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Gmail accidentally resetting accounts (engadget.com)
143 points by there on Feb 27, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 66 comments

Regardless of how many users affected, it's time to reclaim your emails. Have heard horror stories of users locked out and not able to restore just because they don't remember when they created the account or some facts like that.

Good time to download all my emails complete with attachments into a Outlook .pst file. Would just take 4-5 hours for my 2GB of emails. I would never want 99% of my emails but that does not make a strong point not to backup. Any one else know a better way? Backupify is one good option but they're also a cloud provider susceptible to go down any time.

Any POP3 client will backup your Gmail account.

I just use Mail.app. My Gmail account is not only backed up but also indexed in Spotlight and always available for off-line access. You just need to remember to start up your mail client every once and a while.

I setup a script on my Ubuntu box to backup my gmail account daily with mbsync. See http://www.chrisstreeter.com/archive/2009/04/305/gmail-imap-... It uses IMAP and stores the downloaded mail in mbox format that you can view with mutt or pine. Every so often I archive the entire backup and backup that archive so I have a snapshot of the mail.

Doesn't mail.app make it difficult for you to export your mails to non-mail.app email clients? Wouldn't Thunderbird or Evolution be better?

No, Mail.app imports and exports standard mbox format.

I didn't know that. I presumed wrongly that Mail.app wouldn't allow me to re-export my stored mail. Now I have the dilemma of choosing to go back to Mail.app (which I really liked) and lose my Thunderbird customization, or stick to Thunderbird :-)

So Thunderbird doesn't import/export in a standard format?

Not really. If google somehow loses your mail, it's not like you'd switch to using mail.app. You'd use it to upload your mail back to google or another provider.

Mail.app quite easily saves messages (or groups of messages) as standard mbox files. Select the messages you wish to export, go to "File -> Save As..." and select "Raw Message Source" as your desired format.

If you're just looking to move messages to another server though, it's almost certainly easier to add a different mail server and drag/drop your messages to the new server.

Even easier if you want the whole thing, just right click on a mailbox and select "Archive mailbox...". It will save a copy in the mbox format in the location you choose.

Hotmail now has a limit of 25GB. Setting up an email forward to a hotmail account is an easy solution.

Do not do this.

I mirrored my Google Apps email account by setting up a rule to forward to my Microsoft-hosted Outlook.com account. It uses the same spam filtering system as Hotmail. A serious problem happened when perhaps 10 spam messages over a few days made it through gmails spam filter into my inbox, and on to my Outlook.com account.

Sadly when my gmail inbox started filling up with bounce messages from the MSN Postmaster, I realised that Outlook.com blocked my gmail account for spam abuse - SYSTEM WIDE. I was completely unable to send ANY mail to ANY Hotmail or similar Microsoft-hosted email service.

Dealing with the MSN Postmaster team was very frustrating. They told me to go to complain to gmail instead.

TL;DR: Don't forward all your email to Hotmail because their spam filter is so crazy, they'll eventually block your email address from mailing into Hotmail hosted servers again.

I back up my gmail by forwarding it to a comcast email address, which i then forward all that mail to a yahoo email address(double in cloud back ups). Unfortunately, my chat history is not being backed up, but my emails and all my SMSs(google voice) are.

I've been really looking for good alternatives to Google Apps recently - ideally, self-hosted with backup (highly encrypted) to S3 or such. I'd use my server for this, but I've yet to find an email interface which even approaches Hotmail, let alone Gmail. I've been considering doing a clone of part of the gmail interface, but need time to read up on making sure email is less likely to go to spam.

Since I've moved my email to my mobile device, I've switched back to using regular IMAP on my computers.

Google refuses to release optimized versions of Talk or Gmail for iOS, I suppose so Android can have exclusivity, but it seems like an insane strategy. The Google app for iOS is Webkit garbage.

Now I use Lavabit for email. Their web interface is garbage but their security and support are top notch, and they will host mail for third party domains if you ask them to.

I think the lack of a gmail app is due to apple not letting them release one since it duplicates the functionality of apples mail.

If you want to do e-mail syncing on most mobile devices, NuevaSync[1] provides an ActiveSync interface for any IMAP-capable e-mail account. I'm using them to do calendar sync to a device that doesn't do iCal and the service has performed quite well. Nueva even offers device wipe as an included feature.

1 - http://nuevasync.com/ .. I have no affiliation other than being a customer at $15/year.

I use them too. Been a customer with them for something like 5-6 years, never had a single issue. Absolutely flawless service.

Google offers push email for iOS that works really well, did you ever try that? It also supports contacts and calendar, which is pretty slick.

