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How To Backup Your Text Messages to Your Gmail Account

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Backing up your text messages from your Android phone to your Gmail account is so simple there’s no reason to not back them up and make them search-friendly in the process. Read on to see how you can turn your Gmail account into an SMS vault.

What Do I Need?

It’s easy to lose your text messages. Everything from switching phones to fumble fingers can drop your messages in front of the digital reaper—just last night I managed to accidently delete a massive SMS thread when I really only intended to delete a single message that refused to send.

Backing up your SMS messages to your Gmail account is so simple, however, there’s no good reason not to do it. For this tutorial you’ll need three things:

Got all that? Let’s get started!

Note: Technically, you can dig around the advanced settings of SMS Backup+ to reconfigure it to work with any IMAP-enabled email server. However, since it was designed to work with Gmail and works so well with Gmail’s search, threading, and starring functionality, we’re not going to mess with a good thing.

Configuring Your Gmail Account for IMAP Access

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SMS Backup+ requires IMAP access to your Gmail account to function. Let’s take a moment and hop over to the Gmail account we’re planning on using with the application and check the status.

Login to your Gmail account and navigate to Settings –> Forwarding and POP/IMAP. Check Enable IMAP. Scroll down and click Save Changes. That’s the only configuration you’ll need to do within your Gmail account.

Installing and Configuring SMS Backup+

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With our Gmail account IMAP features toggled on, it’s time to install SMS Backup+. Hit up the Google Play Store and download the app.  After the application is installed, it’s time to get configuring. Launch the application. The first screen you’ll see will look like the following:

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The first step is to set up the connection to your Gmail account. Tap Connect. The default browser on your Android phone will launch and you’ll be prompted to login to the Gmail account you want to use for backing up your messages. After you login you’ll need to authorize SMS Backup+ to utilize your Google account like so:

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Click Grant Access. You’ll be prompted to begin a backup immediately or skip the initial backup:

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Click Backup; we didn’t come all this way not to back things up! If you hit Skip then all the messages on your phone will be flagged as already backed up and will be ignored.

The backup process will start, and depending on how many messages you have, will take anywhere from a minute to a half hour to complete. It clips along at about a message per second:

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You don’t even have to wait until the process is finished to jump over to the Gmail account and check the progress. Login to your Gmail account from a web browser. You’ll see a new label in the sidebar, SMS. Click on it:

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Success! SMS Backup+ automatically backs up your SMS messages as well as your MMS messages. Not only are all of our text messages there but the pictures we’ve sent back and forth are backup up to Gmail along with the messages. Now that we’ve got everything humming along, let’s look at some advanced options.

Advanced SMS Backup+ Configuration

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If you do nothing else before leaving this tutorial, you need to turn on the automatic backup feature. Leaving things up to manual backup in a sure fire way to forget. From the main screen tap Auto backup to turn it on and then tape on Auto backup settings to configure the frequency. The default configuration is a bit aggressive. You may wish to, as we did, decrease the frequency of backups and even set it to only backup one Wi-Fi if you’re backing up a lot of MMS and don’t want to burn through your mobile data quota.

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After you’ve set up the automatic backup, return to the main screen and head into Advanced settings. There you can change the settings for backing up, restoring, and notifications. Under Backup there are some useful settings you may wish to toggle include turning off MMS backup (again, to save on data consumption, and creating a whitelist of contacts you want backed up (instead of the default where every single message is backed up).

There isn’t much to look at under the Restore settings, but you can take advantage of a handy Gmail-centric trick. When SMS Backup+ stores your messages in Gmail it creates a thread for each contact. You can tell SMS Backup+ to only restore the contacts with starred threads which allows you to quickly select which conversations are important enough to restore via the star system in Gmail.


So there you have it! All your text messages (including multimedia attachments) are backed up within Gmail where you can easily search them and restore them to your handset should the need arise.

