Use Gmail As Email Backup Space

Martin Brinkmann
Dec 5, 2008
Updated • Nov 29, 2012
Backup, Email, Gmail

Gmail is currently providing each Gmail user with Gigabytes of free storage space for their mails and attachments. One way to utilize that space is to use Gmail as the email backup for a local email client like Mozilla Thunderbird or Microsoft Outlook. The great news is that no third party software is needed to backup the local email at Gmail.

We will utilize IMAP to transfer the local mails to Gmail which will make it possible in the end to simply move or copy mails to the Gmail account in the local email client.

The first thing that needs to be configured is IMAP support in Gmail. This is done in Settings > Forwarding and Pop / Imap. You only need to check the IMAP enabled checkbox to enable IMAP access for that GMail account.

The rest has to be configured in the local email client. Thunderbird will be used as an example but the basic settings are similar in all other email clients such as Microsoft Outlook.

Here are the values that you need to create the IMAP account in your local email client:

Email Address: [email protected]
incoming server:
incoming server port: 993
secure connection: SSL
incoming user name: [email protected]

outgoing server
outgoing user name: [email protected]
outgoing server port: 587
secure connection: TLS

Google provides detailed (but sometimes slightly outdated) information about setting up IMAP in various email clients.

If the setup was successful you should check for new mail. All Gmail mail header should be downloaded to the local mail client.

To backup mails you simply move the mail folders into the Gmail IMAP folders. They will be created there with a label taken directly from the folder's name. All folders and emails will be accessible in Gmail in the Labels menu.

It is even possible to take it a step further and delete old mails in the email client afterwards. If you need to access them again they are still accessible in Gmail. It is still advised to create a local email backup before deleting any mails locally.

If you encounter difficulties moving or copying folders you could circumvent the problem by creating the folders manually. The emails can then be copied or moved into the newly created folder easily.


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  1. RG said on December 5, 2008 at 8:23 pm

    This is an interesting take on it, most of the back up solutions I hear concerning gmail is mounting it as a drive for files. I was/am a bit wary of using that method since who knows one day gmail might not allow it, but backing up email like this seems good.

  2. WCS.Tony said on December 5, 2008 at 7:19 pm

    Hi Martin.

    Thanks for the free MediaMonkey Gold!

    I have been using GMAIL to backup emails for several customers. Typically their PC crashes or the disc fails and they have all their emails in Outlook Express.
    Back ups?
    What are they?

    When (if) I get their Outlook Express files back from the damaged disc I then upload all their old emails to GMAIL. Then set it up to read their existing POP3 account(s) without deleting those messages.

    Now they can still use Outlook Express at home. AND see all their old, and new, emails in GMAIL – from the office.

    See these guides:

    Make sure you have a good secure GMAIL password.

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