Back up your webmail

Yes, we know - it's hard enough to remember to back up your desktop, your laptop, your smartphone, and your tablet, and now we want you to think about backing up your cloud-based email account, too.

Yes, we know – it’s hard enough to remember to back up your desktop, your laptop, your smartphone, and your tablet, and now we want you to think about backing up your cloud-based email account, too.

This may seem like a drag, but we’re not being paranoid. Recently, 150,000 Gmail users were left in the dark when a glitch in Google’s system deleted all of their email messages and disabled their Gmail accounts. Luckily, Google keeps multiple copies of user data in multiple data centers and also keeps tape backups, and thus was able to restore the deleted email within a week.

The recent Gmail outage may have ended happily, but it still should be a wake-up call for anyone who relies too heavily on the cloud. The time to back up your web-based email is now.


Google’s Gmail gives you plenty of space, but that doesn’t mean you should put all of your email eggs in one basket. Fortunately, you have a simple, free way to back up your Gmail account: Gmail Backup (

Gmail Backup works with both Windows and Linux. Here’s how to back up your Gmail in just a few minutes:

1. Download and install Gmail Backup. The install is quick and leaves you with a Start menu shortcut and a desktop icon.

2. Open Gmail Backup. Enter your full Gmail address and password, and choose the backup folder to which you’ll save your messages. You can either use the default folder or find/create your own folder by clicking Directory.

3. Choose which messages to back up. You can back up all of your email from a specific date range, or opt to back up just the most recent messages. To back up all of the email in your account, select a ‘Since date’ from before you opened the account. Then click Backup.

The process can take a long time if you have a lot of messages, so you can run it in the background. Gmail Backup will keep a running log of the email that it has backed up. You can also back up your account incrementally; in this procedure, Gmail Backup skips over messages that have already been downloaded.

4. To restore messages, enter the address and password of the Gmail account you’d like to restore the messages to, and then choose the backup folder that houses the messages from the account you’d like to restore. These don’t have to be the same account.

Gmail Backup really is as simple as it sounds. I was able to download messages from one account and “restore” them to another account, and Gmail Backup kept all of my labels (including ‘Inbox’ and ‘Sent’) and attachments. It can’t support characters that are not alphabetical or numerical in labels such as a forward slash or an asterisk, so rework your labels before backing up.

Gmail Backup backs up files in .EML format, which any desktop email client can open. The only drawback is that it doesn’t back up chat logs – Gmail doesn’t put them in the ‘All Mail’ folder, which is the folder that Gmail Backup scours.


A Windows-only backup utility, MailStore Home ( lets you back up and restore both web-based and desktop-based email.

1. Download and install MailStore Home, then to start the backup, open MailStore Home and click Archive email.

2. Choose POP3 Mailbox, and enter your email address, the ‘Host’ (, and your password. Set the ‘Access via’ drop-down menu to POP 3-SSL, and click Next.

3. You can choose how to archive – namely, whether to delete your messages from the host server once the program has downloaded them. The default setting is that messages are never deleted, and you should leave it that way (after all, you’re backing up your mail, not moving it). You don’t need to change anything here, so click through and start backing your mailbox up.

Sure, MailStore Home requires a little more setup than Gmail Backup, but it’s a smooth and easy tool to use. Not only can you see your messages in the MailStore Home desktop client, but you can also back up your files to a CD, DVD, or USB drive.

MailStore Home keeps your folders and labels intact, and can also run in increments (it skips over messages that it has already archived).

You can use MailStore Home to back up Gmail as well.

Yahoo Mail

Yahoo doesn’t want you to back up your mail. How do I know this? Yahoo disables POP3 access to its free users – in order to use the POP3 feature, you must pay to be a Yahoo Mail Plus member.

If you’re cheap (as I am), here’s how to back up your Yahoo Mail without spending a cent.

1. Download and install Zimbra Desktop (, which is a free desktop mail client that works with Yahoo Mail, Gmail, and Hotmail.

2. Open Zimbra Desktop and click Add New Account. Select Yahoo from the drop-down menu and fill in the form (email address, password, and so on). You can also choose to synchronise calendars, contacts, and groups.

3. Click Validate and Save and wait for Zimbra to synchronise – this may take a long time, and you won’t have access to your account while Zimbra is synchronizing. Once Zimbra is synced up with your Yahoo Mail, click Launch Desktop and go to the Preferences tab. In the left menu, underneath your Yahoo account, click Import/Export.

4. Under ‘Export’, make sure Account is checked, and then check the Advanced Settings box. If you don’t want to sync everything, uncheck all of the boxes except for Mail and then click Export.

5. You’ll get a zipped file (.TGZ), which you can open with WinRAR ( All of your messages save in .EML files, which you can open with a desktop email program (such as Outlook or Thunderbird). You can also import this zipped file into Zimbra Desktop, and your messages will be recovered; once your messages are restored to Zimbra Desktop, the utility will sync with the server, and your Yahoo Mail account will be back on its feet.

Zimbra isn’t as easy to use as Gmail Backup or MailStore Home, but it is an effective way to back up your Yahoo Mail for free. Zimbra Desktop retains folders and attachments, and can even “back up” your contacts and calendar.

Now that you have a backup of your cloud-based email account on your hard drive, you’ll be prepared the next time Gmail falls victim to a bug – as long as you remember to back up your hard drive, of course.

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Tags MicrosoftGoogleGmailYahooyahoo mailhotmailwebmailHow to

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Sarah Jacobsson Purewal

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