Want to make sure you have a copy of all the messages in your Gmail account? Migrating to a different email service? Find out here how to download Gmail emails in bulk—by label or as one big archive.

First, When Penguins Sneeze

Watching a penguin for any length of time means watching a penguin sneeze. This is not surprising, of course, with penguins living mostly down south in the cold… and salty waters of the Antarctic.

When it dives, a penguin naturally ingests seawater aplenty. To keep that salty water from accumulating in the blood and wrecking cells, an organ that sits right behind the penguin’s eyes filters out what is too much.

Back on land, the penguin sneezes to get rid of the salty liquid.

Now, if sneezing is an efficient way to excrete stuff, how about making Gmail sneeze?

(When penguins do not sneeze, their beaks drip with the organ-filtered seawater, by the way.)

How to Download Gmail Emails in Bulk

To download a complete archive of your Gmail emails:

  1. Click your initials or avatar near Gmail’s top right corner.
  2. Select Google Account from the sheet that has appeared.
    • Shortcut: You can also open Google Account directly; do sign in to your Gmail account if prompted.
  3. Go to the Data & personalization category.
  4. Now select Download your data under Download, delete, or make a plan for your data.
  5. Click SELECT NONE under Select data to include.
  6. Now make sure Mail is enabled.
    • Tip: You can, of course, download other data from your Google account in addition to Gmail emails at the same time; select all the services to export.
  7. Typically, leave All mail selected to download all Gmail emails in bulk.
  8. Click NEXT.

Customize How to Download Your Gmail Emails

  1. Choose how you want the MBOX files to be compressed under File type.
    • Tip: Choose .zip for most needs; .tgz files work well for large archives using Linux or Unix.
  2. Select how big individual exported files can maximally be under Archive size (max).
    • Note: Gmail will split larger files into pieces that do not exceed the maximum size; such multiple files can be a nuisance, but a smaller archive size is the safer choice, especially if you export your Gmail emails to an online drive.
    • Tip: Choose 1, 2 or 4 GB.
  3. Pick how you want to download your Gmail emails under Delivery method.
    • Note: You can choose between adding the generated files to an online drive (such as Google Drive or OneDrive), from which you can then download them, and receiving a download link directly from Gmail. Keep in mind that email archives can be large and will count against the online drive’s storage quota.
    • Tip: Choose an online drive if you are creating a backup and Send download link via email otherwise. You will have 7 days to download the files via the emailed link.
  4. Click CREATE ARCHIVE.
    • Note: If you export your email data to an online drive, click LINK ACCOUNT AND CREATE ARCHIVE instead and authenticate Google to access your drive if prompted.

Access or Download the Gmail Email Archive

  1. Follow the Manage archives link in the email you have received if you chose Send download link via email.
    • Shortcut: Follow the Download archive link in the email to open the Manage archives page and have the download start automatically.
    • Tip: You can always open the downloads page directly and check for the status of your archive or download (again) as long as the Gmail email archive is available.
    • Hint: Do not wait on the Almost there… page after you have created the archive. Its status will not change even if your Gmail emails are already available for download.
  2. Click Download for the desired Mail archive or Open in ___ if you had Gmail export the archive to an online drive.

Download Specific Labels in Bulk

To create an archive and download Gmail emails of just one label (or a select number of labels) instead of all your messages:

  1. Open the Download your data page for your Gmail account.
  2. Make sure Mail is enabled.
  3. Select All mail.
  4. Now choose Select labels.
  5. Make sure the label or labels you want to download are checked under Select labels.
  6. Click OK.
  7. Now click NEXT and continue with customizing the download. (See above.)

How to Download Gmail Emails in Bulk: FAQ

In what format will Gmail export the emails?

Messages will be exported so you can download all Gmail emails in a single MBOX archive (possibly split into multiple, smaller files).

MBOX files contain the raw sources of messages in a plain text format easily imported into email programs and service or even deciphered in any text editor.

Can I keep my labels or folders after downloading Gmail emails?

If you choose All mail, all your emails (including those in the Trash and Spam labels) will be in the archive. While a field notes which labels were applied to each message in Gmail, you may lose that data if you import the messages into a different email program or service.

To preserve Gmail labels as folders, you can export labels individually, download the labels’ MBOX files individually, and import these into distinct folders.

Is there an alternative to exporting emails from Gmail as MBOX files?

Yes.

You can set up the Gmail account in an email program using POP3 or through IMAP to download messages in bulk.

If you use POP:

  • Make sure to disable POP access and re-enable Gmail POP3 access with Enable POP for all mail chosen.
  • Remember that downloading all mail can take days or weeks.

If you use IMAP:

(How to download Gmail emails in bulk tested in a desktop browser; updated January 2019)