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Using Thunderbird as an offline email backup - questions

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meddle01
 
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Joined: December 24th, 2016, 10:59 am

Post Posted December 25th, 2016, 4:19 pm

Hello,

New to Thunderbird. I was thinking of using it to download and archive all my old Google Apps email for offline search/retrieval.

I am looking for some format that will be around long term, and I can search old emails when needed. So long term viability and portability a bit consideration in addition to searching. Is Thunderbird a good choice for this?

If so, what do I need to know or what tips can anyone offer?

1) I want to download all messages and have them stay there. I am scared that if subsequently delete the messages from Google they will delete locally on my account.
2) Why do I keep having to re-select "Work Offline"? It keeps turning off.

Thanks

DanRaisch
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Post Posted December 25th, 2016, 8:27 pm

Is that "old Google Apps" account still active and would you want to bring new messages into Thunderbird from that account in the future or is the account now inactive?
How many messages are involved in that old account?

As a preliminary suggestion you could consider setting up a IMAP type account in Thunderbird to access the Google account. That would provide you with access to all of the message "folders" on the Google server. Next you would copy the messages from the IMAP account folders to sub-folders of Thunderbird's Local Folders created with the same names as the original IMAP folders. Doing this would disconnect the messages under Local Folders from all actions taken on the server side so deleting messages from the IMAP folders or the server would have no impact on the Local Folders copies. If the Google Account it to be inactive, you could then remove the IMAP account from Thunderbird. That would leave the copied messages under Local Folders intact for your archive purposes.

Thunderbird stores local messages in mbox format, which is basically a text file with header data. You could search those messages using Thunderbird or an mbox view utility such as mBox Viewer

meddle01
 
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Joined: December 24th, 2016, 10:59 am

Post Posted December 27th, 2016, 11:25 am

The Google Apps account is still active and will be. There are hundreds of thousands of emails in this account, that go back decades. I want to basically trim what is online, download most of them and keep only more recent messages online, keeping the rest downloaded in Thunderbird - or some good archived (viewable/searchable) format.

I currently have Thunderbird set up with an IMAP connection. What I didn't want to happen is it to see that I'd deleted emails and mirror that down. So your proposed solution of copying them over to a Local Folder (sounds like a Thunderbird version of a PST, hopefully more efficient & reliable) sounds like a good method.

Thanks for your suggestions! Any other tips you might have, feel free to share. :)

Thanks

meddle01
 
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Joined: December 24th, 2016, 10:59 am

Post Posted December 27th, 2016, 9:18 pm

I would actually prefer to not replicate the folder structure on the Local Folders. I'd rather do a copy by date range - is that possible? Say, copy all emails older than 1 year to a single Local Folder folder.

I guess since "folder" do not really exist in Google Apps in a real sense (it's more of a tag, as I understand it), I could tag all emails older than X date, which would create a "Folder" then copy all of that down.

Where exactly is the file that is the local folder? And is that file the same across platform (Mac/PC)?

Thanks

DanRaisch
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Post Posted December 28th, 2016, 5:39 am

Local Folders is not a file but a directory structure. The folders seen under that title in the left hand pane of Thunderbird do exist as files on the hard drive. See the link in my previous reply to better understand what and where Local Folders exists in the Thunderbird profile.

You can set up chronological archive folders under Local Folders and use Thunderbird's built in functionality to move messages.

tanstaafl
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Post Posted December 30th, 2016, 9:17 am

"2) Why do I keep having to re-select "Work Offline"? It keeps turning off."

tools -> options -> advanced -> network & disk space -> offline lets you manage whether it starts in online or offline mode. Why do you normally want to start in offline mode? If you copied or moved messages from a gmail account to the local folders account they're safe, deleting the originals in the gmail account won't effect them.

See http://kb.mozillazine.org/Archiving_your_e-mail for several different ways to archive mail. For example Mbox2XML backs up up one or mbox files (folders) in a .XML file that can be displayed using a browser. It converts any HTML messages to plain text. The user has the option to include attachments, or to append messages to an existing (archived) folder. It uses UTF-8 encoding, which provides support for most character sets.

meddle01
 
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Joined: December 24th, 2016, 10:59 am

Post Posted January 3rd, 2017, 7:30 am

Thanks for all the help on this. One (last, I think) question. How do I confirm - for sure - that large folders & messages I have copied to Local Folders are 100% copied over.

Basically, before I delete the master copies out of Google, is there a way to verify the "syncing" has completed and I'm not going to some day find that some messages didn't finished syncing. Can I verify the number of messages that synced, and compare that with the total folder? Is there a log or status somewhere?

Oh, also. Is the file structure portable? For example, if I backed up my "Profiles" directory (containing the Local Folders directory structure), moved it to another computer, would the thunderbird app be able to read it? Is it cross platform Mac/PC?

Thanks

tanstaafl
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Post Posted January 3rd, 2017, 10:15 am

You can move the profile between different computers with different operating systems. The only potential risk is for settings that have a path. However, there are always a relative and a absolute version of those settings. Thunderbird tries the relative setting first, which doesn't specify a drive letter or device names. So its not a problem moving a profile that refers to Drive C: to a OSX or Linux machine. The address books and mail folders file formats are not a problem.

I'm not aware of a 100% foolproof way to verify that the all of the messages in all of the folders were copied. I suggest you just open the oldest message in several of the largest folders. If the message looks intact (and has the same sender and subject as the corresponding one in webmail) you're probably okay. If you're worried about whether syncing is complete look at the activity manager in tools -> activity manager. Normally I'd think that's sufficient, but in your case I suggest wait a day or two as a precaution (I'm assuming Thunderbird is usually running on your machine even if you're not actively using it) and then send myself a new message and check that its in the offline folder.

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