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How To Download/Backup Your Gmail, Google+, Calendar, and Docs Data

Google has a tremendous number of free services they offer which many of your probably take advantage of. But have you ever considered what you might lose if all of a sudden you lost access to your account? Just like all important data on your hard drive, your critical data in “the cloud” should also have backup consideration.

So if your Google account contains data you can’t afford to lose or you simply would like to have a local copy of it for yourself, you can easily download just about everything.

Backup All Your Gmail Messages

Gmail offers the ability to download all your messages into a POP client. As you may know, a POP client downloads and stores local copies of emails to your hard disk so you can access them off-line or if you delete a message (which you have previously downloaded) from your Gmail account.

Once logged into Gmail, in the upper right corner click the gear icon and go to Mail Settings.

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Under the Forwarding and POP/IMAP tab, select the option to Enable POP for all mail. Selecting this option will flag every email in your account to be downloaded to your POP client. Also be sure to select the option to keep Gmail’s copy in the inbox in step 2 so that when your messages are downloaded, they are not removed from your Gmail inbox.

Once you have set these options, save your changes.

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Once POP access has been enabled on your account, you simply need to download the messages into your POP client. Google provides detailed instructions for several common email clients via the link in step 3. Rather than re-inventing the wheel in this article, check out their walkthroughs.

Backup All Your Gmail Contacts

After using Gmail for a while you will, no doubt, have many email contacts that you will want to backup as well.

On the left side menu, click the Contacts link. You can optionally select the contacts you want to export (if you are only exporting certain ones) or leave individual contacts unchecked and export groups.

Under the More actions menu, select the Export option.

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Select the contacts you want to export (typically All contacts) and then the format. If you are unsure, select a CSV format because this will be readable in Excel or Notepad and just about every email client supports importing via a CSV file.

Once you have your options set, click Export.

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Save the resulting file.

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Download Your Google Plus Data

If you have a Google Plus account, you can easily download just about everything you have made available on the service.

Once logged into your Google Plus account, click on the gear icon in the upper left corning and select Google+ settings.

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Select the Data liberation option on the right side menu and click Download your data.

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The data included in the download is as follows:

  • +1′s = Web pages you have +1′d (which show in the +1 tab of your Google profile) in HTML format. This does not include every post or comment you have +1′d in the Google+ system.
  • Buzz = Google Buzz posts and replies in HTML format.
  • Contacts and Circles = Contact information by circle/group in VCF format.
  • Picasa Web Albums = Pictures uploaded to Picasa. These are organized in folders with the respective album name.
  • Profile = JSON file which contains the information in your Google profile. Don’t worry if you don’t know what this type of file is, you can open it and Notepad and read all the information.
  • Stream = Posts you have made in Google+ in HTML format. This does not include comments to posts you have replied to, only “top level” posts you have made.

You can download everything (as we do in this guide) or individual pieces. To download everything, click the Create Archive button.

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Depending on the amount of data you have, this can take a while but once finished you will be presented with a Download button.

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Once your download is ready, save it to your hard disk.

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When you open the resulting zip file, you can see the data is organized into folders making it easy to navigate.

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Download Your Google Calendars

If you utilize Google Calendars, you can easily export this information into ICAL format.

Once in your Google Calendar, click the gear icon in the upper left corner and select Calendar settings.

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Under the Calendars tab, click the Export calendars link.

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Save the resulting file to your hard drive.

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When you open the downloaded zip file, you will have an ICAL file for each Google Calendar.

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Download Your Google Reader Subscriptions

To download your Google reader subscriptions (note this downloads the source RSS feed links, not the content), click the gear icon in the upper left corner and select Reader settings.

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Under the Import/Export tab, select the option to Export your subscriptions as an OPML file. This is simply a type of XML formatted file that you can open in Notepad to view the contents of.

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Save the file to your hard drive.

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Downloading Your Google Docs

If you make use of Google Docs, you can easily download selected or all documents at once. If you want only certain documents, pick the ones you want.

Once ready, under the Actions menu, select Download.

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You will have some options with the format you want to download certain documents types in. For the most part the default settings will do but you can customize to fit your needs. Click the Download button once you are ready.

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Save the resulting zip file to your hard drive.

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When you open the zip file, the documents are in the format and folder structure used in Google Docs.

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Jason Faulkner is a developer and IT professional who never has a hot cup of coffee far away. Interact with him on Google+

  • Published 07/27/11

Comments (22)

  1. Abszeen Picco

    THUMBS UP!!

  2. tslmy

    Nice and useful.

  3. Tom

    Thank you!

  4. Bryan

    Good work bro.

  5. Bertrand

    Hi ! Nice post !
    I tried to save my mail few days ago. I used POP and Thunderbird. But I realized that Google seems to be limiting the number of mail you can get at a time. At the beginning you can download thousand of mails, then after a few download, you can only get one mail at a time.
    Did you have the same behavior ? Is it a parameter ? (I found none about that)

  6. Jason Faulkner

    @Bertrand – After you have downloaded all your mail (using the method described above), future checks should only download mail you do not have already.

    If you want to re-download everything again, I would try the following (I do not know if this will work, but it is worth a shot):
    1. Backup your currently downloaded Thunderbird message database
    2. Set Gmail to download only new messages – Save
    3. Set Gmail to download all messages – Save
    4. Create a new message database in Thunderbird
    5. Download all your messages from Gmail into your new Thunderbird database

  7. manny

    You might lose your data but Google never will. Smile for your snapshot.

