/IMAP tab in your Gmail settings.

    Enable POP in your Gmail settings by going to the Forwarding and POP/IMAP tab in your Gmail settings.
  2. Set up Gmail in your email client using the POP server settings. Messages should then download automatically to the default folder where all emails are stored.

    Set up Gmail in your email client using the POP server settings.
  3. Copy the emails to somewhere 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

Google Chrome users can view Gmail messages offline without downloading them. To set up offline mail:

  1. Open your Gmail account in the Chrome browser.

  2. Select the gear icon, then select Settings.

    Select the gear icon, then select Settings.
  3. Select Offline.

    Select Offline.
  4. Check the box beside Enable offline mail.

    Check the box beside Enable offline mail.
  5. Adjust the the settings to your liking and select Save changes.

    Adjust the the settings to your liking and select Save changes.
  6. To view your messages while offline, open the Chrome browser and navigate to mail.google.com.

How to Download An Archive of Your Gmail Messages

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

  1. Go to myaccount.google.com and sign in to your Google account.

  2. Select Manage your data and personalization.

    Select Manage your data and personalization.
  3. Select Download your data.

    Select Download your data.
  4. Select Deselect all at the top.

    Select Deselect all at the top.
  5. Scroll down and check the box beside Mail.

    Scroll down and check the box beside Mail.
  6. Select All Mail data included and choose which types of messages to include.

    Select All Mail data included to choose which types of messages to include.
  7. Scroll to the bottom and select Next Step.

    Scroll to the bottom and select Next Step.
  8. Scroll down and 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. 

    Scroll down and choose a file format for the download as well as your preferred delivery method.
  9. Scroll to the bottom and select Create Archive.

    Scroll to the bottom and select Create Archive.
  10. You'll see a message letting you know that an archive is being created. This process can take a while, but you'll eventually receive a single file containing all of your messages.

Your messages will appear in the MBOX format, which is a very large text file. Email programs like Thunderbird can read MBOX files natively. For very large archive files, you should use an MBOX-compatible email program instead of trying to parse 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 will 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. Give it 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 know you want to keep, forward it to another email account. To keep a copy of emails you send, enter that other account's email address 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 Google's 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.