How to download your AOL Journal or Hometown with BackStreet Browser.

Last updated 10-15-2008 with “Copy To” steps.

AOL Hometown and Journals will close down on Oct. 31st. All journals and uploaded content will be deleted, so download your files from AOL’s servers as soon as possible. What follows is a tutorial for Windows users on how to use BackStreet Browser to download your files from AOL.

UPDATE 10-8-2008: Hi, J-Land members. Thanks for stopping by. Good news for you today – instead of downloading your journals using FTP, a traditional web browser, WGet or Backstreet Browser (methods that all have their drawbacks) as of this morning you can now export (that is, “transfer”) your journal directly to Blogger by following the simple steps on this Blogger Help page. If you want to then export your blog to WordPress, just follow these instructions. As I find more platforms you can export your new Blogger blog to, I will add more links to this post.

The best way to back up your AOL Journals and Hometown websites is with an absolutely free website downloader called BackStreet Browser. I tested this downloader on the Magic Smoke Blog at AOL and my own blogs and it worked perfectly. Downloading your files is fast, easy and does not require any action on your part once you set BackStreet Browser up. Let’s get started…

1. Download and install BackStreet Browser.

Download the BackStreet Browser and save it your Desktop, then click on the saved file to run the Installer and follow the prompts it gives you. The downloader will be ready to launch in just a minute.

2. Select the website to download.

Attention dial-up users: If you use a dial-up connection, see this screen shot for instructions on how to set it up.

The first screen that pops up (if it doesn’t, go to File -> Tools or click on New to start a new project) will ask you to set your Project Properties. Copy and paste the link to your AOL journal or website into the box next to where it says URL.

Enter URL of website to download.

Type the name of your project next to where it says Title.

If you’re happy with the default Folder location you can leave it alone; otherwise click on the little yellow folder to the right of where it says Folder, then navigate to the folder you want to save your files to.

3. Adjust BackStreet Browser settings.

The tab you’re on near the middle of the window says Load. You can leave the Load settings alone or change them if you like. Repeat for tabs to the right of Load: File Filter, URL Filter, the Connection tab (which you can use to connect through FTP or an HTTP proxy) and Others (which you can use to keep AOL’s folder structure or to create a single folder to save all your files).

FYI: I left all of these settings alone. The default settings should work fine for most users.

4. Download your website.

When you’re done tweaking your settings, press OK. The website download will start automatically. Depending on how many files you’re downloading and the content of each file, it can take anywhere from a few minutes to an hour to download all of your files.

5. View and work with your files.

When the download is finished, there will be a side panel in the BackStreet Browser window with a folder in it. The name of the top folder will be Workspace and it will have a button with a little plus sign next to it. Click the button to expand the folder tree. The next folder will contain the files you downloaded from AOL and will also have a button with a plus sign next to it. Click the button to show the folders beneath it, and keep repeating until you get to the files themselves.

Viewing and working with your files.

Click on image to expand it.

Click on the files and the URLs to your actual pages will show up in the right hand panel. Move your cursor to the right-hand panel and click on a link to open it in the BackStreet Browser. It’s that simple.

When you’re done BackStreet browser will automatically “save your workspace” so you don’t have to, but if you want you can click File and Save Workspace, give your workspace a name and choose where you want to save it.

6. Copy and save your files to a new location.

BackStreet Browser automatically makes a back up of every file you download and saves it to Program Files->BackStreet Browser-> Data, but if you want to save a second copy of your Journal or Hometown files to your computer, here’s how.

After the download finishes and all of your files are automatically relinked, click the Copy To button along the top left of the window.

Click 'Copy to' Button to copy files to new or existing folder on your PC.

A box will open that will ask you browse to the folder you want to save your downloaded files to. Either select a folder from the choices given, or click the Create button to create a new folder.

Select folder to copy files to, or click 'Create' for a new one.

If you choose to create a new folder, it will automatically be given the name “New Folder”. Click on that name to change it. I changed my folder’s name to “My AOL Journal”.

The Sometimes Blog has a new tutorial up that covers all the finer points on how to use BackStreet Browser. It’s an excellent guide to help you learn exactly how BackStreet works – go check it out!

