It’s more than likely you’ll live happily with your Google account until such time as Jeeves comes back from the dead to reassert dominance in the search market (forever, in other words). However, I’ve encountered a few weird instances lately of Google deleting users’ accounts without rhyme or reason, leaving them unable to access what they’d stored on Google’s services (a lot) and with no real resources to get it back.
@madebygoogle @gmail @GooglePay @Android @androidcentral @AndroidAuth @AndroidPolice My near decade old @Google account was disabled. Can't pay @googlefi or @googlefiberhelp bills. Years of @googledrive files and memories gone. Please, help me get this seen by someone at Google. pic.twitter.com/gyUAgJYLNl
— Chris (@__ChrisR__) March 8, 2021
The solution? Well, I can’t do anything to help you get back into an account that Google has disabled; I lack a magical wand that has any effect in Mountain View. However, if you regularly back up all the data you store on Google’s services, the pain won’t be that bad if, or when, Google cancels you.
How to back up your Gmail
This one’s easy: Simply load up your favourite email client and connect it to your Gmail (using IMAP, not POP3). Once you’ve downloaded your email, your desktop client will invariably have some way to make a backup or export of everything in your various folders. Do that, and you’ll be double-safe; you’ll have all of your emails on your desktop or laptop, and you’ll have a backup archive that you can re-import into any email client you want in case something ever screws up.
The only thing you have to remember is to load your desktop app from time to time and sync up your Gmail account. And both Windows and Mac have very useful tools for scheduling apps to run, so you could set up a routine that launches your email app, say, every day at noon. It should sync up your emails automatically, and you’ll be good to go. At the very least, though, even running your email client manually (inconsistently) means you’ll always have a good chunk of your old-to-super-old emails backed up.
How to back up your Google Drive
For this, I simply turn to the aptly named Backup and Sync app from Google. When you install it, it dumps a folder onto your desktop or laptop and copies everything in your Google Drive right on down. Any modifications you make to the desktop folder are synced up to the cloud, and vice versa.
The only downside to this plan is that Google “documents” that get created in your synchronised folder — your Docs, Sheets, Slides, Forms, et cetera — are actually saved as hyperlinks on your system, not local documents. To actually back them up, you’ll need to go into your Google Drive on the web, select them (which you can do en masse), right-click, and select “Download.”
How to back up your Google Photos
This one’s tricky. Google Backup and Sync only works with files in your Google Drive, not Google Photos. There isn’t a handy app you can use to synchronise everything you’ve uploaded there. Instead, your best bet is to use Google Takeout to dump all of your photos and movies — also a handy way to backup all the data you store on Google, if you don’t want to go for the piecemeal approach.
The catch? Google Takeout will create a backup of everything each time it runs. So, you’ll be in for a hefty download that consists of mostly the same stuff each time you run the backup. On the plus side, you can have Google automatically create and email you a link to this gigantic archive every two months (for a year, until you have to set the recurrence back up again), so there’s that?
Otherwise, if you know that you’re only ever uploading new photos and movies to Google Photos, you could run Google Takeout once to get a full backup of everything you have, and then simply search for the current year — “2021″ — in Google Photos at regular intervals, shift-select everything it finds, and download it manually. It’s more work, and you’ll have to think about it, but it’ll save you some gigabytes’ worth of a data transfer.
How to back up your Google Play apps, games, movies, etc.
You can’t. Unfortunately, I don’t know of any way to be able to access items you’ve purchased from Google Play if your account is deleted (or removed) by Google. While it’s possible that you’d still be able to use said apps and games on your Android, you’ll be stuck with whatever version of them that existed prior to your account being removed. You won’t be able to update them without an account to access the Google Play store. Similarly, you won’t be able to access your purchased movies, music, or tv shows, because your account no longer exists. (You can try downloading them to watch offline, but this is going to be a pretty space-sucking process if you’re doing that for everything you purchased; even if it works post-account-removal, you’ll only be able to watch said content on that device.)
Basically, if you’ve bought a lot of things from Google Play and you don’t want to lose access to them, don’t piss off Google. Don’t do anything with your Google accounts that might otherwise cause Google to go, “hmm,” as it hovers its mighty hand over the “Delete” key for your account.
How to back up your Chrome bookmarks
I’m honestly not sure what would happen to your Chrome bookmarks if you’re syncing them through Google and the company kills your account. I w0uld assume they would still exist in your browser — the source of the sync — but just in case, it never hurts to visit your bookmark manager (chrome://bookmarks/ in your address bar). Click the triple-dot icon in the upper-right corner and select “Export bookmarks” to do just that.
How to back up your Google Contacts
If you use Google to manage your contacts, make sure you save them somewhere else from time to time. I suspect they’ll disappear from your linked devices should you ever lose access to your account; even if I’m wrong, a little backup never hurt anyone. Visit Google Contacts and click on “Export Contacts” on the left-had sidebar to download all of your contacts as a handy .CSV file or vCard.
How to back up your Google Authenticator 2FA codes
Honestly, if you’re at-all concerned about losing access to your Google account, then you might as well diversify your services. Switch from Google Authenticator to another app, and anything that happens to your Google account won’t affect your precious 2FA codes — you know, the very things you use to log into every other account.
The same is true for your saved Google passwords, too. If you use Google’s password manager to save all of your website logins, consider switching to another (free) service. Exporting your passwords is easy — just as easy as it is to import them somewhere else. Nothing against Google’s tools, but if you put all your eggs in one basket and lose access to that basket, well, you’re kind of screwed.