Back Up Your Inbox Today to Avoid Losing E-Mail Tomorrow

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Q: I saw that 150,000 Gmail users lost all of their messages and settings recently. I have thousands of important e-mails archived in my inbox. How can I avoid a similar problem?

GmailLogoSmall-Post.pngA: Over the weekend, 150,000 people signed in to their Gmail accounts to find that they had been wiped clean. No e-mails, no themes, no folders, no labels--all of the personalized settings gone. Erased. "I have lost ALL of my emails/folders etc. from fmail. Why would this happen? How can I restore everything," user bkishan wrote on a Gmail help forum. "I was on my eMail normal and when I refreshed all my account settings, eMail, labels, contracts etc has just disappeared. I was running at 80% capacity is that anything to do with it? Is there a way that one can restore all of that?" asked another, according to the Huffington Post, which was on this story quickly and has since updated with more horror stories and Google's response.

150,000 people. That's a lot of people, a lot of accounts and a lot of lost e-mail. But Gmail is a wildly popular service and 150,000 accounts represents less than 0.08 percent of the entire user base. While Google "believes it can recover the missing e-mails," according to the Atlantic Wire, now is the time to consider backing up your data before something similar happens to you.

You have a few basic options when backing up your Gmail. Do you want to store your messages on another e-mail client or do you want to keep a local copy on your personal harddrive?

The simplest option is to open a second account on another (free) e-mail service and set up your first account so that a copy of all incoming messages are forwarded to the new address. Similarly convenient is the pay-for-protection route. It can get costly depending on how much storage you need, but paying for a service like BackupMyMail will allow you to sleep soundly knowing that your messages will be waiting for you in the morning.

If you'd prefer to keep a copy of your inbox on your harddrive or have searchable messages, consider using a desktop IMAP e-mail client like Mozilla's (free) Thunderbird or Microsoft Outlook. Fetchmail is another popular (free) Unix-based service that, with a few lines of code, will back up your Gmail every night. Lifehacker's Gina Trapani wrote a step-by-step guide to implementing Fetchmail back in 2007 that is more relevant today than ever before.

Tools mentioned in this entry:

More questions? View the complete Toolkit archive.

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Nicholas Jackson is a former associate editor at The Atlantic.

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