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How to Back Up Google Docs

by Carlo Alcos May 15, 2009
Taking for granted that Google will always be there might be a huge mistake.

I’ve never lost any critical files myself (knock on wood). Lost a couple emails, maybe some MP3s, sure. But I’ve worked in the IT industry long enough and have had enough users whine to me about losing data to know that it’s common and it’s a major problem. The thing is, we usually only have ourselves to blame.

As Google rolls on with their Earth domination plans, many of us are becoming more and more reliant on their online services. We at Matador use Google Docs to store articles and to collaborate with other writers and editors.

We can’t rely on Google to keep our documents safe. It’s up to us.

But what would happen if Google just up and died? However unlikely that is to happen, it’s very possible. They don’t have an unblemished record. How about Gmail going down for two hours back in February? And this recent news item: “Google suffers major failure”?

If you’re a heavy Google Apps user, your eyebrows better be raised right now.

So what do I do?

We can’t rely on Google to keep our documents safe. It’s up to us. We need to get a copy of all those files onto our local hard drives and into our control. LifeHacker has some great tips in downloading Google data. I’m gonna share with you the method I used to get my Google Docs down to my computer.

It’s true you can save each file, one-by-one, but unless you have a lot of time on your hands or love monotonous work, you’ll prefer to do it all in one go. This may seem lengthy, but after the initial setup, each backup after will be a two minute job.

First off, get on the Firefox bandwagon

Firefox has some wicked and useful plugins, such as the ones we’re about to install. So, I’ll give you five minutes to download and install Firefox…..okay. Done? Let’s go.

Install the GreaseMonkey plugin

1. You can do this right at the Firefox GreaseMonkey plugin page

2. Click Add to Firefox, then Install. Restart the browser and you should now see a cute lil monkey face in the bottom right corner.

Next, install Google Doc Download (a GreaseMonkey script)

1. Visit the Google Doc Download page

2. Click the Install Now! link, then Install

3. After restarting Google Docs, you’ll notice a new option — Download Your Documents — in your Google Docs control panel:

Not done yet. We need to be able to download all the documents in one fell swoop. Keep reading…

Last, install the DownThemAll! plugin

1. Go to the DownThemAll! plugin page and click Add to Firefox, then Install.

2. Restart Firefox. That easy.

Now the cool bit

You’re now ready to back up your Google Docs. If not already, log into Google Docs.

1. Click on All Items to display all documents.

2. Near the bottom, click on Select All so that all your documents are highlighted.

3. Click that shiny new option I mentioned earlier — Download Your Documents — and choose as Microsoft Office Files.

4. A new tab will open up titled Google Docs & Spreadsheets Downloads and will list of all your documents. In Firefox, click Tools > DownThemAll! Tools > DownThemAll!

5. Choose your destination folder in the Save files in part and then click Start!

Now watch in wonder as all of your docs get downloaded into Microsoft Office files.

One last step

This is optional, but since computers are known to crash, a good idea. Now that you have all your docs on your computer, back them up to another medium such as CD, DVD, external hard drive or USB memory stick for safe keeping.

Since this is not an automatic backup process, you’ll have to make it a habit to manually do this every now and again. Obviously, the more often the better, but once is better than none.


Do you have any horror stories of losing precious documents? Or more tips on safeguarding our data?

Please share below!

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