How to Download and Review Email from AOL and Yahoo for Discovery or Investigations

How to Download and Review Email from AOL and Yahoo for Discovery or Investigations

This post is part of our “How to Export and Review” series. Don’t miss our overview on how to collect email data for discovery across a wide number of common platforms.

While it may feel like AOL and Yahoo have been left in the past by Google and Microsoft, plenty of people still use their email services—and like all electronically stored information (ESI), you maybe be required to produce and review AOL and Yahoo emails as part of a lawsuit or investigation.

In today’s world, that’s not as simple as just firing up the printer and grabbing a highlighter. AOL and Yahoo both have their own self-service tools for downloading user data. Once exported, modern eDiscovery software can make processing, reviewing, and producing that information easier than ever before.

If you need to export and review data from AOL and Yahoo accounts, here’s how to go about it.


Exporting Data from Yahoo Email

Yahoo has a privacy dashboard which allows users to view, edit, and download their data by request, but you must be logged into the account to do so. To request a download of your data, enter the “Privacy Dashboard and Controls” section, then:

  • Navigate to the “Manage My Information” section
  • Click “Download My Data”
  • Select the data that you want to download, then click “Next”
  • Enter the email address you’d like to be notified at when the download is ready, then click “Request Download”

With Yahoo, it may take up to 30 days for a download request to process, so make sure you plan accordingly. Once you are notified via email that your data is ready, go back to “Privacy Dashboard and Controls,” then:

  • Scroll down to where it says “Your data is available” and click “Download Data”
  • Next to the download request, click “Download”

After following these steps, the data will begin to download directly to your computer. The journey isn’t over yet, though: Yahoo data will download as JSON (JavaScript Object Notation) files, which show the data as code. In order to read it in a digestible format, you will need a third-party app, such as Python or Java.


Exporting Data from AOL Email

There are two different processes for exporting data from AOL, depending on which service you have. AOL Gold offers its own data exporting service, whereas the standard AOL email server requires the use of a third-party platform to download data.

To export data from AOL Gold, you must first sign into the account, then follow these steps in order:

  • Click on the “Settings” icon and navigate to the “General Settings”
  • Click the “My Data” tab, then select “Export”
  • Select the files you want to export.
  • Choose a location for saving the export file (by default, it will save as “AOL Desktop Backup” under My Documents) and click “Save.”
  • When prompted, create a password for the export file. You’ll be asked for this password whenever you are uploading the data to another computer.

And there you have it! A comprehensive file of your AOL data. You can now download this file to a USB drive to be transferred to another computer- just remember the password you’ve created so you’re able to access it.

If you don’t have AOL Gold, the process is going to look quite different. You will have to use IMAP, the Internet Message Access Protocol, which we will discuss next.


Downloading AOL and Yahoo Email Using IMAP

If the AOL account from which you want to export data is not a Gold account, or you don’t want to use Yahoo’s self-service downloading tool, you can use the Internet Message Access Protocol (IMAP). This is a software that syncs with your AOL or Yahoo mailbox, and allows you to download copies of their data. You’ll need to configure IMAP with a standalone email client, such as Outlook or Windows 10 Mail.

To configure IMAP:

  • If you do not already have IMAP, run the IMAP Email Downloader.
  • Under “Select Email Source,” choose “IMAP”
  • Enter these credentials into the appropriate spaces:

Incoming Mail (IMAP) Server

• Server - export.imap.aol.com

• Port - 993

• Requires SSL - Yes

Outgoing Mail (SMTP) Server

• Server - smtp.aol.com

• Port - 465

• Requires SSL - Yes

• Requires authentication - Yes

Your login info

• Email address - Your full email address (name@domain.com)

• Password - Your account's password

• Requires authentication - Yes

  • Click “Login”

Now that you’ve configured IMAP, it should be synced with your AOL or Yahoo email account, acting as a double that will update in real time. To capture the data as-is, we need to create a backup file.

To download email data from the IMAP server:

  • Enter the AOL or Yahoo login credentials and click “Login”
  • To download data from multiple AOL or Yahoo accounts at once, select “Use Batch Mode” under the “Select Email Source” tab
  • Under the “Backup” tab, choose the location where you want the data to be downloaded, and select the file format you want it to be in (pdf, HTML, etc.)
  • Under “Filter options,” you can choose the date range of emails you would like to download.
  • Click “Backup,” then “OK” if you get any pop-ups

You can follow the live progress of your data being exported into a backup file. Keep in mind, however, that depending on the amount of data present, it may take days to download them all. When the process is complete, you will get a pop-up notification.


Reviewing Data Before Producing

While successfully exporting the data you need may feel like a victory, it’s only half the battle. Afterward comes the process of review, where the legal team must sift through all the data, organizing and deciding what’s relevant to the case.

When only small amounts of data are involved, it may be feasible to do so manually in the data’s native application, or with the help of spreadsheets and file folders. But we wouldn’t recommend it.

Manual review is slow, tedious, and error-prone. It doesn’t allow for robust search, digital collaboration, or quality control, and if you want to comment on and redact documents, this will require an additional application such as Adobe Acrobat. Manual review can also be incredibly inefficient, and the whole process is ripe with opportunities for accidental spoliation and corruption of metadata.

Another option is to use an eDiscovery vendor, which aids in the collection, processing, and reviewing of email data. The use of these is especially appropriate in complex matters that involve large amounts of data, many different parties, and data only available on physical devices (rather than software or the cloud). The problem with eDiscovery vendors is that they can get extremely pricey—even costing several thousand dollars just to export data from a single email account.


Logikcull for Document Review

For those wanting to avoid the hassle of manual review and the cost of using an eDiscovery vendor, cloud-based discovery and review software such as Logikcull provides a powerfully simple alternative. The software allows you to upload and download all of your data as pdf and text files, and provides tools for in-app redaction, commenting, and tagging. It even allows you to easily send files between members of your legal team without the risk of a data leak.

Legal discovery has come a long way since the days of paper files and post-it notes, and you need software that is designed for the modern day. No matter how much data you need to export and review, discovery software provides an efficient, centralized solution to all your eDiscovery needs.

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