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Backing Up a Gmail Account With Fetchmail on FreeBSD

October 17, 2011

Gmail is awesome. But I do not want Gmail to be the only location where all my important emails are stored. For this reason I use fetchmail to automatically archive any emails sent to my Gmail account on my own FreeBSD server. This guide describes how I currently have this set up.


Installing Required Packages

If you haven't already, install the fetchmail port with the following commands.

$ cd /usr/ports/mail/fetchmail
$ make install clean

We also need to install the ca_root_nss port. This port contains all root certificates from certificate authorities included in Mozilla applications (i.e. Firefox and Thunderbird).

$ cd /usr/ports/security/ca_root_nss
$ make install clean


First, make sure that you have POP access to your Gmail account enabled. This can be done from the Gmail settings page, under the tab ‘Forwarding and POP/IMAP’.

Next, calculate the MD5 fingerprint for the certificate. Whenever Google makes a change to the certificate this fingerprint has to be recalculated and updated in the fetchmail configuration.

$ echo -n | 
  openssl s_client -connect | 
  openssl x509 -noout -fingerprint -md5 | 
  cut -d '=' -f 2

Customize the following snippet and place it in ~/.fetchmailrc.

poll protocol pop3 with interval 3:
  user "<your Gmail address>" pass "<your Gmail password>"
  options keep ssl sslfingerprint "<actual MD5 fingerprint>"
  mda "/usr/bin/procmail -d %T"


That should be all, now we can test our configuration.

$ fetchmail -d0 -v

If everything is set up correctly then the output should look something like this:

fetchmail: 6.3.20 querying (protocol POP3) at Sun Oct 16 19:25:01 2011: poll started
Trying to connect to
fetchmail: Server certificate:
fetchmail: POP3> QUIT
fetchmail: POP3< +OK Farewell.
fetchmail: 6.3.20 querying (protocol POP3) at Sun Oct 16 19:25:02 2011: poll completed