Remember when everyone had a Hotmail account? Back in the 1990s, when the internet was fresh and new, and "electronic mail" seemed like magic? That was pretty great.
Then everybody had an AOL account, or a RocketMail account, or a Yahoo account or – well the list of faddish email services goes on and on.
But nowadays, if you're using a free, web-based email service, it's likely Gmail. After all, Gmail has registered more than a billion accounts.
The perks of a Google account are limitless: You have instant access to YouTube, Google Calendars, Google Drive, Google Docs and even Google Plus. You can send documents, post videos, and share links to your heart's content. Google has cornered so many markets, it has to consider that it has competitors, especially when it comes to email.
But Gmail isn't suited for everybody, and sometimes you just want to create a new Gmail account. So what happens when you want to eliminate your old Gmail completely? How do you scrub your unused or tarnished account from the internet forever?
This isn't a small question. Leaving an old Gmail account open can actually leave you vulnerable to hackers, and once they start digging through old correspondences, it's hard to say what personal data they'll dig up.
Here are some things to take into consideration before you hit the "delete" button, and just how to execute that plan.
Gmail doesn't affect other Google services
What's nice about terminating your Gmail is that it won't have any impact on the rest of your account. Your address will vanish forever, but you can keep all the rest of your Google goodies if you so choose.
So if you've uploaded a bunch of YouTube videos and shared them with hundreds of friends on Google Plus, the death of Gmail won't affect these at all, unless you want to eliminate those accounts as well.
Google Play purchases won't be affected, either
Since most services on Google are free, some people may forget about the songs and movies they've purchased through Google Play. Fear not, these will remain intact as well.
Consider downloading your Gmail data
If you've maintained a Gmail account for more than a few weeks, you've probably stored an email or document that you'll want later on. Years-long users may have hundreds of letters and attachments that they'll want to refer to down the line.
Before you pull the plug on Gmail, make sure to download your data. This is an easy process: Just visit the "Download Your Data" page, pick the service you use (in this case, Gmail), and pick your download's "file type."
Finally, you'll have to figure out how your data is delivered. Do you want to store it in Google Drive, or do you have a Dropbox account? Just make sure your storage is big enough to hold all your email data.
Delete your account
All right, you've backed up your data and you're ready to say sayonara to your Gmail account. Remember: terminating your account means you can't go back. All your information will be deleted, and your address will no longer work.
Visit the "Account Preferences" page, then Delete Products >> Gmail. Follow the instructions, and finally hit "Delete Gmail."
Deleter's regret? You have a second chance
But don't delay! If you deleted your Gmail and feel weird about it, you still have a chance to reactivate your account. According to Google, if you deleted your account "recently," you "might be able to recover your old emails."