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Make it easy to backup and restore e-mail, contacts, settings and metadata #811

smtalk opened this Issue Aug 8, 2014 · 2 comments


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smtalk commented Aug 8, 2014

People's e-mail contains large amounts of valuable personal information. Considering that part of Mailpile's mission is to make it easy for people to self-host and remove their private data from the corporate clouds, it is vitally important that we take steps to ensure this valuable data does not get lost due hardware malfunction, software bugs or human error. Mailpile needs to help people make secure backups of their mail, whether to removable physical media or to remote online storage.

(Updated for roadmap, original issue text is below)


It would be very nice to have a command-line tool, which dumps everything account-related (address book, identities, contacts etc.) to an XML/JSON file for an easy restore, so that server-to-server account transfers could be easily done.

Thank you!


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BjarniRunar commented Aug 9, 2014

Making backups/restores/moves easy is importent.

However, Mailpile's data is all in normal files in the file system, so moving from server-to-server is just a matter of copying the files over. Backups are similarly simple.

In the case where the user lets Mailpile encrypt its on-disk data, we'll even be able to upload it to untrusted cloud sources more or less unmodified (and may be able to write code that does this automatically) - if we get the UI around this right, then all the user needs in order to restore is an offline copy of the symmetric key, which is small enough that it could be printed on a piece of paper, stored in a vault with other important dead-tree talismans and typed back in by hand on restore.

@BjarniRunar BjarniRunar changed the title from A simple backup/restore of a user (with API/CLI) to Make it easy to backup and restore e-mail, contacts, settings and metadata Nov 28, 2014

@BjarniRunar BjarniRunar added this to the Post 1.0 Roadmap milestone Nov 28, 2014


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BjarniRunar commented Oct 25, 2018

An update on the status of this, and the strategy currently being implemented:

Status: There is now a backup tool on the Mailpile settings page which generates a .zip the user can download and save manually. The backup contains the user's settings, tags, contacts and keys. It is possible to upload this .zip during the setup of a new Mailpile to import the data. Only the e-mail data (and metadata) is missing from this archive. The contents are encrypted and protected by the same password/passphrase as Mailpile itself.

Strategy: Javascript in the web UI will automatically store this backup .zip in Localstorage on the user's browser - once users are encouraged and assisted with accessing Mailpile from mobile devices, we will automatically have guaranteed a backup that lives on separate hardware from Mailpile itself. Some Javascript magic will be needed to help the user extract the backup for use with their new Mailpile.

The second phase of the backup strategy will be to upload e-mails and metadata (encrypted) to one of the user's IMAP accounts. We might also upload the .zip archive itself, but unless we know our users have generated very strong passphrases (how can we?), that isn't really safe.

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