Quickie: Gmail Backups With Getmail

Audience: *nix users that want to backup their gmail

Today I have a real quick method of backing up your gmail email.

Call me paranoid, but no matter what it is, if it’s important to me I like to have more than one copy.

Gmail Setup

  • Log into gmail and go to “Settings”
  • Make sure “IMAP” is turned on

Your Setup

  • Install “getmail” (available for most flavors of linux, bsd and solaris)
  • in your home directory create a “.getmail” folder
  • in the “.getmail” folder create a file called getmailrc with the contents below
  • setup your crontab. I am using the following
  • enjoy the peace of mind that you can browse all of your gmail, even during the zombie apocolypse


type = SimpleIMAPSSLRetriever
server = imap.gmail.com
username = USERNAME@gmail.com
password = PASSWORD
port = 993
mailboxes = ('INBOX', '[Gmail]/All Mail')

type = Maildir
path = ~/Gmail/


0 3 * * * getmail --dont-delete -n

Getmailrc Explained

mailboxes = ('INBOX', '[Gmail]/All Mail') – the mailboxes listed must be a tuple so you need to have more than one mailbox defined (otherwise it defaults to your INBOX).  ‘INBOX’ is your inbox, ‘[Gmail]/All Mail’ is a virtual folder for every email in your gmail account

path = ~/Gmail/ – this sends your messages to a folder, other than ~/Mail/, so it doesn’t clutter up your regular system mail


Try getmail --verbose --dont-delete --all (probably within a screen) to download the initial batch of mail


Yep, there are probably plenty.  Right now it just dumps everything into one “folder”.  I don’t even know if there is a good way to sort these by folder (“label” in gmail-speak).  What do you think?


2010-01-21: Over at reddit.com someone recommended a post by Matt Cutts.  Thanks cpu_cyclist


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.