I've written in this column previously about how to download all your data from Google's mail, calendar, and other services. It's not hugely complicated, but it was never a feature that Google offered as a native capability so, in order to download your Gmail for example, you had to turn on POP3 and then download via an email client such as Thunderbird.
But not any more! Finally, Google recently introduced a feature that allows you to download all of your data from any of 16 separate Google services.
Assuming you have a Google account, start by logging into your account and then head to https://www.google.com/settings/takeout to get started. The system currently supports downloading data from 16 different Google services, with more promised.
In the case of Gmail, the simplest option is to choose a ZIP archive file. After a few minutes (sometimes longer), you'll receive an email to say that your archive is ready to download. Once you do so, you'll have all of your current email (including anything in the spam and trash folders), in a single file that you can keep for archive purposes or import into another cloud-based system (or desktop client).
The download is in MBOX format, which is basically a text file. Although many email clients can import this, there are 2 simple ways to access it. First, just allow Windows to index it, just like it does with any other file by default (unless you've turned off indexing). You can then use the standard Windows search facility to look for old email messages too. Alternatively, just load the MBOX file into a text editor and read it. NotePad or WordPad will do.
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