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2,862 Tutorials

How to back up your email

Backup Gmail, Outlook and email from more providers

Back up your webmail

Google Mail, Yahoo! Mail and Outlook/Hotmail do not have any backup facilities. However, all three services can be accessed with traditional email clients. Programs like Outlook, Thunderbird and Windows Live Mail (the latter two are free) can download email from these services and store it on your hard drive.

It's possible to have your email both on the web and the disk drive at the same time, so the local copy on the disk is your backup and you can continue to access Google, Yahoo! and Outlook with a browser from any PC, tablet or phone. There are a few things to watch out for though and it isn’t quite as straightforward as you might expect.


In Gmail click the gear icon and then Settings. Select Forwarding and POP/IMAP, then set the status to enable both POP and IMAP. There is a ‘When messages are accessed with POP’ setting and it should be set to ‘Keep Gmail’s copy in the inbox’. This is to prevent the email software deleting messages when it downloads them. The idea is to copy messages and not move them to the PC’s disk.

Down at the bottom of the page are instructions for setting up Thunderbird and Outlook. You don’t need them because modern email software knows exactly what settings are required for Google, Yahoo! and Outlook/Hotmail. An email address and password is sufficient to set them up.

Back up Gmail

Outlook (Hotmail) and Yahoo!

In Outlook (Hotmail) click the gear icon at the top right, More Email Settings, then ‘POP and deleting downloaded messages’. Select ‘Don’t let another program delete messages from Outlook’.

Yahoo! doesn’t have this option, but it can be set in the email software. In Thunderbird for example, right click the email account in the left panel and select Settings followed by Server Settings. Tick ‘Leave messages on server’. Just run your email software whenever you want to make a backup and it will copy all the messages and save them to disk.

There are alternative ways of backing up Gmail, Yahoo! Mail and Outlook. Go to the settings in each service, select the mail forwarding option and enter an email address. When an email arrives a copy is automatically forwarded to the specified email account. So if you have Google Mail for example, you could get a Yahoo! Mail account and set it as the forwarding address. Yahoo! Mail is then your Google Mail backup, or vice versa. Old messages won’t be copied across, but any new ones will.

Another option is to use Gmail as a backup for your email. In Settings, Accounts and Import there is an option to add a POP3 email account. Add your email account and Gmail will copy every message you receive. Don’t forget to tick the option to leave a copy of emails on the server or Gmail will delete them after copying them.

Use Gmail to back up another email account

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