How to Download Gmail Chat Logs via IMAP

Export them as messages to view later

Google stores transcripts of your Hangouts chat sessions within Gmail, accessible using the Chats label. These chats aren't locked in a proprietary chat format, however. Google stores them in Gmail as any other message. And because chat transcripts look like emails, you can export them as messages if you've configured Gmail to allow IMAP connections.

Download Gmail Chat Logs via IMAP

Before following these steps, make sure IMAP access is enabled for your Gmail account.

To access and export Google chat logs using an email program:

  1. In your Gmail inbox screen, select Settings (gear icon).

    Gmail inbox screen with Settings gear highlighted
  2. Select See all settings.

    Gmail settings with "See all settings" highlighted
  3. Click the Labels tab.

    Gmail settings with Label tab highlighted
  4. Under System Labels > Chats, check Show in IMAP.

    Gmail settings with System Label > Chats > Show in Imap highlighted
  5. Go back to the General tab and select Save Changes.

    Gmail settings with save changes highlighted
  6. Set up Gmail via IMAP in your email program.

  7. Look for chat logs in the [Gmail]/Chats folder.

    A screenshot of the Gmail folder in Outlook with the Chats option highlighted

Downloading Your Chats

Use your email program's export tools to download a local copy of the Chats folder. For example, in Outlook 2016, print all the chats to PDF or visit File > Open & Export > Import/Export | Export to a File to export the Chats folder to an Outlook personal archive folder or a comma-separated value (CSV) data file.

Although you can copy the chat transcripts from the [Gmail]/Chats folder, you cannot import them to a different Gmail account by copying to that account's [Gmail]/Chats folder.

What Chats?

Google frequently changes the names and product offerings of its instant-communication tools. As of 2019, the chats interwoven into Gmail come from Google Hangouts. Chats from many years prior may have come from GChat, Google Talk, or other Google-sponsored chat tools.

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