Learn the Correct Way to Save Your Google Hangouts and Gmail Chat History

Illustration of couple communicating through tin-can phones
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The system for chatting through Google has gone through several names in the past, including Google Talk, GChat, and Google Hangouts. Using Gmail, you can easily have a conversation and see past conversations you've had. These conversations are saved within Gmail for later search and access.

By default, when you chat with another person through Google Hangouts (the chat that is available through the Gmail site) the history of the conversation is automatically saved. This helps make conversations easier, particularly if you pause for a period and return later and try to remember where you left off. This feature can be turned off, as shown below.

To use Google's chat in Gmail, you must first activate it. 

Turn on Chat in Gmail

To activate chat in Gmail:

  1. Click the Settings icon in the top right corner of the Gmail screen.

  2. Click Settings from the menu.

  3. Click the Chat tab at the top of the Settings page.

  4. Click the radio button next to Chat on.

Toggling Chat/Hangout History

Whenever you have a conversation with someone through Google's chat, the conversation is kept as a history, allowing you to scroll up in the conversation window to see what messages have been exchanged in the past. 

You can turn this feature on and off by clicking the Settings icon in the upper right portion of the conversation window for that person. In the settings, you will find a checkbox for Conversation history; check the box to have message history saved, or uncheck it to disable history.

If history is disabled, messages can disappear and may do so before the intended recipient reads them. Also, a saved history of a conversation is disabled if any party involved in the conversation has disabled the history option. However, if a user is accessing the chat through a different client, their client may be able to save the chat history despite disabling the Google Hangout history setting.

In past versions of Google Chat, the option to disable chat history was also called "going off the record."

Archiving Conversations

You can archive a conversation by clicking on the Settings icon in the specific conversation window you want to archive and clicking the Archive conversation button. This will hide the conversation from your list of conversations in the sidebar. The conversation is not gone, however.

To retrieve an archived conversation, click on your name at the top of your conversation list and select Archived Hangouts from the menu. This will display a list of those conversations that you have archived previously. 

A conversation is removed from the archive and returned to your recent conversation list if you click on it from the Archived Hangouts menu, or if you receive a new message from the other party in the conversation.