Backing up Gmail Using Mail, Automator and iCal

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This guide provides an easy way to back up mail from your Gmail account by creating an account within Mail for easy searching, using Automator to create a workflow that will retrieve Mail, and using iCal to manage a timeframe to perform the Automator workflow.


Important Notes

Before beginning, note the following:

  • This method backs up all mail within your Gmail account (sent, received, archived), except Drafts.
  • This method does not organize your backed up mail the way Gmail stores it. This is because all labels and other information (such as whether the message is a sent message or a received message) are not transmitted over POP servers and remain tied to your Gmail settings.
  • This method assumes that you do not employ Mail as their primary e-mail client. For those that do, this method may or may not be functional for you, especially if you use Gmail via POP access.

Enabling POP Access within Gmail

  1. Login to your Gmail account
  2. Click "Settings" in the upper right hand corner
  3. Select the "Forwarding and POP" tab
  4. Click the radio button titled "Enable POP for all mail"
  5. For the "When messages are accessed with POP" option, select "Keep Gmail's copy in the inbox" *
  6. Click "Save Changes"

*This is important; otherwise when you download the mail via POP, it will remove them from your Gmail inbox.

Setting up an account in Mail

  1. Launch Mail
  2. Go to Mail > Preferences
  3. Click the "+" icon in the bottom left corner to create a new account
  4. Under "General Information", enter the following:
    Account Type: POP
    Account Description: Gmail backup
    Full Name: your name
    Email Address: your gmail address
  5. Click "Continue"
  6. Under "Incoming Mail Server", enter the following:
    Incoming Mail Server:
    Password: your Gmail account password
  7. Click "Continue". It will now verify what you have entered
  8. Under "Outgoing Mail Server", leave as default, as this is only for backing up purposes and you will not be sending messages from here. Click "Continue"
  9. Click "Continue" again at the summary page, and click "Done" at the next page
  10. Select the account you just created under the "Accounts" menu
  11. Select the "Advanced" tab and uncheck "Remove copy from server after retrieving a message"
  12. Close the Preferences window, making sure to save changes

Setting up an Automator workflow

  1. Launch Automator
  2. In the Applications list, select Mail
  3. Drag the "Get New Mail" action to the right.
  4. Change the action's "For" property to the backup account you just created
  5. Choose File > Save as Plug-in
  6. Enter any name you like and set "Plug-in for" to "iCal Alarm"
  7. Click "Save" and wait for iCal to launch, as it will perform the action immediately. To set up a schedule, see the next section.

Setting up an iCal Schedule

  1. Select the event created from Automator
  2. Find the "repeat" option in the Info area and select "Custom"
  3. Select the scheduling as you see fit
  4. Click "OK"

That's it! It should now perform the mail retrieval at the time frame you just established. To ensure the iCal alarm functions when iCal is closed:

  1. Open iCal
  2. Go to iCal > Preferences > Advanced
  3. Uncheck "Turn off alarms when iCal is not open"