How to Save Your Google Hangouts and Gmail Chat History

Archive your conversations to review any time

The system for chatting through Google has gone through several names in the past, including Google Talk, GChat, Google Hangouts, and Google Chat. While Google Chat is the newest iteration, integrated with Google Workspace and available to all Google account holders, some users are still working with Hangouts.

If you're using Gmail and Hangouts, Google saves your Hangouts conversations so you can search and access them later from a desktop computer. Here's how it works.

Chats will fully replace Hangouts by the end of 2021, so be sure to migrate your Hangouts data.

Turn on Hangouts in Gmail

To use Hangouts chats in Gmail, you must first activate the feature. 

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

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

    Gmail settings with See all settings highlighted
  3. Select the Chat and Meet tab.

    Gmail settings with Chat and Meet tab highlighted
  4. Next to Chat, select Classic Hangouts and then select Save Changes.

Toggling Hangouts Chat History

Whenever you have a conversation with someone through Hangouts, Google keeps the conversation history, allowing you to scroll up in the conversation window to see what messages have been exchanged in the past. 

To activate this feature:

  1. Select Settings (gear icon) in the conversation window.

    Hangout chat with Settings highlighted
  2. Select Conversation history to enable the conversation history feature. Once checked, Google will keep a history of the conversation thread.

    Hangouts chat settings with Conversation History highlighted

If history is disabled, messages may disappear before the intended recipient reads them. Also, if one party disables the history feature, Google won't save the conversation. 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 Hangouts history setting.

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

Archiving Conversations

Archiving a conversation hides it from the list of conversations in the sidebar. The conversation is not gone, however.

  1. Select Settings (gear icon) in the conversation window.

    Hangout chat with Settings highlighted
  2. Select Archive conversation.

    Hangouts chat settings with Archive conversation highlighted
  3. To retrieve an archived conversation, select your name at the top of your conversation list and choose Archived Hangouts. This will display a list of those conversations that you have archived previously. 

    Gmail Hangouts with Archived Conversations highlighted
  4. Select a conversation to remove it from the archive and return it to your recent conversation list.

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