How to Download Your Gmail MBOX Data and What to Do With It

Joe Keeley Updated 17-06-2020

It’s really easy to download a copy of your Gmail data thanks to Google Takeout. However, Google gives you an MBOX file, and what can you do with that? In fact, you can do a lot. It’s ideal for keeping an offline backup or moving all your emails to a new email service or Gmail account.


We’re going to show you how to use Google Takeout, how to create an offline backup using Thunderbird, and how to move your Gmail data to a new email service.

Step 1: Download Your Gmail Data With Google Takeout

Google Takeout mail

First, you need to download the export of your Gmail data from Google Takeout.

By default, all of your Google service data will be selected, so this includes stuff like Chrome and Drive. If you just want Gmail, click Deselect all at the top of the list. Scroll down to Mail and tick the box.

You will see that MBOX format has been selected. You can click this, but you cannot change the format for Mail, though you can for other Google services.


By default, all your Gmail messages from all your categories will be included. If you want to adjust this, click All Mail data included, remove the checkmark from Include all messages in Mail, choose the folders you want, then click OK.

Scroll down and click Next. Here you can choose your Delivery method, Frequency, and File type & size. You can leave everything as default, but change them if you want. When ready, click Create export.

Your export will then process. You will receive an email notification when it’s ready. If you only included Mail in the export, it won’t take too long—just wait on the page for it to finish. When it has, click Download.

Open the compressed file on your computer and export it. The necessary MBOX file is in the Takeout > Mail folder.


Step 2: Import Your Gmail MBOX Into Thunderbird

You can import your Gmail data into any email client that supports MBOX. You could also use a utility like Windows MBox Viewer.

If you use a Mac, you can import the MBOX file into your Mac’s Mail app by clicking File > Import Mailboxes. If you use Microsoft Outlook, you’ll have to first convert the MBOX file into another format Outlook supports—Outlook has no native way of importing MBOX files.

For the detailed steps of this guide, we’ll use Mozilla Thunderbird because it’s free, open source, and supports MBOX files natively. It also runs on Windows, Mac, and Linux.

So, install Thunderbird on your computer and open it.


Follow the wizard to add any email account to Thunderbird. You don’t have to actually use the email account for anything; this will just ensure Thunderbird is set up properly for email.

Close Thunderbird after adding an email account. You now need to navigate to a specific Thunderbird folder on File Explorer so that you can place your Gmail MBOX in it. Here’s how to do that.

Press Windows key + R to open Run, input %appdata%\Thunderbird\Profiles\

Then click OK.


Thunderbird Local Folders

This will open File Explorer. You should see a folder in here called xxxxxxxx.default, where the x is eight random characters. Navigate inside this folder and then go to Mail > Local Folders.

Get the MBOX file you downloaded earlier and place it within the Local Folders folder. You can left click and drag the file across between the open windows or use copy (Ctrl + C) and paste (Ctrl + V).

Run Thunderbird again. The downloaded contents of your Gmail account will appear under Local Folders in Thunderbird.

Step 3: Use Thunderbird as an Offline Archive

Thunderbird as an offline archive

Thunderbird now provides an offline way to read your downloaded email. You can browse through it, read messages, search, grab file attachments—anything you could do with Gmail online.

This is an excellent backup solution that provides peace of mind. You can store an offline backup of your Gmail account in MBOX format on an external hard drive or USB somewhere, along with all your other important backup files. Of course, you’ll want to regularly download a new MBOX backup file if you’re still using Gmail, just to keep your backups up to date.

Whether you lose access to your Gmail account, Google shuts down Gmail, or the entire internet collapses, you’ll always have a way to access your email archive.

Import Your Emails Into Another Email Service

You can also use the offline copy of your Gmail to import your Gmail data into other email accounts. This trick just requires that the email services support IMAP so you can access it from Thunderbird. The old POP3 protocol won’t work, we need IMAP.

Here’s our guide on the difference between IMAP and POP3 IMAP vs. POP3: What Is It and Which One Should You Use? If you have ever set up an email client or app, you will have certainly come across the terms POP and IMAP. Do you remember which one you chose and why? If you are not... Read More if you want that explained.

With this trick, you can import your emails into another Gmail account, move them to a Microsoft account, add them to a Yahoo! Mail account, or import them into any other IMAP-supporting service. This is useful if you want to move to another service and leave Gmail behind or if you’ve decided you just want a new Gmail address as your main Google account.

