archiving email

You have a Goog account, but you’re running out of space. You have two options.

  1. Pay Google money, and they’ll give you more space.
  2. Get rid of shit.

Unfortunately, your email is your life. Kinda. Or, it is your life in that it is everything from critical documents to dumb shit you don’t know how to unsubscribe from. In this regard, we’re going to have to take a series of steps to clean and organize.

backup first

First, we’re going to back things up. Hopefully, you have space for this. In theory, you have space on your laptop for this exercise (probably 10-20GB), or you have an external drive with space for the cleanup operations. If you don’t, ask questions of someone who can help you out.

Assuming you’re on the computer where you normally check your email, log into Google Takeout.

making your selections

You’ll be presented with a pretty simple interface. It is a list of all Google services you can archive. We don’t want that (yet). First, we only want email. To do that, we’re going to click the button (it is almost impossible to tell it is a button) that says “deselect all.” It is near the top of the list.

Then, scroll down until you see Mail (roughly 3/4 of the way down the list), and select it.

Scroll the rest of the way to the bottom of the page, and click “next step.”

frequency and type

You’re now going to select “export once” (we don’t want regular/monthly exports), select .zip and 2GB files. (This is the default, so you should have to take no action.)

create export

Finally, click the button that says “create export.”



check your mail, download

You’ll get an email from Google sometime later. It will take you to a page where you can download one or more files. Those files will be all of your mail, including text and attachments. However, they will be bundled up into a sequence of zip files. Pull down each zip file in turn, and make sure that none of the downloads fail. You’ll probably want to set your laptop up somewhere, leave it plugged in, and just click “download” on each link in sequence, allowing each download to complete.


Once you have downloaded all of those zip files, we need a place to put them. For a start, you could move those files onto an external drive or USB stick, so they’re in two places – one copy on your laptop, and one on another storage medium. We don’t want to delete either of these (yet), because…


We’re going to move them to a remote server that, itself, is backed up in multiple locations… but that is the topic of another post. To get access to that archive server, we need some new digital accounts, which we needed a password manager for. Why? Because we want the password manager to keep track of those passwords for us. So, it is all of a piece. One step at a time…