  8. theitguy3

    Thank you. Extremely useful.

  9. SDreamer

    Whoa, a Google article about backing up Google services using IE9 :P Good info here though.

  10. A340-600

    I already download my Gmail with POP3 (I use Windows Live Mail), but what I would like to do also is download my chat convos.

    Any idea on how to do that?

  11. Ivydapple

    Favorited. Especially handy, since I have a Gmail account. Thanks for another great article!

  12. Jason Faulkner

    @A340-600 – All chats which are not taken “off the record” appear in your Gmail history but they are not emails so I would say (without having tested this) they would most likely not be downloaded to your POP client.
    That said, I wouldn’t be surprised if Gmail did treat these like emails and make them download-able via POP.

  13. A340-600

    @Jason Faulkner – I tried to download my chat conversations but it didn’t work. I know I can forward chat conversations, but when you have chats logs in the 100s, it’s a lot of messages to forward.

    I wonder if switching to IMAP might download chats.

  14. Aashi

    Hello,
    I am one of the development team member. I would like to share one simple tool “BeyondInbox”. It is provides features like Gmail/ IMAP Backup , Transfer and Restore your Mailbox.
    Backup your mail is necessary in such case like You may forget your password, You may accidentally delete some messages and Automatic loss of email.
    Beyond Inbox stores each and every email as a separate file(.eml). http://www.beyondinbox.com/documentation/mail-backup–how-to-backup-emails-from-imap-account.html

  15. Jason Faulkner

    @A340-600 – IMAP doesn’t actually download the messages, it just lets you access them via another (local) client.

  16. Ed Soehnel

    For Gmail, I use Gmail Backup rather than a desktop email client like Thunderbird. It seems to work flawlessly for me.

  17. LouieGeetoo

    Jason, I think Google’s stolen your sense of direction. Under “Download Your Google Plus Data”, you describe the settings button as being in the “upper left corning [sic]” and then the “Data liberation” link as being on the right side — when in fact both are on the opposite sides.

    Like Ed, for backing up my Gmail I use Gmail Backup ( http://www.gmail-backup.com/ ). It accepts command line parameters so I have Windows Task Scheduler run it in the background weekly just in case Google decides to break up with me. I don’t have access to my exact script at the moment or I’d copy it in here, but it’s pretty straightforward: http://www.gmail-backup.com/incremental-backup

  18. David

    Following two comments above (@LouieGeetoo & @Ed Soehnel) I had a brief look at the Gmail Backup website ( http://www.gmail-backup.com ). On the face of it, it looks to be an interesting and simple solution. But – but – BUT: there hasn’t been an update for 2.5 years; the developer appears to have stopped responding to questions and feedback; and many of the links to other parts of the support website are dead. Even the link to pay for a fully functional version is dead! So I would be very cautious about this: it might just break one day (after a Google update, for instance); a backup is of no use if you cannot be 100% certain that it could be restored (which in turn requires at least some developer support).

  19. Vipulpatel

    Hi

  20. mohammedfaiz shaji

    hey

  21. Harry

    Jason,

    I hadn’t bothered setting up a mail client on my current laptop (or after re-installing my PC last year). After reading your article I’ve decided to do it again. AND thanks to your excellent instructions, I’ll also be backing up my other Google data!

    Just wondering, don’t you think that the majority of users would prefer to use IMAP (rather than POP) so they have a synchronized copy of their email online (in their gmail/hotmail account) and on their computer (in their mail client)?

    Years ago, when I had a laptop with a 60 GB HDD and it wasn’t easy to get online everywhere, I started using POP3 for reading and composing email offline. But its two different copies of my email (one online, one on my laptop) was too messy. What I didn’t like about POP3 was the lack of synchronization. If I spent hours cleaning up email on my computer (in the mail client), none of those changes would be reflected in my online accounts, and of course the same thing happened if I cleaned up emails in my account online; they’d still be on my computer in my mail client.

    At one point I had a mail client on my PC too, so I had 3 different copies of my email! That’s when I changed to IMAP, so I would have the same email whether I was reading my gmail/hotmail online (in IE/Firefox/Chrome/Opera), or reading email in Outlook on my PC, or in Windows Live Mail on my laptop.

    On the other hand, I suppose IMAP has some dangers… If you delete all the emails in your mail client and then sync, I guess you’d lose all the mail in your gmail/hotmail account. or vice versa.

    I do remember it being a bit tricky to get all the gmail labels to show up in the email client (can’t remember which one, Outlook or WLM), but that was a couple of years ago, so I hope that’s not still a problem.

    Hmm, I think I remember something I liked about POP3 (when gmail had a 1 or 2 GB limit)… I could remove attachments from emails without having to delete the emails themselves. I liked to have the message text of my emails, but didn’t want to fill my mailbox up with large attachments. I could then delete those large emails (with attachments) in my gmail account, and still have a record on my laptop. But that was messy. As storage space (in gmail/hotmail and on the HDD on the computer) got larger and larger, I stopped worrying about attachments taking up too much space. And started using IMAP.

  22. soosie

    I an hoping something really wonderful happens for you, because it did for me when I found this page and followed the directions. I got worried after reading “Hacked” in the Atlantic, and resolved to protect myself better, and you made it possible for me to do it. I am sending lots of good and joyous thoughts your way, because you have made me very, very happy! THANK YOU!

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