To do this, you’ll need to add the other email account to Thunderbird. On the left pane, click the top level email address to go to the Thunderbird overview section. From here, beneath Accounts > Set up an account, click Email.

Thunderbird setup account

Enter your mail account details. Thunderbird will attempt to automatically download the appropriate server information so you don’t have to configure it by hand, but click Manual config to check the details. Ensure the Incoming server option is set to IMAP.

Thunderbird may not automatically detect your email service’s configuration, so you may need to look up your email service’s IMAP hostname, port, and SSL configuration. Refer to your provider’s help documentation if this is the case.

Once you’ve set up your email account, it will appear in Thunderbird’s sidebar. You can drag and drop emails between your local Gmail backup and the IMAP account. In fact, you can even move all the emails from your MBOX file to somewhere in the other IMAP account. Thunderbird will upload them and they’ll appear in your new account.

This trick takes advantage of the way IMAP works, as it allows you to upload messages and move them around. The other email service doesn’t have to know anything about MBOX files or Gmail; it only has to support IMAP.

You can also import your Gmail to another account without using a downloaded MBOX file. Just add both email accounts to Thunderbird, and then drag and drop messages between them. For another example, here’s how to set up Gmail in Microsoft Outlook How to Set Up Gmail in Microsoft Outlook Want to configure Gmail to use in Microsoft Outlook? We'll show you the Gmail Outlook settings you'll need for this setup. Read More .

The Best Free Email Clients

That’s everything you need to know about how to grab an archive of your Gmail data and how to read an MBOX file with ease.

We used the free Thunderbird as the email client here, but it’s not the only one. Here are our recommended best free email clients for your computer The 5 Best Free Email Clients for Your Desktop PC Want the best free email client? We've compiled the best email software for Windows, Mac, and Linux that won't cost you a dime. Read More .

Image Credit: Cairo/Flickr

Related topics: Data Backup, Email Tips, Gmail, Mozilla Thunderbird.

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  1. Sridevi
    March 1, 2020 at 12:48 pm

    thank you very much for sharing the information.

  2. Gilmar Aleixo
    February 20, 2020 at 1:02 pm

    Chris: this article was really helpful for what I needed. Thank you very much!
    Gilmar aleixo/Brazil

  3. Andrew Szemeredy
    February 10, 2020 at 10:39 am

    You said there is an easy way. I did not find it easy at all. In fact, I did not understand a single solitary word in this blog. It is written for Ph.D.s in computing, not for every day blokes like me who just want a useful and viewable back-up of their google email correspondence. I think the article is incomprehensible.

  4. Andrew Szemeredy
    February 10, 2020 at 10:34 am

    You said, "now there is an easy way to download and browse your backed-up saved email messages." Or something to the effect.

    If you call this easy, they you are a genius. I did not understand one single solitary word of your explanation.

  5. César Carielo
    May 16, 2019 at 11:41 am

    Excelente arquivo, meus parabéns!!!

  6. nikos3194
    February 2, 2019 at 2:07 am

    In Thunderbird portable edition, the route is in (...)\ThunderbirdPortable\Data\profile\Mail\Local Folders

    Thanks for the post :)

  7. Jessica
    February 20, 2018 at 7:02 am

    Really an informative blog for the manual solutions to import MBOX files. But, there are some users who want a fast and relevant method for this. So, it is recommended to go for an easy and quick third-party solution like Thunderbird Import Wizard to move data in Mozilla account, without losing any data.

  8. adub
    February 6, 2018 at 10:27 pm

    You seem to imply that it's possible to export Gmail messages from one Gmail account and then import them into a different Gmail account, which is not possible.

  9. Lauren
    February 1, 2018 at 4:54 am

    Am I the only person this didn't work for?? I really need to access these files and I just cannot get them open! Got the file into the local users, its appearing in thunderbird but only as a zip icon- no contents?

  10. shashi
    August 23, 2017 at 12:20 pm

    worked like a charm.!. But one issue is i get all the emails from MBOX in a single file. is there any way to differentiate the sent mails, spams, and other folders?

