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Google’s free Gmail service is all kinds of awesome, and it’s generally pretty darn reliable. But like any Web-based service, Gmail can go down. These rare events are cause for amusement at Mac|Life HQ--seriously, have you seen how Twitter freaks out when Gmail is down? You’d think the sun and moon had collided or George Lucas had announced a Broadway musical about the political career of Jar Jar Binks.
Still, if you depend on Gmail for all your über-essential email, it stinks to be kept out of your account even temporarily. Luckily, backing up Gmail is pretty easy and won’t cost you a dime. Ready? We’ll use Mail to store the messages and a combination of Automator and iCal to retrieve them so you don’t even have to open Mail periodically and fetch the emails yourself.
This works best if you’re not already using Mail for your day-to-day emailing and especially if you don’t use it for Gmail. If you’ve already got Mail checking your Gmail through IMAP access, jump right to “Don’t Want to Use Mail?.
And Gmail junkies be warned: This won’t get your labels or your Drafts, and it won’t organize your sent and received email into regular Sent and Inbox folders. All your Gmail goes to one place, but it’s a highly searchable backup.
Difficulty Level: Easy
What You Need:
>> Gmail account (free, mail.google.com)
>> About 20 minutes to get it all set up
Log in to Gmail (mail.google.com) and click the Settings link (near the top right). Click the tab for Forwarding And POP/IMAP. In the POP Download section, we want to “Enable POP for all mail (even mail that’s already been downloaded).” For the dropdown, select “Keep Gmail’s copy in the Inbox.” This will let Mail download a copy of all current and new messages, while leaving them in your Gmail inbox for you to read and answer using the Web interface that you know and love.
After Mail's automatic setup, we're good to go.
Launch Mail. If you haven’t used it before, enter your name, email address, and password at the prompts, and check the box for it to Automatically Set Up Account. The next screen will show a summary for your account settings: The incoming mail server will be pop.gmail.com with SSL (secure socket layering) turned on, and outgoing will be smtp.gmail.com with SSL off. Click Create to set up your account and take ’er online. If you have used Mail before, select File > Add New Account and follow the prompts.
A regular Mail window will launch, and your mail will start to download. All of it, from as long as you’ve had your Gmail account. I got mine in 2004... that’s a lot of email. It’ll come in chunks of a few hundred messages each, so just click the Get Mail button when you see it stop. We’ll automate the checking part in step 5.
So now we have a copy of every Gmail message ever sent or received in Mail, yet it’s still on Gmail’s Web interface right where we left it. If you go back and delete some emails from Gmail on the Web, they will stay in your Mail backup. (But you don’t really need to delete stuff from Gmail too often; that’s kind of the point.)