Some time ago I wrote a commandline tool that made a back-up of all the Gmail mails including labels, but using links instead of copies, in a Maildir format that's compatible with any IMAPd.

I use it to have a running "clone" of Gmail on my own server, alway accessible in case Gmail goes down and I need an important mail. The sparseness of the links means each mail is saved only once, regardless of how many labels you attach to it.

If anyone's interested: https://github.com/relix/gmailcc

I have Thunderbird set to download my inbox for offline usage and I periodically delete all mails from my account and store encrypted archives in safe offline locations. Sometimes I will email important mails back to my gmail in encrypted format so I can still access them from the outside wherever I have gpg.

I think with things like the HBGary hack this is only becoming more and more vital, and it's really not that hard to handle since Thunderbird already saves all my mail locally. You just move it from the IMAP folder to a local folder, export that local folder (there's a great TB extension called ImportExport that gives you lots of options here), encrypt it and upload it to multiple backup sites.

What would have happened if HBGary had a policy like this? A lot of embarrassment would have been saved, even if not all of it (much more would have been saved by sending mails encrypted in the first place).

That saved chats folder in Gmail doesn't seem to be available to IMAP clients. Anyone know a way back up chats?

It would be easier to keep a backup if you could delete attachments (but not the messages) from your old emails. Feel free to suggest it here: http://mail.google.com/support/bin/static.py?page=suggestion...

Opera has a built in mail client, I just browse with opera on occasion and mails are downloaded in the background.

no worries. you couldn't delete those emails if you tried. no, seriously: http://www.law.com/jsp/tal/PubArticleTAL.jsp?id=120243445084...

the paid Google apps has an awesome feature that lets you configure it such that all outgoing mail is sent through a relay of your choice and that all incoming email should only be accepted by specific relays.

I'm using this to my advantage in that I'm keeping every mail ever sent to or from our Google apps accounts.

even better: the messages are kept in maildir format that's ready to be served over IMAP if Google really screws up.

Being able to do this configuration was the condition for me to even consider Google apps for serious purpose.

Can you explain more about your setup? I didn't know about this and it sounds very interesting (I was considering using Backupify)

I've written a blog post about it. Here's the submission: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2272343

I can write a blog post about this. You will not like the solution though as my relay is running Exim, which isn't as popular these days, but the configuration syntax is actually readable (as opposed to sendmail) and it's very feature-rich (which is what I needed here)

If you don't want to go to the trouble of 3rd parties (all probably excellent) or running your own imap server and synchronizing to it with larch (probably excellent) or other synch solutions,

If you use Thunderbird then you have a low barrier to entry and low cognitive load solution.

[Tools|Edit]Account Settings, then click Synchronization and Storage for you gmail account (or any other account),

then check Keep messages and click on Advanced. Then check the folders that you want to synch. The most sensible one for gmail is [Gmail]/All Mail.

Now Tbird will make a copy of all your messages in All Mail.

Caveat: I have found that the copy isn't made until you click on the All Mail folder in your folder list. Tradeoff between getting something OK working in two minutes, and the time for whatever other solution.

Because of this I have just implemented an automated backup routine for all my Gmail accounts.

I used https://github.com/rgrove/larch and Dovecot (IMAP only as no delivery required). Was very easy to setup and seems to work well (still doing initial sync though).

I have 16GB data in GMail and a 2mbps connection, how do I backup?

[Added]: I also fear that pulling so much data from Gmail might flag my account or worst, disable it. I'd really appreciate some help/suggestions.

Get started and then sit back and wait.

If the connection is lost in-between, would the download resume from that point?

Yes, because it's not just one file but thousands of individual messages. If you start downloading by POP or IMAP it will bring down the individual messages, so if you get stuck in the middle it will resume (after some waiting time to figure out what's not transfered). It only takes a long time once and then should be hardly noticeable.

Google is OK with you doing that, they'll eventually throttle down your IMAP connection, but it'll keep going.

You could use Imapsync and a VPS somewhere running an IMAP daemon. Then it's easy to sync back out to another email host if you hit trouble with Gmail

Ouch. This goes against rule number 1 of software: don't lose your user's data. I'm sure they're smart enough that nothing's permanently lost, but even the perception that it could happen is bad enough to seriously tarnish their brand.

It didn't seem to hurt Reddit at all when Reddit lost my account data early in its existence. Similarly, MSN did that years ago when I was a charter member, but that snafu alone didn't seem seriously to hurt MSN's reputation. It's annoying to me to lose a username, and I don't give repeat business to services that trash my account data in a way that causes me to be unable to use my preferred username, but plenty of people sign up for online services based on the recommendation of a friend (or perhaps an advertisement) without doing exhaustive research on the company's record of technical competence.