  11. FG
    October 31, 2016 at 12:45 pm

    Works great! thanks

  12. Nick
    October 25, 2016 at 11:46 am

    How do u do this when your OS is Puppy Linux? I guess it's different than in Win ...

  13. Tim W.
    September 2, 2016 at 7:32 pm

    But for Gmail-to-Gmail transfer, I actually prefer to use something like just because of the convenience. Using takeout or downloading and .mbox file with gmail was so annoying for me and actually left data behind. Not worth it in my opinion.

  14. joane
    August 9, 2016 at 8:32 am

    Thank you! this is really awesome and helpful! :) more power to you

  15. Happy Guest
    August 7, 2016 at 9:44 pm

    ? really appreciated to you. Thank for your efforts really thank you

  16. Christian Braun
    May 25, 2016 at 3:47 pm

    Hi there,
    thanks for the great description which I followed through to be abvle to read my exported Gmail *.box file archive.
    Aftr copying it into the local thunderbird folder and restarting, the symbol for the folder appears but contains nothing. The mbox file is about 9GB.
    Any ideas.
    Thanks for any help

  17. Anonymous
    February 22, 2016 at 12:36 pm

    Can i read my Google takeout data without having installed Thunderbird in my system ? Suggest ways if is possible ?

    • Anonymous
      February 23, 2016 at 4:17 am


      Yes you can still view your Google takeout data without having Thunderbird installed, just look for some freeware Mbox reader or there is a blog Mailboxreader.wordpress , it will definately help you .


  18. sandra123
    February 22, 2016 at 12:25 pm

    Can i view my Gmail downloaded data without installing Thunderbird in my system. Suggest ways if it possible ?

  19. Liz
    January 22, 2016 at 8:07 pm

    Fabulous - easy to read and easy to make sense of - win!!

  20. Eelco
    January 22, 2016 at 6:14 pm


    I've exported my mail using Takeout. It seems though the resulting mbox file contains a lot of 'empty' messages. It looks like the same thing happens in the last screenshot in this post. What are those empty messages? What goes wrong?

    Best, Eelco

  21. Heidi_F
    December 1, 2015 at 6:39 pm

    Amazing article. So helpful, easy to understand and to the point. Thank you!

  22. flow
    November 25, 2015 at 11:32 pm

    this is ridiculous. why gmail cannot import its own archive is beyond comprehension

    • samuel
      January 18, 2016 at 12:50 pm

      I still cant comprehend this. It could be so simple to get the info from one account to other! Hope they implement this feature soon!

  23. Héctor
    March 6, 2015 at 12:06 pm

    Two thumbs up!

  24. Tushar
    February 4, 2015 at 10:58 am

    Thanks a lot. This article is lifesaver. :)

  25. Katherine
    January 13, 2015 at 10:21 pm

    Awesome! Finally some coherent, simple instructions on how to make my gmail archive useful again!!! THANK YOU!!!

  26. Kumarapush
    June 26, 2014 at 4:31 pm

    Well I got a topic from this link ( on how to download Gmail data to Local system. But not aware of this issue on how to use the downloaded data. Good thought.

  27. sd
    May 23, 2014 at 4:23 pm

    This was awesome! Thank you for the clear instructions. Worked like a charm.

  28. Bill S.
    February 8, 2014 at 11:28 pm

    Can Thunderbird make use of Gmail Labels, so that one can pull up a particular Label of emails from the Mbox download. Thanks.

  29. Bruce Barnes
    February 1, 2014 at 8:57 pm

    Great Idea! Thank you.

    Instead of regular Thunderbird I used the Portable App version and that way I end up with all my emails and the Thunderbird reader in the same stand-alone folder that can be burned on a CD for backup purposes.

    • david
      February 5, 2014 at 10:30 pm

      You can backup your Thunderbird (and Firefox) profiles using a tool called Mozbackup. This creates a file extension called PCV which is apparently really a ZIP. It makes the backup a little easier and it may decrease the size.

  30. Zana Kergaye
    January 25, 2014 at 4:22 pm


  31. ddd
    January 24, 2014 at 10:06 pm

    looking for ergotron giveaway

  32. Shafiq
    January 24, 2014 at 10:12 am

    Can the above procedure work in Microsoft Outlook instead of Thunderbird?

  33. Jonny
    January 23, 2014 at 9:58 pm

    Here's a question: can I import my MBOX into another Gmail account?