5 Ways To Back Up Your Gmail Data

Even though Gmail and its competitors guarantee 99% uptime, you never know when a bug will force your message to the trash or a server crash will delete your archives. While these issues don’t happen very often, you can guarantee they will at some point. Protect yourself by backing up your Gmail account.

Here are five ways to do it.

1. Maintain a Local Email Client

This backup option is number one because you should already be doing it. If you have an Outlook install that is simply taking up space — and if you are fan of Gmail, why wouldn’t you — then put it to use by connecting your Gmail account using POP. (It is important you do not set up this connection using IMAP; this format does not completely download every new email message.)

This method also allows you to still send and receive emails while you wait for Gmail to come back online. It is rare for the servers running Gmail and routing your email to go down at the same time. While your email experience may be a bit more cumbersome, it is certainly better than the alternative.

If you do not want to pay for Outlook, install Mozilla’s free email client, Thunderbird.

2. Google Apps Sync for Microsoft Outlook

If you live and breathe Outlook, Google will let you continue that arrangement with their syncing tool. Google Apps Sync will not work with your personal Gmail account or a free Google Apps account. You will need to have Google Apps for Work (which you should have anyway) or any other paid tier of Google Apps.

Included with Google Apps Sync is the Google Apps Migration tool. This tool allows you to effortlessly export your Outlook data — PST files, contacts, email, and calendar — to your paid Google Apps account. If you are committed to Microsoft Outlook and use Google Apps, then this no frills syncing tool will work perfectly. Once it is turned on, you can use Outlook or Gmail, as you prefer.

3. Backupify

If you use Google Apps and have a lot of faith in the cloud, Backupify is an attractive option to consider. For only $3 per month per user, Backupify will back up your entire Google Apps account automatically — documents, emails, chat, and contacts — once a day. Backupify also lets you export and import user data, restore lost data, encrypt data, and search your backups.

While this option may be overkill if you are just looking for a Gmail backup solution, it is certainly the most comprehensive Google Apps backup service on the market. If you are interested, Backupify does offer a free trial period. For kicks, you can also back up your SalesForce and social media data with Backupify as well.

4. Gmvault

Normally, I would not recommend commandline-only software, but what Gmvault lacks in an interface it more than makes up for in features.

For starters, Gmvault works on OS X, Windows, and Linux. Once you have chosen your platform, you just follow the directions in Gmvault’s quick start guide. After logging into your Gmail account, you can specify the times, date ranges, and searches you want to backup. Gmvault even lets you take your backup and add it to a new Gmail account with meta-data — labels, stars, and chats — intact.

If you are technically inclined, comfortable in a terminal, and want a lot of control, Gmvault is a powerful way to back up your account. If you are new to the terminal but still want a lot of control, use this as an excuse to brush up on your tech skills.

5. Google Data

If you hate the idea of downloading an email client, do not want to pay for Backupify, and shudder at the idea of using the terminal, then Google Data is your best bet. Google now lets users download an “archive” of their email and calendar data via its data download page. The archive you download is stored in the MBOX format, and you can choose specific labels to download.

Google’s backup option is manual and does not offer much in the way of options, but will certainly get the job done.


  1. Avatar Seth Gaskins says:

    Great topic. We purchase Google Apps for Work for around $4-5.00 per user per month because we are Google fans and also because we primarily used Gmail and Drive while starting our practice on a shoe string budget. I recommend paying for the Gmail Business account, which I’m pretty sure they back up, or at least offer more data security features than the standard free Gmail. I know you can purchase more back-up services from Google for very cheap.

    • Avatar Sam Glover says:

      Paying for Google Apps for Work should go without saying, but that still doesn’t get you a reliable backup that you control.

      • Avatar Seth Gaskins says:

        Perhaps. I guess I’m in the crowd that simply assumes the risk of not having access for that 1% (a bit conservative by Google if you ask me). Something I will definitely look into now though.

        • Avatar Holden Page says:

          Personally, I am a big fan of a local backup. Yes, Google Apps for Work gives you some options.

          Regardless, you should at least set up Outlook or Thunderbird with your personal GMail or Google Apps account. There have been some random times Gmail has gone down on my end, but I still could send, receive, and search my email with Outlook.

          I also am a big fan of Gmvault, which I tempered a bit when writing this post. Yes, it is a bit of a pain to learn the terminal, but once you’ve gotten it working, you can put local backups out of your mind until something goes wrong.

          • Avatar Sierra Swearingen says:

            Great article. Thanks. About Gmvault – is the backed-up data searchable for specific messages and keywords? Or do you have to first install the back up into a client of some kind. In other words, is the only way to search it, to upload it into a gmail account? Similar question for Google Data’s Mbox archive files.

            • Avatar Sam Glover says:

              If it is stored in a format your computer can read (like plaintext), then you can search it. It may not be all that readable for you, however.

              If you are using Gmail in the first place, I think you would probably just search your email there.

  2. Avatar freyajordan says:

    I’ve been using Gmail Backup tool (http://www.en.gmailbackup.org) to backup Gmail email, Google Calendar, Document, and Contacts to preferred file format like PST, EML, MBOX or MSG.

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