Be prepared for a worst-case scenario
Even though I’m pretty trusting of the cloud in general, I still like to have my own local backups just in case something terrible happens to the Internet. If you’ve been using a service like Gmail for years and years, you probably have tens of thousands of emails in your account.
One of the easiest solutions is to download all your Gmail emails to an email client such as Microsoft Outlook or Mozilla Thunderbird. In order to do this, you first have to setup your Gmail account properly.
Enable POP3 or IMAP Access
First, go to your Gmail account and click on the gear icon at the top right and then click on the Settings button. Now click on the Forwarding and POP/IMAP tab.
Now depending on the email client you are using, you can choose to enable POP, IMAP or both. If you want to download all of your emails, make sure to choose the Enable POP for all mail option.
Note that you can read the full instructions on how to setup your email client by clicking on the Configuration instructions link right below the IMAP Access section. Or you can just read my previous post on how to setup Gmail in Outlook.
Move Email to Inbox
Secondly, depending on which client you are using and whether it’s POP or IMAP, you may have to temporarily move all your archived emails back into the Inbox so that they can be downloaded by the email client.
In my tests, using IMAP works best because it automatically detects all the labels you have in Gmail and create individuals folders for each label, at least in Outlook 2010, 2013 and 2016. You should first try using IMAP before you move all your emails to the inbox.
The nice thing about Gmail is that this is not really hard to do and it’s not hard to re-archive everything after the mail has been downloaded.
Log into your Gmail account and click on All Mail in the left hand column. Now click on the All option in the select dropdown and you’ll see a new option to select all the email in your account from the very beginning.
Go ahead and click on Select all XYZ conversations in All Mail. Now simply click on the Move to Inbox button. This will move everything to the Inbox and will retain all your labels, so don’t worry about that.
Finally, you’ll go ahead and follow the instructions to setup Gmail with Outlook or Thunderbird and your emails should begin downloading. Depending on how many emails you have, it can take quite a while for everything to get downloaded.
Also, be sure to check the box to Leave a copy of the message on the server. You don’t want to download the emails and have them deleted from Gmail. Make sure to check out my other posts on how to transfer email between two Gmail accounts and the best practices for switching to a new email address. If you have any questions, post a comment here. Enjoy!