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Your Gmail emails don’t have to live on Google’s servers forever. Here’s how to download everything in your Gmail account as a file and turn it into a browsable, searchable offline archive on your computer—the easy way.

Download Your Emails With Google Takeout

First, download an archive of everything in your Gmail account through Google Takeout. Head to the Google Takeout website and sign in with your Google account.

Select what you want to download here. By default, all the data associated with your Google account is selected.

To download only your Gmail, click “Deselect all” at the top of the page. Scroll down and enable the checkbox next to “Mail” to select only your Gmail.

Note: The “Mail” option contains all emails and file attachments in your Mail account. To download other associated data such as your Contacts, Tasks, Calendar events, or Hangouts chat history, select the appropriate options in the list.

When you’ve selected what you want to download, scroll down and click the “Next Step” button.

Go through the rest of the process, selecting whatever options you like, and click “Create export.”  Depending on the size of your archive, it may take Google some time to create the archive for you to download—or it may be very quick. You will have one week to download the archive of your emails once it’s created.

The Google Takeout file will be in ZIP form. The file you download will be named something like “takeout-[something].zip”.

Extract its contents with your favorite file unarchiver. For example, on Windows 10, you can just right-click the ZIP file, select “Extract All,” and click the “Extract” button.

You’ll get a “Takeout” folder. Inside, you’ll find a “Mail” folder that holds all your Gmail emails in MBOX format.

The Mail folder inside a Google Takeout archive.

Import Your Gmail Emails Into Mozilla Thunderbird

Mozilla Thunderbird, the free and open-source email client, is the best way to browse this email archive. To continue, download Mozilla Thunderbird. It’s available for Windows, macOS, and Linux.

This process is a little confusing to set up in Thunderbird, so follow our guide to opening an MBOX file in Thunderbird. Once you’re done—it just takes a few clicks, really—you’ll be able to browse and search the contents of your Gmail archive in Mozilla Thunderbird.

It works entirely offline—you can now back up your Gmail archive to any storage device and use Mozilla Thunderbird whenever you want to access its contents.

RELATED: How to Open an MBOX File (Using Mozilla Thunderbird)

Thunderbird showing a Gmail MBOX file under its Local Folders.

You can now even delete your Google account if you like. But be sure to back up your local archive so that you don’t lose it!

Profile Photo for Chris Hoffman Chris Hoffman
Chris Hoffman is Editor-in-Chief of How-To Geek. He's written about technology for over a decade and was a PCWorld columnist for two years. Chris has written for The New York Times and Reader's Digest, been interviewed as a technology expert on TV stations like Miami's NBC 6, and had his work covered by news outlets like the BBC. Since 2011, Chris has written over 2,000 articles that have been read more than one billion times---and that's just here at How-To Geek.
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