How to Backup Your Gmail in Mac

We love Gmail, and we keep our faith in Google that they will do their best to keep their servers up and running at all time. But still, that doesn’t mean we should place our absolute trust in their reliability. What if one day, their servers went bonkers and all your emails are lost overnight? By then, don’t you think it is too late to realize that you don’t have a backup?

In Mac, you can easily backup your Gmail without having to install any third-party software. The powerful Mail.app can do this task easily, quickly and automatically.

Let’s see how this can be done.

Enable POP in Gmail

Log into your Gmail. Go to “Settings -> Forwarding and POP/IMAP”. Select “Enable POP for all mail” and make sure that “keep Gmail’s copy in the inbox” is selected. Also make sure that IMAP option is disabled. Save the changes.

gmailmac-enable-pop

Configure Mac’s Mail.app

In your Mac, open your Mail.app.

If this is the first time that you are using mail.app, it will prompt you to setup your mail account. What you need to do is to enter your name, email address and password and it will perform the setup for you.

gmailmac-setup-new-mail

In Snow leopard, Mail uses the IMAP protocol by default, so you will receive the following message when trying to set up.

gmailmac-pop-error

Don’t worry, just click Continue.

In the next page, change the Account Type to “POP” and change the incoming Mail Server to “pop.gmail.com”. Include the “@gmail.com” in your username.

gmailmac-config-pop1

In the next page, enter the following information in the outgoing mail server page.

gmailmac-config-pop2

That’s it. When you are done, Mail will start downloading your emails.

Backing up to an Archive folder

The last thing that you want to see is to clutter up your inbox with your backup emails. The best way is to move all the message to another Archive folder.

First, go to “Mailbox -> New Mailbox“. Select “On My Mac” under the Location field and name it “Archive” (or whatever name you desire).

gmailmac-new-archive-mailbox

Next, right click on your Inbox and select “Edit Gmail”

gmailmac-edit-gmail

Go to the Rules tab and click Add Rule.

gmailmac-add-rules

Add the following rule:

gmailmac-set-rules

Done. Everytime you check mail, the message will automatically be marked as read and move itself to the Archive folder (You can further customize it by adding your own rules).

Automating the backup

Unless you fancy opening up your mail and perform the backup manually, you might want to consider automating the back up process.

Open up AppleScriptEditor (Applications -> Utilities -> AppleScriptEditor).

Paste the following lines:

Save the script as CheckNewMail.scpt.

Next, open your iCal and create a new event (File -> New Event). Set the event to repeat itself every day or week or month. Under the alarm, select “Run Script” and choose the CheckNewMail script that you just created.

gmailmac-ical-alarm

That’s it. This method should work for all web-based mails that support POP protocol.

What other ways do you use to backup your Gmail in Mac? Share with us in the comments.

Image credit: Coalsi

18 comments

  1. Hi Damien,

    Great article! Thanks for writing this up… :-)

    One question though… POP will only fetch email from the inbox, right?

    So with this method you will not get email in the sent mail folder or other email not labelled 'inbox'…

    Do you know any way to pick up everything?

  2. The only way I can think of is to create another Mailbox and config it to connect to Gmail using IMAP. You can then use the Rules to backup the respective folders.

  3. I’m not sure what I did wrong, but after I finished the operation, my gmail inbox on the web became empty, and all of its content is in my computer instead. i thought this was meant to keep presence in both places… Now I don’t know how to restore my inbox on the web. Any instruction?

    • In fact, I figured out why it all happened. I blindly followed the instructions about the Rules and selected “Move messages” instead of “Copy messages.” I made the change, but that’s going to affect the future emails. Is there a way, I can pull the past messages back into my web inbox? Thanks.

  4. I had MAIL setup with the IMAP option (for my iphone) and that seems to work as well. Is there any reason I need to switch to POP? I’m not exactly sure what the difference is.

    Thanks for the great post-
    Jason

    • IMAP will sync the status of your mail. So if you delete a mail in the browser, that mail will be deleted in your phone as well. POP is one directional. If you delete a mail in the browser, it WON”T be deleted in the phone. That’s why POP is more suited for backing up of mail while IMAP is suitable for syncing of mail.

  5. Hi Damien
    My gmail app account from my previous workplace is going to get shut down. I want to backup mails from that account before they shut it. Will the above process allow me to access my mails even when my account gets closed?

  6. I have Apple Mail 3.6 – after circling the issue for 2 days I found that it works in Safari but it does’nt work in Chrome. 

  7. Will this fully backup my Gmail account? I want to backup everything, then delete the bulk of my old emails online because I’m at 99% full.

      • But does it leave all of the old emails intact and accessible in imail once he deletes them from gmail. I am in the same situation. Thanks for the easy to follow instructions.

        •  If you follow the above instruction, yes, your old emails will be intact. Just be careful not to use IMAP. As long as you are using the POP protocol, you will be fine.

  8. I am about to shut down a gmail account and have backed everything up on imail.  What will happen the next time I open imail?  Will it delete everything that was there because it is updating with the current content on gmail (which will be nothing), or is it that once everything is downloaded onto imail, it stays there regardless of what the gmail account is doing?

    • Assuming you have closed down your account, that mean your imail won’t be able to communicate with the Gmail server anymore (theoretically), that mean all your mails will still be intact.

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