Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.

The first step is to download the emails to your computer with an email program; then you can back them up any way you wish.

How do I copy the contents of my Hotmail and Gmail to a CD or DVD to keep for my reference?

In this excerpt from Answercast #39, I look at using an email program to download and store emails for backup.

How to save email

This is actually exactly the same answer as I have for backing up both of these accounts.

The best way to do this is to:

  • Invest in a PC email program (probably a free one like Thunderbird would do just great);

  • And configure it to access the email account you have online (be it Hotmail or Gmail or even Yahoo or others).

Connect to your email server

In a case like this, where you continue to use the service via its web interface, I actually recommend that if the service provides IMAP access (which allows the server to remain the center of your email universe), you use IMAP to connect to the server.

Download a copy to your computer

Once you set up the account in your desktop email program, let that program download all your email.

It will take awhile if you have a fair amount of email (and, of course, depending on your internet speed), but the bottom line is it will have copied all of your email down to your PC.

Your contact list

You may need to take an additional step to download or export your contact list – depending on what's provided by the email service.

  • But the email itself is easily downloaded using a desktop email program.

Backup the email data files

Once you have this on your PC (in the case of Thunderbird, for example), I would simply back up your entire profile folder.

You can if you like, locate the actual email messages within that folder and back up only the files that contain those messages, but I tend to like backing up the entire profile because that way, you can simply:

  • Copy the entire profile to a different machine;

  • Fire up a copy of Thunderbird on that machine;

  • And have it able to immediately access all of the email that you had downloaded.

So that's the basic solution.

Use a good email program to back up your email to your PC. Then you can do whatever you like with those files:

  • Write them to DVD;

  • Write them to an external hard disk;

  • Back them up somewhere else.

It's actually fairly straightforward.

Article C5633 - July 28, 2012 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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2 Comments
fredpickles
July 31, 2012 3:05 PM

I think you're going to have this person completely lost when it actually comes to burning it to CD or DVD which is what they asked originally. They probably just want to be able to look at old email messages that they don't want in their inbox anymore or that they can look at when not connected to the Internet? They didn't really specify but, they can burn their personal folder or just .pst file if using Outlook to a DVD. But if they want to view the emails they need to add the .pst file on the DVD in Outlook on the PC they are on.

Terry Hollett
August 1, 2012 12:31 PM

I use SeaMonkey, just like Thunderbird, and I like to right click on each email and save them as an HTML files. Then burn them of on CD/DVD or flash drive. Then I'm not dependent on any email program to read them only a web browser.

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