Jason Fitzpatrick is warranty-voiding DIYer and all around geek. When he's not documenting mods and hacks he's doing his best to make sure a generation of college students graduate knowing they should put their pants on one leg at a time and go on to greatness, just like Bruce Dickinson. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 05/1/12

Comments (19)

  1. Rothbart

    This INCREDIBLY useful. I’ve been using this app (and its predecessor SMS Backup) for a couple years now. As a divorced parent with a troublesome ex, it’s VERY nice having an automatically backed up, time stamped record of texts in a searchable manner. While I don’t know if they’d even hold up in court if it came to that, it’s EXCELLENT for recalling what someone said 4 months ago, etc.

    This is always on my list of “must have apps” for people new to Android.

  2. Mark Virtue

    If you use a client like Microsoft Outlook to read your Gmail, then the backed-up text messages are downloaded to that client. This is good for me, but may not be good for everyone.

    Also, my first sync is running now, backing up exactly 999 text messages. 999 is a bit suspicious. Do I just happen to have exactly 999 messages on my phone, or is this some internal limit of the software?

  3. Jason Fitzpatrick

    @Mark: That’s a good question. Since I’ve never hit an upper threshold with the application I didn’t even think to look for one. I’ve looked over the SMS+ Backup web site, looked at the comments on the Play store entry for the app, and then searched for any reference the app having an upper limit. The only reference I could find anywhere to 999 was a handful of people complaining about how their cell provider didn’t provider a deeper back log and cut them off at 999 messages. Maybe that’s the case? Or maybe it batches 999 at a time and it’ll work through chunks of 999 messages until they are all backed up? You’ll have to update us if that’s the case.

  4. Cagdas

    @Mark , I just realized there is an option on Forwarding POP/IMAP settings in Gmail saying: “Folder Size Limits” and there is an option as: “Limit IMAP folders to contain no more than this many messages [1000]“. Maybe that could be the reason of your problem.

  5. Anonymous

    Another useful thing I’d totally do if I wasn’t paranoid that someday the government would use it against me…. especially since “HEY MAN GOT ANY GREEN?” might show up.

  6. Mariop

    To upload my sms’s to Gmail spy server?

    Only with serious brain damage :)

  7. dcj2

    WinMo 6.5 had an SMS backup tool, but WP7 is sorely lacking. please oh please oh please oh please make a WP7 version of this.

  8. Matthew Kephart / @mjkep

    Simply Outstanding!

  9. 360mobile

    SMS Backup stores your messages in Gmail it creates a thread for each contact. You can tell SMS Backup+ to only restore the contacts with starred threads which allows you to quickly select which conversations are important enough to restore via the star system in Gmail.

  10. kimberly

    I don’t suppose there’s a way to do this for an iPhone?

  11. Tim

    @Mark, when I first ran SMSBackup+ it sent over 2400 messages. The folder limit only limits the gmail conversation length.

  12. Varun

    Is there any tool that would help transfer messages from Android to my Symbian Nokia E7?

  13. fritzboyle

    upon installing sms+ on my droidx, I get a message saying there is a bug in the droidx that prevents it from backing up incoming messages. does this mean this solution will not work for me? what gives?

  14. stannn

    how to copy you tube video to PC without payment application

  15. Matt

    This is a dynamite little app. It works like a champ. Does exactly what is says it does – backs up MMS and SMS messages. I found the gmail threads a little odd at first, but after a few minutes it’s really fantastic.
    It also saved me from having to buy the backup service from HandCent!

  16. Amy Martin

    When I backup the files and they send an email to my gmail, it is an XML document that is unreadable.
    How do I change how it is sent?

  17. sujata

    SMS back up + only backs up the outgoing text not the incoming text on my droid x2. is there any way to fix it?

  18. Elen Omis

    Good and I use VeryAndroid SMS Backup. It can run on my computer and copy messages from android with ease. Works great also.

  19. Warren

    how about for blackberry bold 9900?

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