Legacy Email Archiving: These days I’m not sure if this is still the best method for myself, however in the past, I used to do the following:
Move emails from various IMAP folders to local legacy IMAP folders.
I might set up some local email folders such as:
YEAR-Category (2018-Personal, 2018-Business etc). Then basically I would select some emails in some IMAP folder and I would drag them to the local folder.
Note: if you drag them then they will be moved (not copied) and they will only be one copy left on your local Computer Drive (that was my goal…). Also I highly recommend only dragging a few hundred at a time and make sure they get transferred properly. Once I grabbed a large amount in the process of transferring appeared to stall in the middle and I believe I may have lost some emails at that time. - I suggest you carefully test out this process by just dragging a few at a time and make sure it is working as expected.
Anyway, once you are done then you have your legacy history emails on just that computer, and if that works for you and this is one way to go. These days we have so many devices and we expect everything to show up everywhere so I don’t know that this is the best method going forward. I am curious what you think of this method?
Additionally, you can clean out less important legacy emails and delete them, however this could become laborious.
Do you have a better method? I would love to hear it.
I convert anything I need saved to a PDF and save that into my filing system. I think it provides better future proofing as very old PDFs are still easily read. Easier to backup than email stores and recovery is easier since it’s very granular.
Since you mention some records are for business. Do you have a document retention policy? You might want to consult with your legal advisor as to the implications of keeping very old records.
From time to time I export messages to an EagleFiter library (as one of my backups), but I don’t “archive” email. I have server side rules that automatically categorize my messages. This allows me to quickly review my mail and decide which messages to delete, add to tasks, or just file.
I’ve had numerous personal email accounts with providers like yahoo, hotmail, mail.com, gmail, etc. and every message that I’ve saved in every account since December 2005 is now in my Google Workspace account. I don’t use folders or tags and I can find any of them in about 1 minute.
The filing cabinet was invented in the 1860’s. Now that we have computers I let them do (nearly) all the work.
In addition to EagleFiler I leave mail.app running on my MacBook Air as a daily backup, and I have Google scheduled to create an automatic export of all messages every 60 days.
I don’t create PDFs for archives, for a few reasons.
One, mail formats are just about universally plain text. Whatever happens to the apps, I can dig around a bit and at least find text. By contrast, PDFs are a mess (just try hand editing one sometime…), and the quality of any extracted text is entirely dependent on the app or method used to create the PDF.
Two, a close corollary: PDFs certainly seem here to stay. But once upon a time, so did MS Word .doc files … and I had a bad time some years back trying to recover some Mac .doc files on Windows or vice versa.
Yes, I know, XML is better now and PDF is universal … but text is even more universal, and since what I care about in my email is the content, not the format, I’ll stick to the file formats that make it easiest to get at the content, and if necessary extract it.
I use Postbox as my email client, and I use the archive button a lot and have this set to archive to a Year folder within the archive folder. After a couple of years, this gets pulled off the server and on to my local hard drive as a standalone local drive.
However, as I’m trialing Fastmail again, as my webhost has no spam filtering and I’m beginning to see an increase in spam hitting the account (all from my iCloud email address it seems), this has 30GB of space, rather than 5GB, so I can happily accommodate all my emails stored on the server, so they might well get reuploaded.
They certainly look like plain text when EagleFiler displays the contents of an .eml file. But they vary widely in readability when I open them in BBEdit. I guess I am counting on conversion apps sticking around in the unlikely event the EML format is made obsolete.
I have email going back to 2006 all online in my mail account. It’s a little over 5 GB.
I generally don’t delete anything but several times in the last 10 years or so I have used the Gmail search to hunt down old newsletters and mailing lists and the like, that are large in numbers, and delete them. The biggest saving I ever made was looking for “from: has:attachment” which was a lot of “jokes” said person was in the habit of sending.
And I second @tf2’s comment about native email storage. I just deleted my late father’s Gmail account, but before I did that I used Google Takeout to download an mbox archive of all his email. I just loaded it up in BBEdit — all 500+ MB of it — and it is easily readable (if you can skip past the overdone HTML and uuencoded attachments). With the help of a plugin it all imported seamlessly to a local folder in Thunderbird, too.