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How to Back Up All Your Gmail Emails (Complete Guide)

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Read Time: 11 mins
This post is part of a series called Your Ultimate Guide to the Best Gmail Tips and Tricks.
How to Retrieve Your Deleted (Or Archived) Emails in Gmail

It's never been more important to back up Gmail emails. With hackers constantly looking for account weaknesses, it's possible that your email account could become compromised. Messages could be lost. You might even lose access to your Gmail account. If that happens, you'll want to have a good Gmail backup.

Many of us keep business information in our Gmail email accounts. Losing that information could be quite costly. That's why it's important to make sure that data isn't lost.

There are several ways to back up Gmail emails, but many Gmail users don't understand what to do. In this tutorial, you'll learn how to back up Gmail. We'll explain how to use the Google backup utility (Google Takeout) to back up your Gmail. We'll also discuss a few third-party Gmail backup utilities.

Learn Helpful Email Tips and Strategies

Before we tackle Gmail backups, don't forget to sign up to the Tuts+ Business newsletter and grab our free eBook: The Ultimate Guide to Inbox Zero Mastery. It's packed wth inbox organization strategies and killer tips for managing all your incoming email more efficiently.

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1. Why You Need Gmail Backups

Your Gmail contains important business information. Customers and future customers use it to contact you. It may even contain sensitive project information.

But what if your email messages were lost or compromised?

The truth is that email accounts and other online accounts are hacked into all the time. The news is filled with accounts of data breaches and other security failures. If someone else had access to your email account, it's possible you could lose some of those important business communications.

While setting up strong Gmail passwords can help reduce the chances that a hacker will get into your email, no system is foolproof.  In a worst-case scenario, you may even need to delete your Gmail account if it is compromised. For guidance on how to do that, follow the steps in this tutorial:

And of course, there's user error. Nobody likes to think about it, but data is often lost when a user accidentally deletes a Gmail message. If you act quickly, you may be able to restore a deleted message. But if some time has passed and you've got no Gmail backup system in place, you may have lost that message forever. For instructions on how to retrieve deleted Gmails review the tutorial, How to Retrieve Your Deleted (Or Archived) Emails in Gmail.

Having up-to-date Gmail backups allows you to restore your lost emails should anything ever happen to your Gmail account. There are several methods you can use to back up your Gmail account.

2. How to Backup Gmail Emails With Google Takeout

Google Takeout creates a copy of your entire Google Account, including your Gmail data. To use it, here's what to do:

1. Start by typing https://takeout.google.com/settings/takeout in your browser's Address field. If you're not signed into your Google account, you must sign in before you can use the utility. If you're signed in, the Google Takeout screen appears:

Google Takeout screen for Gmail email backupGoogle Takeout screen for Gmail email backupGoogle Takeout screen for Gmail email backup
Use Google Takeout for Gmail email backups

2. Use the scroll bar on the right of the screen to view the list of data that you can back up with the utility:

Google data you can back up with Google TakeoutGoogle data you can back up with Google TakeoutGoogle data you can back up with Google Takeout
To back up your Gmail account make sure the slider is to the right.

You'll see all the various types of data you can access with your Google account.

3. Slide the Gmail slider (on the right of the screen) to the right to back up your Gmail account. If you click the down arrow to the left of the slider, the screen expands and you can further refine which parts of your Gmail you want to back up: 

Choose which Gmail labels to back upChoose which Gmail labels to back upChoose which Gmail labels to back up
Back up specific Gmail labels.

Choose one of the following options: 

  • Click the toggle next to Include all your mail to back up all your Gmail.
  • Click the toggle button next to Select labels to bring up a screen that lets you choose which labels (folders) you want to back up. 

 4. When you've finished selecting data types to back up, click the Next button on the lower left of the screen. The Customize archive format screen displays:

Define your Gmail backup archive formatDefine your Gmail backup archive formatDefine your Gmail backup archive format
Choose Gmail backup archive formats.

Use this screen to define the following characteristics of your archive:

  • File type. The default file type for your archive file is .zip. Click the down arrow to choose the .tgz file type. (This file type may be hard for most users to open.)
  • Archive size. The maximum file archive size is 50GB. Click the down arrow to choose one of the following file sizes: 1GB, 2GB, 4GB, 10GB, 50GB. 
  • Delivery method. This is how you'll get your archived data. Click the down arrow to choose between receiving an email download link, a file on Google Drive, a file on Dropbox, or a file on OneDrive.

Caution: Archives stored on Google Drive count against the Google storage quota. If your archive is particularly large, you may want to choose another means of receiving it.

 5. When you're finished selecting your archive format options, click the Create Archive button in the lower left corner.

You'll see a notice on the next screen that your archive is being prepared. (The archive process isn't instantaneous.) When your archive is ready, you'll be notified of the archive's location through email. Here's what the email might look like: 

Gmail backup archive emailGmail backup archive emailGmail backup archive email
An email notifies you that your Gmail backup is ready for review.

Note: Your email may vary, depending on which delivery method option you chose.

6. Follow the instructions in the email to access your Gmail archive. (In the example above, I would click the Download archive button.)

3. Other Methods to Create a Gmail Backup

While the Google Backup Utility is pretty straight-forward, you do have to remember to create the Gmail archive. A more automated way to back up your Gmail email is to use a desktop client such as Microsoft Outlook, Thunderbird (iOS), or Apple Mail. 

Note: For this example, I'll use Outlook. If your desktop client is different, the steps you follow might be slightly different.

Set your desktop client up so that it retrieves messages from Gmail onto your computer through IMAP protocol. Here's what to do:  

Step 1. Turn Your IMAP Access On

1. Go to Settings > Settings > Forwarding and POP/IMAP in Gmail to make sure that IMAP is turned on. Your screen should look like this:

Enable IMAP accessEnable IMAP accessEnable IMAP access
Go to the Gmail Settings to enable IMAP access.

