Google Takeout: Why You Need It and How to Use It

Google Takeout is a handy service Google provides that makes downloading your data as easy as signing in, selecting files, and downloading the resulting ZIP file.

Whether you’re creating multiple backups of important files, rebuilding contact lists, editing photos and video on your laptop, or any of a dozen other things, Google Takeout is the simplest way to move your stuff from Google's digital domain into your own.

Why Use Google Takeout?

Google provides cheap, secure storage for all kinds of digital assets, and you can access them from wherever you can get a data connection. When you need to get to the files, or when a file migration utility doesn’t work as it should, an easy way to download the data can be a lifesaver.

A few things you can do using Google Takeout include:

  • Moving a huge collection of images to your laptop for editing
  • Reseeding your Outlook, Apple Contacts, or calendar
  • Clearing off space on your Google Drive by archiving old documents to physical media
  • Downloading purchased books from Google Play Music
  • Creating redundant archives of important files to store on other cloud services

Takeout Works Wherever You Are

Like so many of Google’s services, Takeout works the same way on Mac, Windows, Linux, iOS, and Android.

What Can You Takeout?

Google Takeout lists 47 different kinds of data; everything from your Contacts, Photos, and Google Keep notes, to Gmail, bookmarks, and everything in between. For a full list of data types, and to find out how much you have of each, sign in to your Google account, then visit your Google Dashboard.

Screenshot showing the Google Dashboard.
A quick look at all the Google Services you're using and how much data exists in each.

How to Use Google Takeout

While you can access Takeout by selecting Download your data on Google's Dashboard, the easiest place to start is Google's Takeout page.

Screenshot of Google Takeout's Download Your data page.
By default, Google Takeout will try and create an archive of ALL your data.

Choose Select None. By default, Google Takeout selects all possible data and file types to be included in the Takeout Archive; chances are, you don't want to archive and download everything just yet.

If this is the first time you've used Takeout, you might consider starting with something more manageable, like a few photo albums from Google Photos.

Select Google Photos. Selecting the reveal arrow will show you configuration options for the archive you're about to create.

Screenshot of Google Takeout, showing configuration options for creating Google Photo archives.
We'll select a specific photo album to archive here.

Choose Select photo albums to reveal a list of all your Photo Albums. By default, every photo album is selected. Uncheck the Toggle All box, then select the actual photo album you wish to download.

Screenshot showing Toggle All switch of Google Takeout's Photo album archive configuration tool.
Click Toggle all to unselect every album.

Select OK to return to the Your account, your data page. Scroll to the bottom of the screen and select Next.

On the next screen, select the file type for your archive (.zip or .tgz), and select the maximum size for each archive file on the Customize your archive screen.

Screenshot showing Archive size and Delivery method selections for Google Takeout.
Archive size of 2GB and delivery of your completed archive by email link are selected by default.

By default, Takeout limits its archive files to 2 GB and creates as many sequentially numbered files as needed, but you can select sizes up to 50 GB.

Choose your Delivery method. By default, Google Takeout will send a message to your Gmail account when the archive file is ready for download.

If you choose, Takeout will also transfer to your Box, Dropbox, OneDrive, or Google Drive accounts. Transferring it to one of these cloud storage services will count against your storage quota.

Finally, select Create Archive, then sit back as Google gathers the needed files and archives them to your specifications.

Screenshot showing location of Create Archive button in Google Takeout.
You're almost there! Click Create Archive and let Google Takeout do its thing.

Depending on the number and size of the file you've requested, the archive could take from several minutes to several days to create. Google took about 3 minutes to create a 175 MB archive file.

When archiving is complete, Takeout will email you with a link to your archived files. From that email, select Download Archive to begin downloading, just like any other file.

Screenshot showing the email Google Takeout sends when your archive is complete.
Archive's complete and now it's time to download or transfer it.

Your data will be moved from Google's servers to your Downloads folder.

Things to Know About Google Takeouts

  • When downloading your archives, check the "Available until" date; you've got 7 days to grab your archives before Google deletes them.
  • You can see a listing of all your Takeout-created archives for the past 30 days by selecting View History.
  • Google Takeout doesn't download your Google Play Music. To make that happen, you'll need to use Google Play Music Manager.

Even though Google has made itself all but indispensable, it's at least a little reassuring to know Google Takeout makes it easy to take your files with you.