Secured Mail Archiver. Python script for encrypted email backup.
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SMail Archiver

SMail Archiver 0.5 is a python script to backup an email account with encryption and compression capabilities.

It can either be used in interactive mode from the command line or fully programmed using a configuration file (eg: to be used in a cron job). Each email is saved individually to allow incremental save.

Version history

0.5 2013-05-20

  • Better wizard mode
  • Allow backup of multiple IMAP folder

0.4 2013-01-26

  • Allow clear text storage
  • More consistant file names
  • Adding a migration script
  • Presentation (fr)

0.3 2012-12-19


  • python 2.7 or above (compatible python 3)
  • pycrypto (2.4 or above)


The emails are fetched using IMAP. UID of emails are used to identify emails. Each mail is saved in mbox format using the filename format {user}/{uid}.{ext}.

The extension of the filename repesents the options enabled, starting with .mbox.

If the option compress is used, the email will be compressed using GZip and the .gz extension is added.

If the option encrypt is used, the email will be encrypted using AES and the .enc extension is added.

A compressed and encrypted email will then have the extension .mbox.gz.enc. Compression is always realised before encryption for better results. Running the command several time will not overwrite the files, existing mbox files are ignored.


When restoring a backup, the script read the content of the specified backup folder and, for each file, applies the adequate operations according the extension in reverse order.

  • .enc extension will apply a decryption of the file
  • .gz extension will apply a decompression of the file
  • .mbox extension is mandatory to indicate thr file is an email.

The result of all valid restorations is stored in a mbox file using the format {foldername}.mbox, overwritting potential previous restoration.

Files contained in a folder are processsed in an arbitrary order defined by the IMAP server (not alphabetical).


The script uses AES256 in CBC mode for encryption and HMAC-SHA256 for signature. The size of the AES key can be changed with the variable AES_KEY_SIZE representing the number of bytes for the key (16, 24 or 32).

Two modes of security are possible : simple or password-protected.

  • In simple mode (the option promp is not set), no password from the user is required, the two (AES and HMAC) keys are generated using a PRNG and are the secret. The generated file SHOULD be protected in a secure way.
  • In password protected mode (the option promp is enabled), a password is asked and the two keys are generated using this password and random salt using PBKDF2. The generated file contains the salt and should no longer be protected. However, the strength of the encryption lies in the strength of the password and it could be an additionnal protection to protect the salt file in case of weak password.

The result of encryption is saved in BASE64 format.


usage: smailarchiver [-h] [-u USER] [-i IMAP] [-p PASSWD] [-f FOLDER] [-e]
                     [-k KEYS] [-P] [-z] [-c CONFIG] [-r RESTORE] [--verbose]

optional arguments:
  -h, --help            show this help message and exit
  -u USER, --user USER  email username
  -i IMAP, --imap IMAP  IMAP email server
  -p PASSWD, --passwd PASSWD
                        email password
  -f FOLDER, --folder FOLDER
                        inbox folder name
  -e, --encrypt         enable encryption
  -k KEYS, --keys KEYS  key/salt file (ignored if encryption disabled)
  -P, --promp           promp for password of keys (ignored if encryption
  -z, --compress        Compress the mail data
  -c CONFIG, --config CONFIG
                        JSON file containing a list of configuration
  -r RESTORE, --restore RESTORE
                        restore the mails contained in a folder. Extension is
                        used to determine the storage type. Restored in a
                        single .mbox file.
  --verbose             verbose mode
  --version             show program's version number and exit

The optional -c CONFIG uses a JSON file containing the configuration (useful for cronjob for instance). It can contain the configuration for several mail accounts. An example of the format used is present in config.json.example.

The option -r RESTORE requires the name of the folder containing the backup files. The restored emails will be stored in the {RESTORE}.mbox file.

IMAP folder

The processed folder is specified in the variable folder. By default "INBOX" is used which should be available by many email providers.

In the case of Gmail, all emails can be saved easily using the name '"[Gmail]/All Mail"'. Note that this name can be change depending of the language of your email account or not available in IMAP. Read the following page for more information : Gmail Archiver - Adapting the inbox name

When using a folder name with spaces (like in the Gmail example above), you may need to double-quote the name ('"folder name"' or "'folder name'") in Python 3.x

To know which IMAP folders are available, open a python promp and use the following code :

>>> import imaplib
>>> m = imaplib.IMAP4_SSL("")
>>> m.login("","mypasword")
('OK', [b'Logged in'])
>>> m.list()
('OK', [b'(\\HasNoChildren) "." "Junk"', b'(\\HasNoChildren) "." "Trash"', b
'(\\HasNoChildren) "." "Drafts"', b'(\\HasNoChildren) "." "Sent"', b'(\\HasN
oChildren) "." "INBOX"'])

(or m.list("foldername") for the subfolders)

You can specify only one IMAP folder per configuration. However, you can configure several sites for the same email account in the the config.json file. Note that the destination folder is specified using the {user} variable and emails from the same account will be merged. Emails are identified with UID which are unique per message. Emails with the same UID in the destination folder ({UID}.mbox.{ext} depending of the options) are skipped during the save process. At the restauration process, all emails in the specified folder will be merged in a {user}.mbox file.


When you update SMailArchiver, watch out for incompatibilities. The file is a script of migration of stored files to new formats. Look at the content of this file for more explanations how to migrate your stored emails.