Google Takeout (also called Google Takeaway in some languages) is a little known service that allows users of Google products, such as YouTube, Google Drive files, Google Calendar appointments, Google Contacts, and Gmail, to export their data as a downloadable ZIP file. It is a great method of keeping backup copies of your online data. Google Takeout makes it easy for you to make copies of your information that is stored in many of Google’s many services. In fact, the service is so simple to use that there is little documentation needed or available. Best of all, the Google Takeout service is available free of charge.
The full list of Google data services available (so far) with Google Takeout include:
YouTube, Bookmarks, Mail, Calendar, Contacts, Drive, Voice, Profile, Hangouts, Google+, Circles, Google+, Stream, +1s, Google+, Pages, Blogger, Orkut, Messenger, YouTube, Google Photos, Google Play, Books, Location, and History.
Google does not delete your data after exporting.
The user can elect to export all of the available services or choose individual services from the above list. I suspect most users will simply want to grab everything at once. Takeout will then process the request and put all the files into one or more ZIP files, depending upon how much data is being saved. If the user has a lot of data, the export process may take several hours to complete. In fact, mail archives with a lot of stored messages may possibly require days to create.
The user does not need to sit and wait for the archives to complete. Instead, the export runs as a background job. When the export is complete and available, Takeout sends an email notification. At this point the user can download the archive from the downloads section of the Google website. Full instructions for downloading the archive(s) are included in the aforementioned email notification message.
ZIP is not the only archive format available. Google Takeout will create TGZ or TBZ archive files, two formats that are popular on Linux and UNIX computers. However, I suspect most home users will select ZIP files. Archives larger than 2 gigabytes will be split into multiple ZIP files.
Once the archive is created and retrieved by the user, it remains on Google’s servers for about a week. However, the user may also delete the archive at any time, if desired.
I have a LOT of data stored in Google’s multiple services. I didn’t know the total size, but, counting seven years’ of archived GMAIL messages (many with attached files), I was sure there must be more than 100 gigabytes stored in a variety of Google’s services. In fact, I didn’t realize how many of Google’s services I have been using until I started the archive on Google Takeout. A status message stated that I am using 9 of Google’s services and then provided a checklist of the services I could extract and save.
I went to the Google Takeout screen and requested an archive of all my Google files. With more than 7 years of email messages stored, I expected the process might require several days to complete. I powered off my computer and went to bed. In the morning, I had an email message from Google Takeout stating that my archives were ready and would remain online for a week.
In my case, the email provided links to 32 separate archives, and each one was labeled only with a number, such as: “Download archive 17 of 32.” A later screen showed the following: “Since this archive is too big for a single file, we’ve split it into 32 handy packages.” Anyone with a smaller amount of data stored in Google will probably have only one or perhaps a few ZIP files to download.
I clicked on the first archive listed. The 2-gigabyte file was a quick download. I clicked on it, and it unzipped to reveal a separate folder for each Google service: Calendar, Contacts, Drive, and everything else I expected. Inside each folder were files and more folders with a total of thousands of files.
The contents of the Google Drive folder included all the files I had saved in Google Drive. The files in the Calendar folder all had file names ending in “.ics,” the standard format for moving calendar data from one application to another. The Gmail messages were saved as “.mbox” files, a format used by many email programs. In short, everything was as I expected it to be. A list of all the formats used in Google Takeout may be found at https://support.google.com/accounts/answer/3024195.
What Google Takeout Does Not Include
Google Takeout does not retrieve everything. In fact, I suspect that is deliberate in some cases. For instance, it does not retrieve your Google Search history. I suspect that is for privacy reasons since any file containing that history could be useful to malicious hackers who could later retrieve it from your hard drive. Google Takeout also does not retrieve Google Wallet and Google Checkout details, including credit card information and a history of purchases. I believe this, too, is a wise decision, made to protect your most sensitive information.
Google has stated that the company will continue to add new services to Takeout. Still, privacy is likely to be an issue that will continue to block the most sensitive information.
It’s important to remember that with Google Takeout you are getting a copy of the information stored on Google’s servers; you are not removing the originals from Google’s clutches. The files you receive contain COPIES of the data and, and those copies will automatically be deleted in a week. You also can delete them immediately, should you wish to do so. However, if you want to delete the original information from Google, you’ll need to visit each service you use and delete the data or the account manually.
The bottom line is this: Google takeout worked exactly as I expected it to. I believe it copied everything, and it made the files available to me as downloadable ZIP files. The user interface was easy to understand, and I didn’t encounter any difficulties. For anyone with a lot of data stored in Google’s servers, especially as archived Gmail messages from several years, the process can require hours or even days to complete. However, the user does not need to sit at the computer and wait. The user simply specifies what he or she wishes to retrieve and then kicks off the job as a background process. When the job is done, Google sends an email message stating that the process has finished and providing links to the downloadable files.
Google Takeout simply provides one more method of making backup copies of your important information. The best part of this is the price tag: FREE.
You can learn more about Google Takeout and also retrieve your files by starting at: https://www.google.com/settings/takeout.
My thanks to newsletter reader Trevor Rix for suggesting this article about Google Takeout.