Gmail Backup

This entry is part 24 of 35 in the series Green Belt

Welcome the Gmail Podcast, a collection short hints, tips, and tricks to help you get more from your Gmail account. I’m your host, Chuck Tomasi.

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This past week I came across a really neat application called “Gmail Backup”. The name says it all. All you do is download and install the tool, provide your Gmail credentials, point it at a folder on your system, and click the Backup button. It takes care of the rest. And best of all, it’s free.

There’s a Windows command line and GUI vesion, a command line and GUI Linux version, and a Mac command line version only. I have heard rumors that a GUI version for the Mac is in the works so stay tuned to the Gmail Podcast for more information. Running from the command line actually makes sense if you want to schedule regular backups from a script. See the documentation on their website at

Regardless of your platform, you will need Gmail IMAP enabled. You’ll find this in the settings under the “Forwarding and POP/IMAP” tab. For Linux users, you will need the wxPython ( packages installed. It also requires the ctypes module; which should be included in the Python 2.5 distribution. For earlier versions of Python you can find the package in the repositories of your distribution.

I downloaded and installed the Windows XP version and was up and running fairly quickly. I created a new folder under “My Documents” called “My Gmail Backup”. Feel free to put the folder where you like or create multiple fodlers if you plan on backing up multiple accounts. You can even do this after you start the application. Currently my mailbox is using approximately 1.6GB of storage on Gmail and it took a little over an hour to backup the first 600MB before I stopped. I had to relocate which would have interrupted my Internet connection. When I started it back up again, Gmail Backup recognized how much work it had done, took a few minutes to scan past the 9700 messages already backed up and resumed where it left off.

Other parameters availble in the application allow you to set a “Before date” to backup all messages before a given date, and all message since a given date. On first invokation, both dates are the same so it backs up all messages. As it retrieves the messages, they are stored in individual “eml” files in your backup directory. The ELM files can be opened by Microsoft Outlook, Outlook Express, Internet Explorer, IncrediMail, Thunderbird, and for Mac users, Entourage, and of course Apple’s Mail program. EML files are nice because not only do they preserve the times, sender, and other standard information, they also contain any file attachments that were on the files on Gmail. And yes, Gmail Backup also remembers your labels that you applied to the messages. They are saved in a mapping file called “labels.txt”, although you may run in to problems if your labels contain non-alphanumeric characters (a-z and 0-9).

And what would a backup program be without a restore feature? Gmail Backup allows you to re-upload all or part of your backup. If you’ve got multiple Gmail accounts or host your own domain from Gmail, you can backup messages from one account, and restore them to another account simply by providing the right credentials.

Again, I recommend visiting the website for full documentation, FAQs, and active forums at

For what it’s worth, there are other ways to backup your Gmail account, including Thunderbird (which has a limitation of 64,000 messages), Fetchmail (a little more technically involved and requires Cygwin to be installed), or Getmail (for you Linux users). I just found Gmail Backup to be quick and easy to use.

Here’s today’s quick tip… If you receive an email with a subject something like “Warning code: VX2G99AAJ”, just report it as spam, a phishing attempt, or delete it. The message body says it’s from “The Gmail Team”, however the message header says something quite differently. This is just an attempt to get your user information. Don’t even bother opening the message.
That’s all for this time… Comments, suggestions, or questions can be sent to or check the website for full information and archives of all previous Gmail tips at I have no affiliation with Google other than as a satisfied Gmail user. Thanks to you for listening, and don’t forget to write.

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