If you rely on Gmail or Google Apps for your mission-critical email then you know you need to take your own backups. Your Gmail email can get deleted or lost and once it’s gone, it’s gone. This howto provides a simple process for painlessly keeping a backup of all your Gmail or Google Apps emails for a single account.
You’ll Need a *nix Machine
This howto assumes that you have a shell account on a *nix (unix, linux, BSD, Mac OS X, etc.) machine and can install getmail, a flexible mail retriever. If you have root access on a FreeBSD machine you can install getmail like this:
cd /usr/ports/mail/getmail ; make install clean
If nothing else works, you can always download it from the getmail website and install it from source, since it’s written in python.
Run the Following Commands
Bring up a terminal or SSH session and run the following commands as the user that you will run getmail as. Any non-privileged user should do the job.
mkdir ~/GmailBackup/ ~/GmailBackup/new ~/GmailBackup/tmp ~/GmailBackup/cur
Getmail Configuration File
And put the following into ~/.getmail/getmailrc.mygmailaccount:
type = SimplePOP3SSLRetriever
server = pop.gmail.com
username = firstname.lastname@example.org
password = my_gmail_password
type = Maildir
path = ~/GmailBackup/
verbose = 2
received = false
delivered_to = false
message_log = ~/.getmail/gmail.log
Be sure to replace email@example.com with your Gmail or Google Apps email address and my_gmail_password with your account’s password.
Getmail will Copy your Gmail Emails, without Deleting them
This configuration file will cause getmail to copy the emails in your Gmail or Google Apps account, without deleting them, including emails in the Sent folder. Getmail will store your emails as individual files in the ~/GmailBackup/new directory. The ~/GmailBackup directory is a Maildir, so you can read those emails with your own POP or IMAP server or a text editor.
If you Prefer Mbox
If you prefer to store your emails in an mbox file, you can change the destination section to read:
type = Mboxrd
path = ~/GmailBackup.mbox
You might want to also run:
The Mbox format can be less reliable than Maildir but is popular and can be easily imported into many popular email clients, such as Mail.app and Thunderbird.
The Daily Cronjob
Finally you’ll want to open your non-privileged user’s crontab:
And add this cronjob:
#backup gmail email
03 04 * * * /path/to/getmail -ln --rcfile getmailrc.mygmailaccount
You can get the path to getmail by typing the following in your terminal or SSH session:
This will take a daily backup at 4:03AM in the time zone of the computer.
The First Backup
You can go ahead and run the first backup:
getmail -ln --rcfile getmailrc.mygmailaccount
If successful, this will output considerable detail, including information on each email message it downloads and where it saves it.
Check your Backups Anytime
You can always check the status of your recent backups by tailing the getmail log we configured in the getmailrc file:
tail -f ~/.getmail/gmail.log
Take Backups Today!
If your mission-critical email is hosted by Google, you know you need to take backups. Sleep easier and start taking backups today. Once you set them up, you won’t have to worry about them again.
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