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Can I Do a Mass Export of Emails From Gmail?

by Josh Fredman

Whether you’re talking about treasured family letters or vital business correspondence, some information is too valuable to lose. Even though your email is safe from mechanical failures on Google’s servers, you could still lose data in the event of account inactivity or identity theft. That makes it a good idea to back up your email regularly. Gmail does not offer a straightforward method of exporting email en masse, but you can get the same result by using a third-party program to download your email.

POP & IMAP

Most comprehensive solutions require enabling POP or IMAP in Gmail first and then using one of these services to download your email to a dedicated email client like Thunderbird or Outlook, to a smart device like the iPhone, or to a third-party program dedicated to email archiving like Gmail Backup. Once you download the emails you can then do with them as you please. Don’t be intimated by the acronyms. “POP” stands for Post Office Protocol and “IMAP” stands for Internet Message Access Protocol, and all it really means is that they both provide a way of retrieving email from a remote server, like Google’s Gmail servers.

Configuration & Risks

Gmail provides free service for both POP and IMAP. You can enable either of these in Gmail Settings. Gmail also provides support to help you with configuring your client so that you won’t have to go it alone if you don’t know what to do. Nevertheless, be careful that you configure your settings correctly when you set this up. If you don’t pay close attention you might cause accidental deletion of emails from your Gmail folder after downloading them or contaminate your email backups by regularly updating them.

Gmail Filters

As a less powerful but easier alternative to POP or IMAP, you could use Gmail filters to automatically forward incoming email to a dedicated email client, where you can then do with the email as you please -- just as if you had downloaded it using POP or IMAP. You can set up filters in Gmail Settings.

Offline Gmail

Google offers an application called Offline Gmail that allows you to use Gmail without an Internet connection. It works by downloading all the necessary information to run Gmail onto your personal computer, including all your email, labels, contacts and other personal information. This means you can access your emails offline, and even send new ones—though they won’t actually go out, nor will you receive incoming email, until you connect to the Internet again. If you don’t need to permanently export your email or move it into a new file format, but simply want to be able to access it offline, Offline Gmail might provide the best solution.

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