The main thing is negative press. Google is already big enough that people don't need to look them up to hear about them. No news outlets really cared if you lost your very old Reddit username, but news outlets do care if it's Google losing your username because news about Google makes them money.

> rule number 1 of software: don't lose your user's data

That doesn't scale to the scope of Gmail. The appropriate precautions to preserve old medical records differ in kind from those appropriate for old shopping lists.

I'd like my Google account to have a "Backup URL" field, that I could set to <git:tux.example.org> or <venti:glenda.example.com>. Google would undertake to push all "my" data to that URL, to pull it back as needed to recover their systems, and to publish the format it was stored in. I'd be responsible for the rest.

Venti: http://plan9.bell-labs.com/sys/doc/venti/venti.html or http://plan9.bell-labs.com/sys/doc/venti/venti.pdf

You can have Gmail forward all your incoming mail (or even better, just the non-spam mail). Worst case you can then import that back into Gmail. I just have a copy kept on my computer and its various backups.

That works for my Gmail account. What about my HN posts? What if I don't have a reliable backup server of my own?

Web 2.0 needs to abstract backup the way web 1.0 abstracted get and put. Venti does exactly that, and git might work too.

Does an implementation of Venti exist?

I'd bet on git. It has the mind-share already.

Now, I can already run "webcheckout $url" and get a git repository for any of the websites I run, as well as all of the wikis and blogs of customers at my startup, Branchable.com.

That is implemented via a proto-RFC called the "rel=vcs microformat", which simply adds a little data to web pages to indicate where the underlaying data can be cloned from. <http://kitenet.net/~joey/rfc/rel-vcs/>;

Where exactly does the 500,000 number come from?

An update to the Google App Status page at 5:02 PM PDT says the issue affects less than 0.08% of Gmail users.

So if the original 500,000-user estimate was based on 0.29% affected, then we're now looking at approximately 137,000 users.


  Google says that the issue "affects less than .29%..."
I haven't looked for a source to the total number of Gmail accounts, but presumably engadget know/believe it to be around 170m.

172,413,793 gmail users in total? According to wikipedia there are 193.3 million users monthly (as of November 2010).

And this is why we run our own mail server.

Honestly if I attempt to run my own mail server, chances are that I am going to be in bigger trouble than if I just used Gmail.

But you won't see it on hacker news...

for the 0.000001% of time that gmail is down? your homebrew mail setup can beat that?

No, for the fact that the 99.99% (you heard it, four 9s!) of time that my mail server is up, I have full control (and responsibility) for my mail.

In that 0.000001% of the time (snicker), your email is 100% inaccessible.


For the casual user, temporarily losing all their emails while google recovers from backups is far, far better than permanently losing all of their emails when their hard drive crashes and they realize that they had forgotten to backup.

Is it just me or does Offline Mail break in Chrome on Windows 7 with Priority Inbox installed ?

For the life of me, I cannot get it working. I have had to resort to Firefox.

I had tried to backup my stuff before, but stopped and this article caused me to re-evaluate that stance.

Now I tried again and remembered why I didn't finish last time.

Thoughts ?

P.S. Sorry to hijack the thread, but it seemed appropros.

just enable pop or imap and use a traditional client?

I reverted to doing that.


Someone could make an app or script that backups your gmails to e.g. an online backup service like Backblaze.

Kindof off-topic, but - am I the only one that hates it if there's a link on the web that redirects to a country specific site and presents itself in a language that your browser doesn't ask for, the user doesn't want and that's only 'correct' if you're looking at a f..ing ip address?

I quit most Google services because of this single annoyance (they have seriously neat hebrew sites as well. If an application wants to use my Google account and I'm over there, I have to guess which button says yes and which says no)..

I apologize for the rant. This is just barely on topic here as the worst possible user experience and I hope services of YC people don't think that i18n/l10n isn't that easy.

Right on. I particularly hate sites like myspace and some blogging platforms that translate the window dressing (button labels, sidebar, etc.) to your local language based on IP address, with no regard to the language that the page's actual content is written in.

I ran into this the other day when routing through Slicehost VPS via a SOCKS proxy (I was on a hotel's unsecured WiFi). Google.com kept redirecting to google.com.hk and was all in Chinese. Nuts. Even more strange was that my IP was showing from St. Louis, which is pretty far from China.

google.com/ncr fixes your cookie so that it won't redirect anymore.

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