How to make a local backup of your Gmail account

Some unfortunate Google users have suffered through a “Googlesplosion” — by which I mean Google losing its Borg-like mind and obliterating all of your email. This has happened, admittedly rarely, to some Google users over the last few years and I, for one, do not want to become a digital fatality should such a fate befall my Gmail account.

But here’s the problem: The tools I’ve tried for backing up IMAPservers, such as Google’s Gmail, are mostly buggyor simply don’t work,so I thought I’d struck gold the other day when a friend mentioned atool called Imapsize.

Imapsizeis Windows freeware that does an impressive number of usefulIMAP-ish things, including displaying all of the mailboxes under anaccount and flagging the mailboxes that use the most storage, showingstorage quota use, providing content search on single or multiplemailboxes, deleting single or multiple attachments without downloading,saving attachments locally from multiple messages, mailbox and messagemanagement, copying messages from one IMAP account to another and –the one I was interested in — performing incremental backups of bothentire IMAP accounts or multiple folders in IMAP accounts.

I found that Imapsize worked … mostly. It was randomly and annoyinglybuggy under Windows Vista Ultimate (for example, Imapsize performedonly a partial backup of my Gmail account then failed) which isprobably a result of the program not being updated since 2009. It isonly noted to work on Windows 98, Windows Me (just writing “Windows Me”makes me feel unclean), Windows 2000 and Windows XP.

Despite its issues, Imapsize might be worth keeping around installed, say, in a virtual machine running Windows XP for diagnostic and maintenance purposes for IMAP accounts. The software is, as far as I know, unique in its set of features. Imapsize gets a rating of 2 out of 5.

So, having given up on Imapsize for backup purposes, I did a littlemore research and discovered a program called, rather unsurprisingly, Gmail Backup.

Created by Jan Švec and Filip Jurčíček, Gmail Backup is free and,unlike Imapsize, seems to be bug free.

How to execute Gmail Backup
To execute Gmail Backup you only have to enter your Gmail accountdetails and off it goes … downloading all of your messages onto yourlocal file system in Windows Mail E-Mail Message (.eml) format.

The download is into files named “YYYYMMDD-hhmmss-nn.eml” — only the”nn” part needs explaining; contrary to the online documentation, thisis a string formed by appending the beginning of the subject line tothe sender’s email address followed by a sequence number to eliminatenaming collisions.

These files are saved into a subdirectory hierarchy of year/month/dayunder whichever target subdirectory you select.

In my testing on an asymmetric DSL connection (3Mbps down, 500Kbps up)I saw an average download rate of roughly 55KB per second which equatesto about five hours per gigabyte.

Our rating of the system
You can select a date range to download and optionally restrictdownloads to “Newest emails only” which performs incremental backups ofyour Gmail account (Gmail Backup simply saves a timestamp of the lastbackup in a control file in the backup subdirectory).

Gmail Backup also supports command line arguments such as:

gmail-backup.exe backup_dir user@gmail.com password 20070621 20080101

… and appending “-stamp” will perform an incremental backup.

Gmail Backup (which gets a rating of 5 out of 5) has solved my worriesabout a “Googlesplosion” so that I can now concentrate on my Christmascooking plans and it is proof that a good recipe can solve any problem.

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