How to (reliably) do Gmail download / backup / archive

There has to be a reliable simple solution to this – but I haven’t found it – so am asking for help.

I have two Gmail addresses that are hitting the storage limit. I have cleared out as much “garbage” as I can find easily (both unimportant and very large).

I attempted to download and archive the less critical email address using Thunderbird and Mail Archiver X – and it was a disaster. I didn’t get all the emails, many “labels” [Gmail’s process for “folders”] were simply completely missing and, worse, those labels and the online emails had been erased.

Before I attempt to archive from the more important address, I’d like to be sure I have a system that works smoothly.

I am open to any approach
– archive by date is simplest conceptually
– archive by label across all dates would be fine, but the majority of emails are NOT labeled.
– buying software (I no longer trust Mail Archiver X; I have Emailchemy, but wasn’t confident on how to implement it as I don’t know what went wrong last time)
– transfer to a new “storage” only, Gmail address
– methods I haven’t thought of / aren’t aware of

But by far the most important issues are reliability and clear directions for implementing the process.

Many thanks for any help.


It’s common for email quota limits to be reached not due the quantity of messages but due to the size of file attachments on relatively few messages. One strategy is to sort mail folders by size (enable the Size column if it’s not there already) and review the largest messages. Delete the entire message if you’ve downloaded the attachments and don’t need a record in email. If the message body contains information you want to keep (or you just want the message as a record of it being received), use a mail client that can remove attachments ( and Outlook for Mac can).

If you don’t routinely file Sent messages into other folders, make sure to include that folder in your review.

I wrote about this a while back in


Thanks. I hit two issues with that approach
a) the 50 emails with the largest attachments are about 1.5 GB
– that is 10% of Gmail limit
going thru those and deciding which letters are or are not important is relatively time-consuming
b) my preferred approach is to archive by time block and then I don’t have to worry about content at all.
Also my recent experience with software that works on other mail platforms but may not on Gmail makes me reluctant to do deletion using another app. But that is obviously personal angst.

Thanks again.




I have some labels/folders/mailboxes in Gmail that – like yours – are purely archival, but I have most are ongoing, so I would like to do selection by date .

I know I can search by date and I could then put a distinct label on those found and and then use your approach, but I believe if I download in Mail, I will then lose the other labels.

Maybe I can create a new email address in Gmail and move the years I want to archive there – I believe there is a way to transfer without forwarding and generating a new date ;-)) – and I believe Gmail will preserve its own labels. Of course I could then just leave the emails in that unused Gmail address and that may be the simplest.

I keep hoping to find some software that does this safely and effectively. It seems to me it is an essential aspect of “backup” but I guess the market is much smaller.

thanks again.



Have a look at MailMate There is an online manual with a section on dealing with Gmail labels. I have played with it since Mailplane became threatened with extinction. It is capable of far more than I need, and my Gmail accounts still have enough space, so motivation to make the change is not currently that great for me as MailPlane still does what I need.



Wow. I just read the MailMate manual regarding Gmail. That is a very sophisticated description of the challenges of Gmail and its “labels”. It almost leads me to start thinking that the best way to archive Gmail contents isn’t download but simply start another Gmail box (used ONLY to archive NOT to receive or send) and move the messages. I recall there is such a process – need to go look it up again.

Thanks for getting me to MailMate – I was also a MailPlane devotee until they hit the wall – the basic app still works but I have moved on because it appears to me that minor bugs are appearing.

thanks again,