If IMAP isn't enabled, click the Enable IMAP toggle.

2. Google considers most desktop email apps to be less secure. So, you'll have to change the security settings in your Google account so that it'll give you your desktop email client access to your Gmail account. To start, go to https://myaccount.google.com/. You'll see the My Account screen:

Google My Account screenGoogle My Account screenGoogle My Account screen
Use the My Account screen to give your desktop email access to your Gmail emails.

3. Select Apps with account access. The Sign-in & security screen appears. Scroll down on the Sign-in & security screen to the Allow less secure apps: option:

Allow less secure apps Google accessAllow less secure apps Google accessAllow less secure apps Google access
Google considers most other email systems to be less secure. You'll need to slide the slider to the right.

Slide the toggle to the right so that your desktop email client can access your Gmail account.

Step 2. Add Your Gmail Account to Your Desktop Email Client

Your next step is to add your Gmail account to your desktop email client. The exact process you'll use to do this varies depending on your desktop email client.

1. For MS-Outlook, click File. When the Account Information screen appears, click the Add Account button:

MS Outlook Add Account buttonMS Outlook Add Account buttonMS Outlook Add Account button
Click the Add Account button to give Outlook access to your Gmail messages.

2. You'll be prompted to enter the Gmail account and password you want to add to Outlook. Type the information and click the Connect button. The following prompt displays:

Account setup completeAccount setup completeAccount setup complete
You have given Outlook access to your Gmail messages.

3. Click OK to finish connecting your Gmail account to your desktop account. Your accounts are connected. 

You'll receive an email message with the subject line: Microsoft Outlook Test Message in your Outlook inbox. In your Gmail inbox, you'll get the same message. 

From this point forward, messages sent to your Gmail address will also be sent to MS Outlook. Even if you were to lose access to your Gmail account, you can still access your Gmail messages through Outlook. Remember though, if you delete a message from your Gmail account, it will be removed from your Outlook inbox as well.

Caution: Filters and other organizational tools you've applied in your Gmail inbox may not carry forward to your desktop email system. 

4. Third-Party Gmail Backup Utilities

Yet another method of backing up your Gmail messages is to use a third-party backup utility. Here are four popular options:

UpSafe Gmail Backup UtilityUpSafe Gmail Backup UtilityUpSafe Gmail Backup Utility
UpSafe Gmail backup utility is free and easy to use. 

UpSafe is a free and easy-to-use Windows Gmail backup that allows you to quickly back up your Gmail files on your hard drive. A nice security feature of this utility is that the app never has access to your Google login credentials.  Backups, however, aren't automatic. So, you must remember to back up your Gmail account regularly.

2. Gmvault Backup

Gmvault Gmail Backup utilityGmvault Gmail Backup utilityGmvault Gmail Backup utility
The Gmvault backup utility works on a large number of platforms.

Use GMvault on Windows, Mac, OSX, or Linux machines. This popular open source app lets you schedule backups to run automatically, which is nice since you don't have to worry about forgetting to back up your Gmail. It's also a good tool for moving email from one account to another. It's command-line based, meaning there's no graphic interface. But you can accomplish a lot by learning a few simple commands.

3. Spinbackup

Spinbackup Gmail backup utilitySpinbackup Gmail backup utilitySpinbackup Gmail backup utility
The Spinbackup Gmail utility offers cloud-based backup features.

Spinbackup combines cloud-based backup features and cybersecurity features in a single package. If your business needs both options, this single tool might be a good choice. It allows you to set up automated backups of not only your Gmail messages, but any data on your Google Drive, including your contacts and your calendar. Pricing varies depending on your needs and the number of users.

4. SysTools Gmail Backup

SysTools Gmail BackupSysTools Gmail BackupSysTools Gmail Backup
SysTools specializes in backup utilities and data recovery.

SysTools offers a wide variety of backup utilities and data recovery services, including cloud backup utilities for Gmail and Google Apps. Both a Windows and Mac version of the Gmail Backup utility are available. Depending on which operating system you use, your messages can be saved in a variety of formats. You can also apply a filter to choose which messages get backed up.

5. Make Gmail Backups a Part of Your Workflow

Losing Gmail messages could be costly. Your Gmail backups should be a regular part of your workflow. Here are some best Gmail Backup best practices to help guide you:

  1. Continue to follow good Gmail security practices. While having a Gmail backup system in place may ensure that you don't lose important email messages, the goal is still to keep your account as secure as possible. Make sure that the Gmail passwords you use are secure and take advantage of other Gmail online security measures as well.
  2. Automatic backups vs manual backups. While some Gmail backup utilities allow you to schedule a regular automatic backup, others do not. Depending on the volume of email you receive, your backup frequency may vary--the more messages you receive, the more often you need to back up your Gmail. Understand the backup system you're using. If your utility doesn't allow you to schedule routine backups, set aside a regular time to back up your Gmail messages manually.
  3. Check backup files regularly. Even if your backup utility runs automatically, you should still review your backup files from time to time to make sure the utility is running correctly. If you notice the backup files aren't there or that backup files are 0 bytes in size, re-read your backup utility documentation or contact the backup software support team to resolve the issue.
  4. Monitor your backup storage space. Be aware of how much storage you've got for your backup folders. If you're close to exceeding your storage limit, consider storing older backup files in another location or removing them. (Caution: If you delete older backup files, you may not be able to recover them if you need them later.) 


If you don't back up Gmail emails regularly, you're at risk of losing your information. Now that you know how to back up Gmail, you can reduce the chance of data loss by backing your Gmail up.

Use the steps we've just shown you to make regular Gmail backups.

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