Let’s quickly see how back up your Gmail messages and store a local copy in your hard drive. Why would someone want to have a backup in first place? I am not sure how many of you remember about the Gmail crash that happened back in 2009 which left lots of people without access to their emails. This may not happen again but will someone assure us for sure?

Having a backup of your Gmail messages is always a safe option and quite handy when you want to have a quick peek on your emails when you are offline.There are lots of ways and third party tools available to back up your Gmail messages; most of them will require your credentials which stops us from taking our backups.

Though we are going to use an Open Source Email Client called Thunderbird in this article, I can assure you that you don’t have to provide your credentials anywhere in the email client.

Back Up Your Gmail Messages

Google provides an option to archive your Gmail and its other products like Calendar, Contacts, Google Drive, Google Photos, etc. Let us just go ahead and start archiving your emails, shall we?

  • Log in into your Gmail account.
  • Click on your profile icon and click Account.
  • You will see your personal info page, click on Data Tools Tab.
  • Under Data Tools, under Download Data section, click Select data to download.


Gmail archive - Back Up Your Gmail Messages

  • Click on the Edit link beside the Mail, select the Select labels option and under Select labels to download check the Select all check box.

select labels - Back Up Your Gmail Messages

  • Click on Create Archive button, depending on the volume of emails that you have, it would take some time to build the archive for you. You will be notified through email once your archive is completed.

Email alert - Back Up Your Gmail Messages

  • Looks like the email archive will be available only for 6 days, so ensure that you download it before it expires.
  • The download will be in zip format, once you have downloaded the zip file, extract the contents and you should see a .mbox file for each of your labels like Drafts, Inbox, Sent items, etc.
  • These .mbox files has all your emails in it, now let’s see how to open and read your emails.

Load Gmail Messages using Thunderbird

  • We would require an email client to load your .mbox files and my preference would be Thunderbird.
  • Download and Install Thunderbird Setup 24.3.0.exe (21 MB)
  • Run Thunderbird and skip the setup welcome wizard by clicking on I think I’ll configure my account later button.

Thunderbird welcome- Back Up Your Gmail Messages

  • Download the Import Export Tools add-on (150 KB) for Thunderbird. We need this extension to import the .mbox files into Thunderbird.
  • The add-on file will be something like this importexporttools-
  • Bring the Thunderbird Menu and click on Add-ons.
  • Click on the Tools for all add-ons gear icon and select Install Add-on From File… option

Thunderbird addon - Back Up Your Gmail Messages

  • Provide the path of the add-on file (importexporttools- that you just downloaded.
  • Go ahead and click on the Install Now button.

Install Addon

  • Now you have to restart your Thunderbird in order to complete the installation.
  • Once your Thunderbird is restarted, the installation would have been successfully completed. You should now see the ImportExportTools option under Tools menu.
  • The import mbox option will be greyed out since you don’t have the proper folder structure setup on Thunderbird email client. To set this up we will have to create a Local Folder first.
  • Click on the ALT key to see the Menus.
  • Click on File Menu, New, click Other Accounts.
  • You will see a Newsgroup account option box selected by default, click Next.
  • In the Account wizard enter your Name and some dummy email id and click Next.

Dummy Email Address

  • Enter Newsgroup Server name as your name and click Next.

News group server name

  • Enter the Account Name also as your name and click Next.

Account name

  • Click Finish in the final screen and you should see a Local Folder structure created in your Thunderbird.
  • Right click on the Root Local Folders and select ImportExportTools and click on Import mbox file option.

Back Up Your Gmail Messages

  • In the Files mbox import window leave the radio button Import directly one or more mbox files option selected and click OK.

mbox Import Options

  • Select all the downloaded mbox files in the File Dialog box and click Open.

Select mbox files

  • You should now see all your emails loaded into your Thunderbird email client.

Mailbox preview with email messages

So how do you backup your Gmail messages? Got a better way? Do share it.