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To save mail from a webmail service you need to download it to your machine. Not all webmail services make saving email easy, so we improvise.

At my Yahoo email account box i have more than 3000 messages already read. I would like to keep some of them "forever". How could I transfer them to a safer place, like a pendrive? I know that some email accounts (Yahoo, gmail...) say they will keep them, but...things change, we all know that.

It's not just that things change, things break. Passwords get forgotten. Email accounts get lost.

Depending on exactly what you want to do I can think of two general approaches to save email for posterity. One, at least, will work with any email service. The other will depend on exactly what features the service provides.

POP3

My (strongly) preferred approach is to use a POP3 email client, like Outlook, Outlook Express, Thunderbird or any of a hundred or so others, and download your email to your PC. Once downloaded you can typically save individual messages however you like - my favorite approach is to create a special folder in the email program and copy things there.

"My (strongly) preferred approach is to use a POP3 email client ..."

One of the reasons I recommend it so strongly is that it's also my recommended approach to backing up your webmail, regardless of how long you plan to keep it. As I said above, stuff happens, and having all of your email saved on your PC (where you should also be backing it up along with all of your other important files) means that even if the webmail service goes away completely, you haven't lost your important messages.

Windows Live Hotmail now supports POP3, as does GMail. Yahoo, unfortunately, apparently only supports it in some countries. There are unofficial POP3 add-ons that may allow you to access Yahoo and other web mail services.

An alternative, of course, is to forward your important emails to a service, like perhaps GMail, that you can then download from.

Print to PDF

I think of this as more of an archival approach, but since almost every webmail service has some kind of function to print a message, you can use this function in conjunction with a PDF printer to create PDFs on your PC of specific emails that you want to save.

If you don't have a PDF printer, I'm partial to the free PDF Creator. Download and install that and you'll find a new "printer" on your machine. Anything you print to that printer will be saved as a PDF.

Here's your question, which I get by email, saved as a PDF, and displayed in Foxit Reader:

Email saved as PDF

PDFs have become fairly universal, and as I said above, you can save just about anything you can print: email - plain or HTML - web pages, documents and more.

The downside is that once printed it's no longer email, so you can't easily use it again to, say, forward or reply. If that's your real intent then I'll refer you back to my first suggestion of downloading into an email client.

You can still print to PDF from there for archival, if you like.

Article C3724 - May 7, 2009 « »

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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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15 Comments
Gene Thomas
May 7, 2009 8:34 AM

I use gmail exclusively. All email from my main Comcast account (the one I gave to get access to this comment section) is automatically forwarded to my gmail account, which has really great spam filters. But I have a second comcast account which is used only for the purpose of saving important email. I simply forward it to myself at that account.

Jim
May 8, 2009 5:29 AM

Based on your recommendation above I installed PDF Creator. Sounded interesting. But, when I installed the software I was asked if I wanted to install Yahoo toolbar to my Firefox. I said no and unchecked no. I know to read the install options. Well, a Yahoo toolbar was installed anyway. I seem to recall you wrote on a subject similar to this recently-and not as an advocate. I uninstalled the whole mess this morning after installing it last night. Thought you'd want to know before recommending it again.

I just double checked, and while PDFCreator does offer the Yahoo toolbar, following the instructions to turn it off (which required unchecking an option on two sequential pages in the install wizard) did work, and no toolbar was installed. I agree that this approach is annoying (as I mentioned in Why do I suddenly have another toolbar in my browser?).
- Leo
08-May-2009

duane
May 12, 2009 11:20 AM

AOL Mail also has an option to save at AOL or on your own machine.

Simon B
May 12, 2009 11:40 AM

Just a warning about the latest version of PDF creator 0.9.8. It's picked up a bad press in the forums because it compulsorily installs various other bits of s/w, added toolbars etc.
Maybe the earlier version 0.9.7 from Feb 2009 is OK, but I think I'll pass on this one, though I like the idea.

As I noted in this article recommending PDFCreator - simply pay attention to your choices as you install, and you can avoid the additional software.
- Leo
13-May-2009

E J Lee
May 12, 2009 1:24 PM

I use Outlook Express and I keep E Mails in designated folders, just as you suggest.
This works fine.

Except........

