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

Get the files you need in one fell swoop

Google Takeout provides a handy way to download your data or move it to another device. Whether you're creating backups of important files, rebuilding contact lists, or editing photos and videos on your laptop, 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 and secure storage for digital assets. You can access your files from wherever you have an internet 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.

Here are a few things you can do with Google Takeout:

  • Move a collection of images to your laptop for editing.
  • Reseed your Outlook, Apple Contacts, or calendar.
  • Clear space on your Google Drive by archiving old documents to physical media.
  • Download purchased books from Google Play Music.
  • Create redundant archives of important files to store on other cloud services.

Like most Google services, Takeout works the same way on Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, and Android devices.

What Kind of Data Can You Takeout?

Google Takeout lists 51 kinds of data, including contacts, photos, Google Keep notes, Gmail, and bookmarks. 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 the Google Dashboard.

How to Use Google Takeout

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

If this is the first time you're using Takeout, start with something manageable, like a few photo albums from Google Photos. We use a photo album as an example in the following instructions.

  1. Navigate to takeout.google.com and choose Deselect all. By default, Google Takeout selects all possible data and file types to include in the Takeout archive.

    The "Deselect All" button in Google Takeout
  2. Scroll down and select the Google Photos check box.

    A checkmark in Google Takeout
  3. Select All photo albums included to select individual photo albums for inclusion in the Takeout archive. By default, every photo album is selected. Select Deselect All, then select the individual photo albums you want to download. Once finished, select OK.

    The OK button in Google TakeOut
  4. Scroll to the bottom of the screen and select Next step.

    The "Next Step" button
  5. You are asked to select the file type, frequency, and destination for your archive. You are also asked to select the maximum size for each archive file. Under Delivery Method, choose where to download the archive file when it's ready.

    Transferring data to these cloud storage services counts against your storage quota.

    Delivery method options in Google Takeout
  6. Under Frequency, choose how often to export the files for download. Select Export once or Export every 2 months for 1 year.

    Frequency options in Google Takeout
  7. Under File type & size, choose the file type for the archive file and the maximum size.

    The file type default is .zip, which can be opened on most computers. The other option is .tgz, which may require additional software to be opened on a Windows computer.

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

  8. Select Create export, then wait while Google gathers the files and archives the files to your specifications.

    Depending on the number and size of the files you requested, the archive takes from several minutes to several days to create. Google took about three minutes to create a 175 MB archive file.

    The "Create Export" button
  9. When the archive is complete, Takeout emails you with a link to the archived files. From that email, select Download Archive to begin downloading, like any other file. Your data moves from the Google servers to your Downloads folder.

When downloading archives, check the Available until date. You have seven days to download an archive before Google deletes it.

To see a list of your Takeout-created archives for the past 30 days, select View History.