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Backing up your Google data with Google Takeout

You can make a backup of any or all of your Google data – including your Google Drive – for safekeeping. This helps if you:

  • Accidentally delete or modify important documents or files stored in Google Drive
  • Need to back up an entire Gmail inbox
  • Want to protect your Google data from a catastrophic Google failure (extremely unlikely, but paranoia is encouraged)

A few things to note:

  • Google documents are converted to corresponding Microsoft formats (e.g., Google Docs become Word documents, Google Sheets become Excel documents, etc.)
  • The backup can take up a great deal of space when it is downloaded..
  • Restoring an email account from a backup is complicated and does not always work well with large inboxes. It is generally unnecessary (you can archive messages instead of deleting them).

How to backup your Google data

Google provides a service called Google Takeout that allows you to download a backup of all of your Google data, from Google Docs to YouTube. You can choose which items to back up.

How to backup Gmail, Google Calendar and Google Drive:

  1. Log into your Google (Gmail) account.
  2. Go to Google Takeout. This will take you to the Download Your Data page.
  3. Under “Select Data to Include” you can choose what kinds of Google data to include.
    • You can leave the defaults and download all of your Google data. Just click Next at the bottom of the page.
    • Or, you can select only certain Google products to backup. In order to backup your Gmail, Google Calendar and Google Drive, at a minimum you should:
      • First, click “Select None” at the top of the list of Google products
      • Then, click the grey “X” on the slider bar beside each of the following items. Selected items will then show a green checkmark on the slider bar:
        • Calendar
        • Contacts
        • Drive
          • You can customize the file formats your files will be converted to by clicking Multiple File Formats
          • You can customize which folders you download by clicking All Drive Data and unchecking the checkbox for Include all Files and Folders in Drive.
            • Click the Deselect All link if you only want to choose a few folders.
      • Then click Next Step at the bottom of the page.
  4. This takes you to the “Customize archive format” section. The recommended settings are:
    • File type: .zip
    • Archive size (max):
      • 10 GB if you are downloading from a wired connection on the campus network
      • 2GB if you are downloading from home or from a wireless connection on or off campus
    • Delivery method: Send download link via email
  5. Frequency (manual or automatic):
    1. Export Once starts the backup creation immediately (it will take a while)
    2. You can also schedule an automatic export once every 2 months for 1 year
    3. Once you’ve chosen these settings, click “Create Export”
  6. This takes you to the “Almost there” page. You do not have to do anything further.

Google will now prepare a backup (export) of your data. This will take a while, generally several hours. Very large backups may take more than a day.

Downloading your backup (archive)

When your backup is complete, Google will send you an email.

  1. It will be from “Google Download Your Data” with subject line “Your Google data archive is ready”. You should read the email.
  2. You will see one or more blue buttons that say “Download your archive”. If your backup is very large, your archive will be split into two or more downloads.
  3. Click each blue download button.
  4. Your downloads will be in your Downloads folder.
  5. Once the downloads are complete, you can move them to another folder or to an external hard drive.
  6. You’re done!

Sometimes spammers imitate Google emails and will try to trick you into downloading things. To protect yourself:

  •  You must be sure that you deliberately started the backup yourself on the date in the email.
  • You should also check the products you are backing up and verify that these are the products you chose to backup. If you chose to backup everything, you’ll see every Google product listed.
  • If the date or products don’t match what you remember doing, then do not click the download links.
  • If you don’t remember starting a Google backup yourself, then do not click the download links.

Restoring  from your backup

Google Drive

  1. Open the .zip file you downloaded.
  2. It will extract into a folder called Takeout.
  3. Open the Takeout folder. You will see your Drive documents in Microsoft formats.

If you have more than one archive, then you may need to look in all of them to find the documents you are looking for.

Google Calendar

  1. Open the .zip file you downloaded.
  2. It will extract into a folder called Takeout.
  3. Open the Takeout folder. You will see a Calendar folder. Inside the Calendar folder are .ics files for each of your calendars.
  4. Log into the Google account that you want to restore the calendar files to and go to Google Calendar.
  5. On the left-hand side, open the drop-down beside Other Calendars and choose Import Calendar
  6. From the Choose File… dialog, navigate to the location of the .ics files and choose one.
  7. Click Import.

If you have more than one archive, then you may need to look in all of them to find the documents you are looking for.


Restoring a Gmail inbox is complicated.

Essentially, you use Mozilla Thunderbird as an IMAP client for both the source and destination mailboxes, add the ImportExportTools add-on, import the .mbox from the archive into Thunderbird, and copy the emails to the destination mailbox.

There are instructions at this external site. You can also search for YouTube videos that will walk you through the process.

More Options

Click here for Google’s detailed instructions that cover all Google Takeout options.