Taking your emails off Gmail

How to download all your emails from Gmail and read them somewhere else. And maybe a bit of why to do so…

Google reads your emails and sells your stuff to other companies – maybe. Who really knows? You can agree to their privacy policy, but do you really know in how many ways you as a Google user can be monetized? Maybe this sounds like a conspiracy theory, but that wasn’t my intention. The bottom line is that I don’t want to be that +1 to Google so Google can sell my data or do whatever it does all under pretense that it will be better ‘experience’ for me at the end. I am sure there are many other reasons people decide do leave Google.

Read some of the stories :

  • Kyle Piira blog
  • Chris Wiegman blog
  • Danny de Vries blog
  • and many more … just keep goducking (a try to coin a new word for searching with DuckDuckGo)

Whether you despise Google and want out or are interested in playing with .mbox files here is how to do it.

Goodbye Gmail

When you decide to leave Gmail, you will want to do something with all you messages. Let say you want to download them and use them offline. Google makes it easy for you to download your data using Google Takeout. Fololow the link and since you want only email messages, click on Deselect all and check Mail like on the picture below.

Scroll to the bottom and go through next couple of steps. At the end, you will get a message saying something like Google is working on it and you will get another message some time later with a download link for your data. I find their download page a bit confusing, but maybe that is just me. Download what is offered. Look for the .mbox file afterwards. If you used Gmail for several years it will be couple of GB big.

Next thing to do is find a way to read the emails from this .mbox file. I asked around a bit, goducked as well {guys on fosstodon [masstodon (like twitter but better) instance for foss geeks and other peculiar characters] were helpful} and decided to use Thunderbird portable to read my .mbox file with emails.

Hello Thunderbird

The idea is simple: install a mail client that can read .mbox file and then import/open the file into/with the client. Thunderbird portable* can do just so. You can download it here. If you want to use regular Thunderbird, you can. I have chosen portable version because I wanted to put everything (client and emails) on my USB drive and run it from there. The setup is pretty much the same for portable and regular app. After you installed Thunderbird, cheat your way through the new account setup in order get past setup dialogs and for local folders to appear in the main screen (look at the picture below) or follow the procedure as described here.

Depending on how you cheated so far, there should be some kind of account created and some other folders. Go to Options –> Account settings and delete all accounts. You should be left with local folders only. Check the Outgoing server if you like just in case some unwanted settings ended up there.

Next thing to do is importing .mbox file into Thunderbird. You can do it by moving your .mbox file to your Thunderbird local directory. Look at the picture above. There is the path to the directory. Put the .mbox file there,restart Thunderbird and give it some time to deal with the .mbox file. After it finishes there should be a new folder in Local Folders with all your emails in it. Rename it to something wild like My exGmail…

*there are probably many other email clients that can deal with mailbox file

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