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How To Backup Your Computer With Gmail Drive

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Believe it or not, Gmail makes a perfect online backup solution. Almost 8 GB of easy to access, somewhat secure storage.

And you don’t have to spend all day emailing files to yourself – there is actually a small piece of software that will turn your Gmail account into a virtual hard drive!

[Editor’s note: There used to be multiple services like this. All but one have closed down since the original publication of this article in 2006.]

That piece of software is called Gmail Drive.

Technically speaking, Gmail Drive is a Shell Namespace Extension that creates a virtual filesystem around your Google Gmail account, allowing you to use Gmail as a storage medium.

Don’t let the name fool you, it’s a piece of cake to use! You just download the software, run the setup file, and about 8 seconds later, you have a new drive on your computer!

When you go under “My Computer” in Windows Explorer, there is now a drive listed called “Gmail Drive.” Basically, GMail Drive acts as any other hard-drive installed on your computer. It shows up like this:

gmail drive my computer

You can copy files to and from the GMail Drive folder simply by using drag’n’drop like you’re used to with the normal folders. Here is me dragging and dropping a file, and Gmail Drive doing its thing:

gmail drive drag drop

When you create a new file using GMail Drive, it generates an e-mail and posts it to your account. The e-mail appears in your normal Inbox folder, and the file is attached as an e-mail attachment. GMail Drive periodically checks your mail account (using the Gmail search function) to see if new files have arrived and to rebuild the directory structures.

gmail drive inbox

If you plan to back up files often using Gmail Drive, you should probably create a filter. Here I am creating a filter so that any emails from my own email address with “GMAILFS” in the subject line are automatically archived:

gmail drive email filter

You could also apply a label to the files for even better organization.

And that’s that! To restore any files from Gmail Drive, you just reverse the drag-n-drop sequence.

Before you go, some final advice on Gmail Drive…

The last update was on October 28th, 2011, so it has been recently updated, and is still working in 2012.

There are two “catches” though:

  1. This service could quit functioning anytime Google makes an update to Gmail.
  2. If you abuse this, you could have your Gmail account suspended.

So, you’re relying on the developer to keep this software up-to-date, even though he isn’t paid to do so.

And, although I haven’t read anything in the Gmail terms of service that explicitly prohibit the use of Gmail Drive, you don’t want to go overboard and make Google mad.

Overall, I think it’s a neat little program.

Official website:

Even if you use Gmail Drive, consider paying for a backup service like Mozy, Carbonite, or IDrive. Then, not only will you get more storage space and greater security features, you won’t have to worry about when (not if) your Gmail drive won’t work anymore.

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