Email is still the most popular means of communication online. Even the meteoric rise of social networks and messaging platforms has not waned the popularity of sending these electronic messages.
Not only is email essential for receiving important information, but it is also necessary to register with websites and confirm your identity. No wonder online email providers like Gmail and Outlook.com remain popular than ever.
However, most email services are far from perfect — most notably when it comes reliability. Every now and then you hear about these email providers going down. Time to take control back in your hand, and store local copies of your email right where you can see them.
Learn to back up your emails and never lose access to important messages with this guide.
Why Back up emails?
Mention backing up email, and most people will ask why? Do I really need to store my email messages when online services do a fine job of providing me access to all of them? You probably haven’t given much thought to backing up your email yourself for this reason.
Surely not, if you are using online cloud email providers like Gmail and Outlook.com.
These services store your messages on reliable servers and make them accessible from anywhere. Not to mention the fact that most large webmail providers have copies of your emails stored in multiple locations.
Yet, this is no guarantee of safety.
What happens if the service you use goes down for an extended period of time? Cloud outages that stretch on for days are not uncommon. What about when a hacker gains access to your account and locks you out? Webmail providers have protection against these, but they are not foolproof. Even then, these companies take time to respond.
Forget all this. Even finding yourself without a reliable internet connection at the very moment where desperately need a particular email can be a huge headache. And this is more common than you know!
Point is, backing up your messages means that you will have always have a copy of them whenever you need them. This is doubly important for power users and professional. But even regular users that have important email messages that they want to store reliably with them have a need for backups. In particular, those who are using smaller webmail providers or using solutions provided by their ISPs or companies where they work.
Think of it this way.
Would you be upset if you lost all your emails? If the answer to this is yes, then you ought to consider steps to secure them and keep them always within reach.
Before you start
A spot of spring cleaning is well worth it before you create your backup. You may want to avoid saving copies of emails that you don’t want, like marketing materials from companies you are signed up with or newsletters from the mailing lists that you are signed up for.
One way to go about it is to move all your important messages in its own separate folder. And then back that folder up. Or if you prefer to tidy things up a bit, you can also find and remove unwanted messages.
Webmail service providers make it easy to do that. Gmail lets you delete content from a specific sender or organizations, as do many other email providers.
All you have to do is type their email address in the search box and press Enter. You can then click the tick box to select all messages and then delete them by clicking the bin icon. It is also possible to remove older messages this way by specifying a cutoff date in your search. This will display all emails received before that date, and you can then easily select and delete them. Use the following format to search for emails by date.
We’ll learn how to save email attachments specifically in another section below for the times when you just want to download and back up what others have sent to you.
For now, it is time to learn how to back up your emails proper.
How to Backup Emails to Hard Drive
There are a number of different ways you can approach backing up your emails. Some email providers actually provide a way to download whole copies of all your data, right from within their platforms. You just have to dig around the options a little.
It can be quite a time-consuming process, though. For example, Outlook.com signals that it may take up to 4 days for some users. But it is definitely possible if you want to go the native route.
Another option is to call in the help of free software.
One of the best email clients is Thunderbird, which works with all types of email platforms, including webmail services. Getting up and running with it is pretty straightforward, as this program comes from the house of Mozilla, the makers of Firefox.
You will simply need to enter your name, email address and password to get started, and it will fetch copies of your emails for offline viewing.
When setting it up, you can choose between POP (Post Office Protocol) and IMAP (Internet Message Access Protocol). POP is where messages are download to your computer, and then depending on your settings, they are either deleted from the source, archived or left alone. IMAP syncs your messages, meaning if you delete an email in Thunderbird, it will vanish from the program and from the web, and vice versa.
You can also export your messages in the EML format, and use it to open them in a different email client. Do this by selecting the messages you want to save, then right-click a message and choose Save As. Select a format to save the emails in, and then select the folder.
Alternatively, you can also use the excellent MailStore Home to securely save your messages in a central location on your hard drive. Not only does it save a copy of all your emails, but this program also lets you protect the backup with a password. And it works with any email provider, including two of the most popular ones online, Gmail and Outlook.com. Once saved, the program allows you to directly search for, read and even restore messages back to your email account.
To get started, you will need to click on the Archive E-mail link under Quick Access. Next up is entering your email address, which again will work with any service, and then click Start. It is also possible to archive messages from a number of email clients, or load email files stored on your hard drive.
If you are backing up Gmail, the program will open a new browser window where it will ask you to grant it permission to manage your email. Once you click Run to initiate the backup process, MailStore Home will begin importing your emails.
This is a process that will likely take a long time, so plan accordingly.
Backup Certain/Selected Emails
Depending on the size of your email inbox, backing it up will consume an awful lot of time and resources. But what if you only wanted to back up your important messages? Just because you can back up your entire inbox does not mean you have to.
If you so desire, you can only save copies of selected important emails. In fact, most people may prefer this, getting offline copies of the messages that they can’t afford to lose.
Backup emails to another Gmail account
One of the easiest ways to do this is to create a label for those messages and have them forwarded to another email account. Simply select an email and click the Labels button in your client, then create a new one and give it a name. Use this label on all your important messages in the future.
Save Emails to Hard Drive
When it comes to downloading these emails, you have two choices.
You can either use the CloudHQ extension for Chrome and back up that label. The free version lets you save 100 emails a month, which could be more than enough for some users.
Or, if you want, you can also use the Google Takeout service that lets you grab Gmail messages straight from the source. You may not be aware, but Google lets you download a copy of all your data that is stored on many of its services, including Gmail.
To get started, just make sure that you are logged into your Google account and then point your browser to the Takeout page. Deselect all the currently selected services by clicking the Select None button, then scroll down to the list and switch the toggle next to Mail. Here, you are allowed the option to either include all your mail or only selected labels.
Make your choice.
Now, select the archive format you want to save this data in. ZIP is the default. Once you initiate the process, your backed-up data will be sent as a download link via email. If you so prefer, you can have it added to cloud storage services like Google Drive, OneDrive, Dropbox or Box.
Click Create Archive to begin the process.
Worth a mention that the data that you download this way can be browsed, but is not an honest backup in the sense that it can’t be restored or imported to a new account. However, since we are only focused on storing your emails locally, this option fits the bill perfectly.
Other services have similar backup functionalities built-in.
Save your Email attachments
If you are not particularly concerned with backing up your individual emails and only want to save the attachments others have sent, then there is also a method for this. A nifty little Gmail addon that goes by the name of Save Emails and Attachments is what you need.
This addon demands a whole bunch of permission to run, but that is par for the course. It will ask you for access to read, compose, send and permanently delete all your emails from Gmail, which is standard going for backup tools like this.
Initiate the process, and the addon will ask you whether you want to download emails, attachments or both. You can also narrow down your results by choosing a label, specifying who the messages are from or sent to, what the subject is, even when they were received.
Next, specify the Google Drive folder where you want to save the attachments too, and then the addon will go to work. You will be shown updates on Google Sheet, which is a good way to know what is being saved to your Drive.
Want to save the local copies of your attachments once they have been uploaded to your cloud account? Simply download them from your Google Drive account to your computer, and you should have all your email attachments right where you want them to be.
Other webmail providers require a few more hoops, but the bulk saving of attachments is definitely possible.
It is true that the majority of people don’t bother to back up their emails. Most of us have the good sense to regularly back up our PCs and data in case disaster strikes. But backing up your emails, or at least the important messages, and safely storing them is good practice.
The process is not complicated or time consuming at all, as you saw in this guide. But it certainly can save the day when going gets tough and you lose immediate access to your inbox.