GMail archiving is more important now that Google is removing "free" photo uploads

Now that Google has announced that it will count all photos uploaded after Jun 2021 within the standard 15Gb storage limit of free accounts, it is more important to review what data you need online if you are going to remain free. 

Many people unconsciously use GMail as a defacto document storage system: "Email me that invoice"; "Email me that picture of the damage" etc etc.

These attachments use up online storage. As they get older, they need to be access less and less - probably never - but who wants to spend time evaluating each email from the past each year to check if they still need to be retained.

I have tried a number of approaches to backing up mail via the IMAP interface of programs such as MacMail and Outlook, but the "copy" and "move"  operations on both these systems "choke" and fail when I try to backup the thousands of emails with attachments in year of emails.

The system that I have found works reliably uses Gmail Labels and Google TakeOut:

GMail Labelling

  • Open Gmail and select "All Mail", then find all mail before a certain date (I do this year by year leaving the past 5 years online) using a search term such as "before:2016/01/01" to select all main from 2015 and before.

Google Misleading Messages may lose your emails......

  • Click the selection box to select emails that satisfy the search criteria
  • Click "Select all message that match this search"
  • This is unlikely to select all the messages !!!!!
  • Keep clicking the > sign until it goes grey (indicating that you have got to then end of the emails selected).
  • Then click "Select all message that match this search" to get all the messages
  • Click "Labels" and label all the selected emails e.e. "Before2016"

  • you now have a label that can reliably select all emails that that you found.

  • Google TakeOut - Download all labelled emails.

    • Toggle the selection to Deselect all, then scroll down to select only GMail

    • Click "All Mail data Included" to see the list of available labels.  Select ONLY the label placed on the emails that you want to archive, accept the defaults and click "Create Export"


    • After a while (depending on the size of your archive and how busy Google is !), you will get an email.  Click "Download your files".

    • After they download, uncompress them and you will see a folder:
    • You can browse your emails directly from this folder whenever you like.
    • Most people would like to have the emails collected into an email program on their computer (like Outlook or MacMail) for easier searching.
    • On a mac computer, Open MacMail and File..... Import Mailboxes

    • the Mac will import the mail in "mbox" format.

    • The archive will appear in MacMail

    • After checking that all the mail has been copied into your Archive, you can choose to delete the Google download, or you could put it on an external drive for safe keeping.
    • If you delete the google download, you should make sure that your computer is being backed up (e.g. Apple TimeMachine)

      GMail - Deleting the Archived emails

      • Now that you know your emails have made it to the archive, return to Gmail, select the label, select all emails, and click "Delete"
      • Confirm bulk action

      • And they are gone.

      • Your google storage will be adjusted after a month !!
      • To recover your storage immediately, go the GMail bin and click "Empty Bin Now"

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