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Thread: Thunderbird to back up Gmail

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  1. #1
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    Thunderbird to back up Gmail

    I want to use Thunderbird to download my Gmail messages as an offline backup. I generally followed the directions at http://www.webupd8.org/2011/03/how-t...underbird.html, although some of the steps were slightly different due to the age of the post.

    But everything seemed to work. I started Thunderbird on my laptop and logged on to the email account I'd created. Thunderbird proceeded to download about 500 messages. Every time I quit and restarted Thunderbird, it would download about 500 additional messages. They were still in my Gmail. So far so good.

    When I got home, I set up Thunderbird on my desktop (so I'd have 2 backups). I assumed that it would start downloading messages from the very beginning since Thunderbird on my desktop had no idea what my laptop had been doing. However, it didn't work that way.

    It seems that my desktop started downloading messages where my laptop had left off. Apparently, the Gmail server is keeping track of my Thunderbird activity. This is a problem because I seek a single backup of all the messages in one place.

    After some study, I discovered that the messages are stored in ~/.thunderbird/hreipadj.default/Mail/pop.googlemail.com/Inbox. Inbox is an actual file (not a folder) with the messages!

    Other files in the pop.googlemail.com folder are Inbox.msf, Trash, Trash.msf, msgFilterRules.dat, and popstate.dat.

    Is there a way for me to reset Thunderbird and/or the Gmail server and start over? Now that I know how it behaves, I can just download on one computer until it finishes. Alternatively, is there an easy way (or even a hard way) to merge the two Thunderbird inbox files, so that I will have a backup with all my Gmail messages together?

  2. #2
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    Re: Thunderbird to back up Gmail

    It sounds like you're using POP. You should switch to IMAP.
    24 beers in a case, 24 hours in a day. Coincidence? I think not!

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  3. #3
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    Re: Thunderbird to back up Gmail

    Thanks for the quick reply but I need more detail than that. It's uber-critical that the messages remain on the Gmail server. I'm not just going to start changing things around willy nilly following suggestions offered without any explanation.

  4. #4
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    Re: Thunderbird to back up Gmail

    Calm down....

    IMAP is not going to run away with your computer. IMAP simply allows you to view and manage email that is on the server. It is much more capable than POP. POP is rather ignorant of messages on the server and that is why it much use "message ID #'s" to remember where it left off.

    The Thunderbird client has settings that allow you do decide when messages get deleted from the server and when the body of the message get downloaded. YOU decide how that works.

    You just have to enable IMAP from the Gmail settings (in the same screen that you used to enable POP).

    Enjoy...

    P.S. I just switched my linux desktop from POP to IMAP for Gmail just yesterday.
    Last edited by Slim Odds; March 20th, 2013 at 12:33 AM. Reason: more info
    24 beers in a case, 24 hours in a day. Coincidence? I think not!

    Trusty Tahr 64 bit, AMD Phenom II 955 Quad Core 3.2GHz, GeForce 9600 GT
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  5. #5
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    Re: Thunderbird to back up Gmail

    OK, OK. I'm calm. But I researched this issue of using Thunderbird to back up Gmail, and I came across multiple instances of people who accidentally lost all their Gmail messages and couldn't get them back. I really can't afford for that to happen to me. I will study IMAP vs POP some more. Right now, they're little more than two acronyms (that I don't even know what they stand for).

    Thank you for your suggestion.
    Last edited by parminides; March 20th, 2013 at 12:38 AM. Reason: grammatical error

  6. #6
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    Re: Thunderbird to back up Gmail

    I am not sure if this will help, but I set Gmail so any messages received are also forwarded to my Thunderbird account. It is in Gmail Settings/(Forwarding and POP/IMAP). This will not back up your Gmail archive but will work for future mail coming to Gmail. You could probably set up a folder in Thunderbird that receives all Gmail emails and only Gmail emals
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  7. #7
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    Re: Thunderbird to back up Gmail

    For "Archive" sync, check under Account settings > Copies & folders > Message archives >

    make sure that Keep message archives in... is checked. This works for my Gmail/Thunderbird on 12.10.

  8. #8
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    Re: Thunderbird to back up Gmail

    I think that what is causing the confusion is that the link described calls for creating a forwarding account for gmail. That would be the POP. It would allow for any gmail(which is IMAP) to also be forwarded to the created Thunderbird POP account.

    If you allow Thundrbird to download gmail as an IMAP account, you would have mail physically on your computer. All that is required is to set up the gmail account as an IMAP in Thunderbird and set it to keep all mail. In Thunderbird settings for account settings, under synchronization and storage, be sure "don't delete any messages" is checked. So it would not matter from which computer you used, both the desktop and laptop would download the same messages.

  9. #9
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    Re: Thunderbird to back up Gmail

    I also use thunderbird and POP3 to backup my email. Gmail remembers which emails have been downloaded via pop3 so that they will not be downloaded again. Here is how to reset this and start over, making all the email downloadable again.

    Go to your GMail settings
    Choose "Forwarding and POP/IMAP".
    In the "POP Download" section, under "1. Status", select the radio button labelled "Enable POP for all mail (even mail that's already been downloaded)"

    If you don't want your email deleted from GMail after download, make sure that the "2. When messages are accessed with POP" is set to "Keep Mail's copy in the inbox"

  10. #10
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    Re: Thunderbird to back up Gmail

    Thanks for all the replies. Sorry about my initial grumpiness, but I can't afford to lose all my messages on Gmail.

    Quote Originally Posted by gifford View Post
    If you allow Thundrbird to download gmail as an IMAP account, you would have mail physically on your computer.
    The email is physically on my computer now with the POP account. All the messages are in a huge file called ~/.thunderbird/hreipadj.default/Mail/pop.googlemail.com/Inbox. I know they're there because I opened it in a text editor and looked.

    Quote Originally Posted by cross37 View Post
    I also use thunderbird and POP3 to backup my email. Gmail remembers which emails have been downloaded via pop3 so that they will not be downloaded again. Here is how to reset this and start over, making all the email downloadable again.

    [instructions omitted]
    This trick worked for me and more or less fixes my original problem. However, it would be nice if I could have complete but independent backups on my laptop and desktop. I will experiment with IMAP, which is what almost everyone recommends. So I won't mark the thread solved yet.

    Can I create separate IMAP and POP accounts in Thunderbird for the same Gmail account?

    Thanks for all the help. As far as I know I haven't lost any messages yet.

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