When the Outlook Express file storage gets to around Two Gigabytes (mine was at 2.5 GB when it failed) the OE function goes belly up. The error report is 0x800C0133 and Microsoft's web site recognizes the problem. I have been on the MSFT desktop share with one of their technicians to no avail.

I have now created an extra Identity and I have split the OE files between two Identities.

What do you think ???

I think that I hear about enough problems with Outlook Express that I would use a different program. I'm happy with Thunderbird.
- Leo
13-May-2009

umair
May 13, 2009 1:02 AM

PDFCreator didn't install any toolbars on my system. I simply followed the instructions.

Though I was wondering that this option should have been built-in like the XPS printer. And like it is for MS Office / OpenOffice

Terry Hollett
May 13, 2009 3:26 AM

At one time you could sign up with Yahoo and receive occassional offers from them and keep receiving the POP service. I did and been doing it for years.

Otherwise you could search the web for 'webmail' extensions from Thunderbird.

I currently use the Seamonkey email program (and have used Thunderbird - very similar), anyway once the emails are downloaded, I right-click on each I want to save and save it as a HTML file.

Then using Nero INCD, which allows to you to set up a CDRW (rewritable) as a mini hard-drive. I copy all my saved emails (and other documents) to a CDRW. When the CDRW gets full I copy everything from the CDRW to a CDR, format the CDRW and start over again.

I've been doing this for years with my documents, downloaded programs,pictures and whatever else I've wanted to save.

http://www.geocities.com/terryhollett2003/

Michael Bates
May 13, 2009 12:47 PM

It's all very well to talk about saving each e-mail via some program or another, but what your correspondent needs (and so do I) is a way to copy 3000 e-mails that already exist in Yahoo to the home computer with one click. Opening and forwarding every e-mail, even just the important ones, is not an option.

Those who don't want to use PDFCreator can use CutePDF or PrimePDF, or some other one--aren't they all about the same? CutePDF always works for me.

Michael

Then using a free service like Yahoo was a bad choice wasn't it? Move to a service that lets you actually download your email with a POP3 client.
- Leo
14-May-2009
Sandy Smith
May 13, 2009 6:37 PM

I pay $20 yearly for Yahoo Plus which I put through Outlook. I didn't go with Gmail which does have IMAP capability (making things easier if you are syncing email on multiple computers/devices) because I liked the idea of getting the mail I wanted to save OFF the server.. Is that why you listed POP3 and not IMAP? because you don't want it to remain on the server? IMAP can also be slower than POP3 - maybe that was why...

Tim Latto
May 13, 2009 9:46 PM

In Yahoo email, you can right click the body of the email, in the box click "This Frame" > "Save This Frame As" and direct it to a folder I created in My Documents. Works pretty well in Yahoo mail anyway.

INXS
May 29, 2010 12:50 PM

thnx man.one question that comes to me is when i send a mail through an email client it gets save in the "sent items" of the email [link removed] there anyway in which i can also save the same mail on the server too eg: yahoomail.so that i can also access the sent items by browsing my yahoo account,incase if my hard disk crashes.wud be grateful for this solution.thnx in adv.

I'm actually not aware of a way to do that, other than to remember to CC yourself on every email you send.
Leo
02-Jun-2010

Barbara Jean Peters
June 17, 2010 1:48 PM

I use a library computer for my PC--slightly communal. Is that why I lose each Yahoo email when I read it once?

As long as you log out of your Yahoo account when you're done, and make sure that no one else steals your password, no - it doesn't have to be as you describe.
Leo
19-Jun-2010

Roger
January 31, 2011 2:45 PM

From my in box Yahoo Email List,

I highligthed the headings To, Subject and Sent Date

Use the "Copy" the headings i HL,

Place cursor on the Subject heading and

Right Click "Save Taget as " ....

Past the Title I coped.. To, Subject and Date
as file name removing the comma slash and periods

Saves in orginal HTML format to PC folder...

Deena
August 4, 2011 12:24 PM

I've prepared, sent and have tried to save several emails from my deenalouise@ YAHOO account but my emails aren't saving why? I've used several different library computers.

Thanks
Deena

Charlotte
October 7, 2012 8:26 PM

There is a free website called emailexporter.com. you can chose up to 25 emails at a time and save them as a single pdf file (you can print them if you would like). you don't have to download anything and its free!

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