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Backup your Gmail and other webmail

How to backup your Gmail and other webmail accounts like Yahoo Mail and Hotmail.

Last week we heard about 60 Gmail users who lost all their email when a glitch hit the popular service. Sixty people out of the millions using Gmail isn’t many but it’s a reminder that you should not rely on any online service to reliably store your data.

Just like the email on your computer, you should backup your webmail regularly. In this issue we’ll look at the options for copying data from Gmail.


Gmail is easy to backup because it supports both email forwarding and POP services. You can use either or both to make a copy of incoming messages to your Gmail account.

Login to your Gmail account, click on Settings then choose ‘Forwarding and POP’ there you’ll find both options.

Gmail POP and Forwarding options image from Backup your Gmail and other webmail at


Any messages received (after you enable this setting) will be forwarded to the address you nominate. That can be any email address you have.

Many people use their Gmail address as an alias and have messages forwarded to their normal email address, so the Gmail messages appear in your regular Inbox. This can be a backup option, a way to easily receive email from a different address or simply as an effective spam filter (only non-spam is forwarded).

You have the choice of keeping the forwarded messages in Gmail, moving them to the Gmail archive or deleting entirely.

For backup purposes you can forward messages to another address, perhaps just another webmail account. You don’t have to check the forwarded account, just make sure it doesn’t fill up.


Choosing the POP option simply means that your Gmail account can be accessed by your email program just like any other email account. Most email accounts from ISP’s are accessed via POP so the setup is easy. Google makes it easier with configuration instructions for popular email clients.

In addition, Windows users with can download a POP Troubleshooter which helps with Outlook Express 6, Thunderbird 1.5 plus Outlook 2000, 2003 and 2007. Outlook 2002 is mentioned but presumably will work.

Forwarding or POP works for the Gmail Inbox but not for other folders especially Sent Mail. This is a severe limitation that the recent trouble has highlighted and an opportunity for some enterprising programmers.


While there is no automatic system for backup of Gmail contacts, you can export contacts manually.

Go to the Contacts folder and look in the right corner for the Import and Export links.

Choose the ‘Outlook CSV’ option, even if you don’t use Outlook, because that’s a format that is commonly accepted by other programs.

Yahoo Mail

Yahoo Mail doesn’t support POP access anymore but you can make it happen again with YPOPs – a free tool which grabs Yahoo Mail and make it available via a POP connection to your email program.

Use YPOPs to grab your email from Yahoo Mail in a similar way to Gmail described above.


Hotmail is even less helpful than Yahoo mail with a very closed attitude to external access.

If you have a paid Hotmail account or an MSN account you can access it from Outlook 2002 (XP), Outlook 2003 or Outlook 2007.


Getting POP access from a variety of webmail accounts is made easier with Web2POP which will work with many, many webmail services including the major ones; Hotmail and Yahoo Mail.

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