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How to back up Gmail to Hotmail or a desktop email program

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When the news first broke of Gmail losing a small chuck of its users' inboxes, I had a rather terrifying realization: For nearly 8 years, I've been using Gmail as my only message store -- putting all my eggs in one basket, so to speak. If you use Gmail, you're probably now thinking the same thing as me: I really should have a backup.

But where should I back up to? There are two choices: use a regular desktop email program, like Outlook or Thunderbird, or use an alternate webmail provider like Hotmail.

To get started, you'll need to activate POP support on your Gmail account. Head to Settings, and look for this section:


For step 1 select 'Enable POP for all mail' to give your backup program full access to your Gmail message store. Under 2, set the dropdown to keep Gmail's copy -- just in case the program you're using to backup your account doesn't fully respect the 'leave a copy' setting (which we'll get to in a second).

Now that POP access has been enabled, it's time to configure your chosen app to retrieve a copy of each message in your Gmail inbox. I'm setting up Hotmail, so we'll start there. Click the gear next to Inbox, and then click Get email from another account.


On the following screen, click add an account, and then click advanced options (it's below the password field). When the page reloads, enter your Gmail address, username (your address minus the @gmail.com part), password, and pop.gmail.com for the server address.

Leave the port as 995 and make sure the SSL and 'leave a copy' are both checked. Click next, then tell Hotmail how you want to label your Gmail messages when it backs them up. Click save, and you're all done!

Setting up any desktop mail program (like Windows Live Mail, Mozilla Thunderbird, or Microsoft Outlook) only requires that POP access is enabled in Gmail and that you have the information I mentioned above. Just make sure, when you create the account, that you look for the leave a copy on the server option, otherwise your chosen program will clean out your Gmail inbox -- and while downloading might be fairly speedy, uploading all that mail again can be rather tedious. Google offers full setup insctructions for many popular email apps on the Gmail help site.

Windows users can also download a handy program called Gmail Backup, which is unsurprisingly designed for exactly this task.

If you want complete control over your Gmail backup, use a desktop mail program. If you want
a solution which is up and running quickly, use a webmail app like Hotmail. Because Hotmail and Gmail are both in the cloud, your mail will likely back up faster than if you try downloading it to your desktop.

Tags: apps, archive, back up, BackUp, download, email, gmail, google, hotmail, how-to, inbox, messages, POP, save, store, web

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