The Comprehensive Guide to Quitting Google.
Despite all the convenience and quality of Google’s sprawling ecosystem, some users are fed up with the fishy privacy policies the company has recently implemented in Gmail, Chrome, and other services. To its credit, Google has made good changes in response to user feedback, but that doesn’t diminish the company’s looming shadow over the internet at large. If you’re ready to ditch Google, or even just reduce its presence in your digital life, this guide is here to help.
Since Google owns some of the best and most-used apps, websites, and internet services, making a clean break is difficult—but not impossible. We’re going to take a look at how to leave the most popular Google services behind, and how to keep Google from tracking your data. We’ve also spent serious time researching and testing great alternatives to Google’s offerings, so you can leave the Big G without having to buy new devices or swear fealty to another major corporation.
Our Goal Is Decentralization
Google, Apple, Microsoft, and other similar companies offer “ecosystems”—centralized, cross-platform software and hardware suites where all your devices can connect and sync with the same data and apps.
These ecosystems are extremely convenient, but they can pose security risks. While centralization isn’t the issue, per se, things get sketchy when the entity overseeing that ecosystem starts dipping into your data or manipulating your experience.
That’s why, for the majority of this guide, we’ll be looking at how to decentralize your digital presence with third-party and open-source solutions (though alternatives from Apple, Microsoft, and other companies will be discussed where appropriate, as well as some Google compromises you can make).
For all the benefits of going open-source, there are also tradeoffs: While you’ll be out from under the monolithic shadow of peering tech companies, you’ll also be trading in the full interconnection, synchronization, and data consolidation you get from catch-all ecosystems like Google’s.
However, with a little time and effort, you can MacGyver a decent cross-platform system for yourself. Let’s get started.
Part I: Backing Up, Migrating, and Deleting Your Google Account
The first section of this guide will focus on the lynchpin of your entire Google experience: your Google account.
Don’t go and delete your account until you’ve at least read through the sections that follow. Deleting your account too soon will limit or remove your access to services like YouTube, prematurely delete data stored in places like Google Docs, and may break other non-Google apps you’re signed into with your Google credentials. To prevent that, we’ll be backing up and unlinking our Google accounts, and porting over our data to new homes prior to pulling the plug.
1. Archiving and unlinking your Google account
If you normally sign in to certain websites or apps with Google, make sure you follow the correct steps to disassociate the two, change the email address you use on the service, and save any relevant data BEFORE you delete your Google account.
Here’s a quick (and by no means exhaustive) list of apps and websites you will want to double check are not tied to your Google account:
- Pokemon Go
- And many, many others
If all else fails, you can strip your Google account of as much data as possible, and keep your Google account active only as a means for logging into specific apps. We’ll discuss that option in the final section of Part I; for now, let’s back up your Google account data.
Downloading your Google data archive
To Google’s credit, the company makes it a cinch to leave. Instead of having to download and backup the data from your Google apps individually, Google provides a handy, all-in-one backup service that lets you download everything. Here’s how:
- Start by going to https://takeout.google.com/settings/takeout/downloads
- Click “Create new archive.”
- Customize what data from which apps you want in your downloadable archive. We recommend downloading everything, but you’re free to pick and choose.
- Scroll down and click “Next.”
- Select which format you want for the archive and how you plan to download the files.
- Click “Create Archive.”
- Use the download link sent to the location you specified in step 5 (either Gmail, Google Drive, OneDrive, Box, or DropBox) and save the file(s) to your PC.
Now that you have an archive of all your data, let’s talk about alternatives to Google’s most popular first-party apps.
2. Replacing Gmail, Google Docs, and Google Drive
We have discussed Gmail and Google Docs alternatives in the past, and there are plenty of options out there, all with their own use cases. Some are email-only services, while others are enterprise-level software suites.
In this guide, we’ll focus on the best options for individuals looking to replace both Gmail and Google Docs simultaneously. If you need something different—say, email-only options or products geared towards companies—refer back to our full Best Gmail Alternatives post.
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