Download and Save Emails to USB Drive?

Dennis Faas's picture

Infopackets Reader 'ltb223' writes:

" Dear Dennis,

Is it possible to download all my email messages from my computer to a CD or a thumb drive so I can read them later? If so how do I go about it? My email account is with gmail. Thank you. "

My response:

There are a number of ways to go about downloading and archiving email messages (whether it's gmail, hotmail, aol, or yahoo); in general, there are two main ways to achieve this: you can either export emails via web interface if your email service supports it, or export emails using an email client if you use pop3 or imap to connect and read your emails.

Option #1: Export Emails using Web Interface

If you access gmail using your browser, you can export your messages through gmail's web interface. If you go this route, the exported messages will be clumped together in one great big .mbox file (which is a standard email format). Technically you can use Notepad to view the .mbox file, but the emails won't be sorted or easy to read. As such, I recommend using a third-party program to read the .mbox file, or import the .mbox file into an email client that supports the .mbox format and read it that way.

To export your gmail messages via the web browser into .mbox format, do the following:

a. Log in to gmail and click on your account icon, located the top right hand corner of the screen.

b. Once the account icon is clicked, you will be presented with a menu; select the 'Account' link.

c. On the following page, scroll down to the 'Account tools' heading, then click the 'Download data' link.

d. A new window page will open and you will be presented with the option to download an archive of your emails and other Google services into a .zip file. De-select all options, then select only the option for gmail emails.

e. Click the option to have Google process the messages and email you a link when it's ready.

f. When the archive is ready, Google will send you an email. Login to your gmail and download the .zip archive, then extract the .zip into .mbox format.

g. Once the .mbox file is extracted, you will need to either use a third party program to read the .mbox file or import the .mbox file into an email client. Mbox viewer is a simple freeware program that can read .mbox files natively. If you use Mozilla Thunderbird, you can import the .mbox file using an addon called ImportExportTools.

Option #2: Export Emails using Email Client

If you use an email client to read your gmails (or hotmail, or yahoo for that matter), there is usually be an option to export the emails into another format for archiving purposes, or re-importing into another program. If the export feature isn't viable, you may be able to download a third-party addon to export your emails.

For example, if you use Thunderbird to read your gmails instead of logging into the web client interface, you can use the ImportExportTools addon to export your email folders (which contain your gmail emails) into single files, whether it's .eml, .html, plain text, or .csv format.

Additional Support: From Dennis

If all of this is too technical for you and you need additional support getting the job done, I am able to assist you over remote desktop support. Simply contact me using the contact form and we'll set up a time to meet and discuss your options.

Got a Computer Question or Problem? Ask Dennis!

I need more computer questions. If you have a computer question -- or even a computer problem that needs fixing -- please email me with your question so that I can write more articles like this one. I can't promise I'll respond to all the messages I receive (depending on the volume), but I'll do my best.

About the author: Dennis Faas is the owner and operator of With over 30 years of computing experience, Dennis' areas of expertise are a broad range and include PC hardware, Microsoft Windows, Linux, network administration, and virtualization. Dennis holds a Bachelors degree in Computer Science (1999) and has authored 6 books on the topics of MS Windows and PC Security. If you like the advice you received on this page, please up-vote / Like this page and share it with friends. For technical support inquiries, Dennis can be reached via Live chat online this site using the Zopim Chat service (currently located at the bottom left of the screen); optionally, you can contact Dennis through the website contact form.

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hartofohio's picture

Anxious to try this.