How to Back Up Your Webmail AccountCourtney Macavinta
Gretchen Cawthon is a busy mom and Web designer who runs a website to empower girls called GirlsCantWhat. So it’s no surprise she relies on her computer and the Internet to keep her personal life and business flowing. In addition to her regular email account, she used Gmail since 2005 for personal and business use as well. But just because it’s free and easy to use, relying on webmail is not something she takes lightly when it comes to the risks.
“There is always a fear. What if you got locked out of your account or lose your email?” she says. “It's usually not a matter of the account being deleted by the service, but getting locked out. For example, if you get caught in phishing scams they could take that and change your password and take over your account.”
Some webmail accounts, such as free Yahoo! Mail, can also simply expire, the services warn. Luckily Cawthon doesn’t know the pain of getting locked out of her webmail from personal experience. However, because she also teaches courses about how to use computers and the Web, she knows the possible risks. That’s why her main advice to anyone using webmail -- whether it be Gmail, Yahoo! Mail, Hotmail or another service -- is to back up your accounts.
If you have webmail that you couldn’t bare to lose, here are three ways to back up your accounts:
1. Forward your webmail to another account. This is a simple tactic for any webmail user. You can create extra webmail accounts, that you can forward your main webmail messages too.
For example using Gmail, go to Settings > Filters > Create a new filter. Then enter your main webmail address in the “To:” box and select Next Step. Check “Forward it to:” and enter the email address you want the emails sent to. With this kind of filter set up, whenever you receive an email it will be forwarded to your additional webmail account. You can also set up a similar filter to back up your sent emails to your secondary account as well. Just follow the same steps above and fill in the “From:” box instead.
Although this is an easy way in a pinch to save copies of your main emails, there is a catch that might make it hard to sort through your backed-up emails, says Karl L. Gechlik, a technical support expert for the website AskTheAdmin. “The downfall when you forward to another account is that all the messages will appear to be from you,” he says. “And the sender, dates and times won't be correct either.”
2. Back up your webmail online. As a best practice, experts recommend backing up webmail using a program that helps automate the process. “It doesn't take much once you have the back-up programs installed,” says Gechlik. It’s best “to grab the program geared toward the webmail program you're using.”
For instance, Gechlik says you can download a free tool at Gmail-Backup that allows you to regularly back up your Gmail account and restore your email if need be.
If you’re a Hotmail user, you can back up your email to Microsoft’s Web-based Outlook Express. Handy Backup is a program that works for most webmail programs, like Yahoo!, and allows you to back up your webmail to everything from a DVD to an online folder. For Yahoo! Users, you can also upgrade to Yahoo! Mail Plus which comes with a small annual fee -- the accounts don’t expire and include back up.
3. Copy webmail to your computer. Downloading a copy of your webmail In Box to your laptop or desktop can double as a back up option. To do this, set up your desktop email program to receive and send your webmail account messages. (For instance on a Mac, you’d go to Mail > Preference > Accounts to get started).
“It's retrieving copies of your email so you have two copies of your webmail,” Cawthon says. “Then it's in your control. That way you can be pretty confident you won't lose your emails.”
For Yahoo Mail! there is a tool, YPOPsemail, that allows you to download copies of your email. Microsoft offers Outlook Connector so you can access your Hotmail right in Outlook and then back it up using Outlook. You can also use Windows Mail Live, which allows you to access most webmail accounts via your desktop, including Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo! Plus.
Gechlik recommends that you set the accounts up as IMAP versus POP accounts because IMAP enables you to leave a copy of each email in your webmail account online, too. For example, go to Gmail settings > under POP/IMAP tab > Enable IMAP. In Gmail POP settings, you can also choose to leave a copy in your In Box on Gmail. One note: When you first get started with either option, your old Sent emails won’t be archived automatically in your desktop email program, but your In Box will be downloaded.
And back up doesn’t replace the need for smart security. Gechlik says to still be mindful not to click on suspicious emails and keep your antivirus software updated. And Cawthon advises: “Make sure your password is really, really strong.”
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