Since Gmail stores your mail in the "cloud", it is not downloaded to your computer (stored locally). While most of us will NOT need to store mail locally,
some may have a reason: for example, staff who are planning to leave the University and would like to leave a copy of their emails with a department. We don't recommend following these instructions unless you have a compelling reason.
To back up email locally, you will need to configure an email client to download your mail. (Below, we provide instructions for backing up your mail with Thunderbird, which is available for Mac, PC, and Linux.) You are going to set up the email client to download your emails using POP, which is a mail protocol - a way of downloading your mail. When you would like to backup your messages, you will open the client and wait for it to download your mail.
Important! Read before you get started
Link: Backing Up Your Mail in Thunderbird
- Both Gmail's POP settings and the POP settings in most mail clients offer the choice of what to do with the email messages once they are downloaded by the client. Some of the default settings will delete the mail from your mailbox once it is downloaded, which may not be what you plan to do. If you would like to keep all your email online in Gmail (which we recommend), pay special attention to the settings when configuring your client.
This step is included in our Thunderbird instructions below, but if you choose to set up a different client, be sure to look for this setting. For example: Apple's mail program has a setting in the Advanced tab, "Remove copy from server after retrieving the message." Outlook Express has an option "Leave a copy of messages on server." Choosing a setting which deletes messages from the server (or does not leave a copy) means you will accidentally delete all downloaded mail from your online Gmail mailbox. The settings shown in the instructions on Gmail's help pages may be the default client settings and may not reflect your choice to leave a copy on the server. If you are not sure which settings to choose, please consult your departmental IT contact.
- POP is a one-way connection, so anything you do in the mail client will not be reflected in your Gmail mailbox online. In other words, if you open the client and start rearranging your mail or deleting emails, those changes will NOT be reflected in your live email online. Any changes you would like to make to your current mail should be done online, in Gmail.
- Messages from your Spam and Trash will not be downloaded. If you would like to download anything from your Spam or Trash, you should move it to your Inbox.
- Your mail client stores the mail locally - on your computer. Local backups can be helpful, but make sure you back up your computer itself so the mail will be available if something happens to your computer.
Step by Step Instructions for Thunderbird