46 thoughts on “How to download your AOL Journal or Hometown with BackStreet Browser.

  1. Thanks for posting this! While I haven’t updated my AOL journal since 2005, I really hated to think of all of it just going “Poof!”


  2. No success
    I tried this program, but had no luck with it. It seemed to download an image of the main blog page, but I got no archival files at all. I wasn’t able to follow any links off the main page, and every file folder listed in the tree contained 0 bytes. If I’m doing something wrong, I’d love to figure out what it is. Any suggestions?


  3. Re: No success
    I downloaded your entire journal with BackStreet in under 5 minutes. I have a complete copy of it on my computer now. Click the link below (or copy and paste it into your browser since I’m not sure if my style sheet formats unanchored links) to see a full-size screen cap of your journal downloaded to my computer.
    You can try one of two things: either try to redownload the files – instructions are here:
    Or start a new project to download your journal all over again from scratch (this will create a new containing folder to hold it) and don’t touch the default settings for the project. You don’t need to change any of those settings to download your journal (I didn’t touch those settings), so if you did change them that *might* be at fault. If so, start a new project by following the steps above again, and leave your settings for the project exactly as-is.
    If you do either re-download your journal or start a new project for it, remember to “save your workspace” when you are done, just to be on the safe side (the browser should automatically save all the files and folders for you, but I haven’t used it for that long and I don’t know it *that* well so just to be sure, make sure you save your work before you close BackStreet down).


  4. error message?
    I keep getting an error message saying:
    SSL certificate problem, verify that the CA cert is OK. I’m not techi enough to understand all this. Any suggestions? OH, my journal is private. Does that matter?


  5. Re: error message?
    Yes, it matters. A lot. I have a test journal on LJ that I can make private test entries to so I’ll get back to you on that. I want to tell you to sign in using HTTP Authentication, but until I try it myself I don’t know for sure, so hang on.


  6. Re: error message?
    I’m going to have contact the software author. I can’t solve it. I set (my test journal) to private entries and tried downloading them with both normal (default) parameters and using HTTP Authentication. Neither method worked – in my case, the Calendar and other public pages were downloaded, but not the private entries themselves. Sorry – I’m stumped.
    As soon as the author answers me I’ll let you know what he says.


  7. I have two AOL journals and cannot download either with this program. With each attempt, I get only one file (index…with a triangle icon containing and exclamation point). It displays as “This Page Cannot Be Displayed”. One journal is public and one is private. I assume a private journal will need a password for access. Can you help?


  8. I’m sorry a few of you are having problems with it. It’s been working fine for me on AOL journals and LJs alike since my first night using it.
    Anyone who wants a video tutorial on how to use BackStreet Browser (but it’s not hard, really) let me know in the comments; enough “aye” votes and I’ll do one.
    I downloaded Sunflowers in it’s entirety about 2 minutes ago. It took me only a minute. You can see the files I captured and one of your pages from about 4 years ago open in the browser in the following screen shot:
    In the case of private journals, there is a problem, which I’ve confirmed through my own tests. I have a ticket in with the software developer and I’m waiting to hear back from him (or her) as to how to resolve it.
    In the meantime, before you give up, make sure you try to download your private journals with HTTP Authentication before leaving me a comment saying the program isn’t working (just to rule out any false results).
    How to set up HTTP Authentication is shown in the next screen shot (you can access the window for it under the Connection tab, then look for where it says “HTTP Authentication” near the bottom of that window, then just fill in your journal address and password and press “OK”):


  9. Re: error message?
    As to the error message, I looked it up; it’s server-side, not client-side. That means there’s nothing you can do about it except to contact AOL and give them the exact error message you received. They have to fix the error, which involves their certificates and possibly their database and/or scripting languages, and there’s nothing you can do until they do.
    The inability to download a private journal is a completely separate issue from that; one has nothing to do with the other from what I can see, so people will have problems downloading private journals whether they receive the error message you did or not.


  10. Re: error message?
    I appreciate everything you’ve suggested and also for going that extra mile for us. What I did was just simply make my journal public again so I could download it; it did download after that. The only problem I have is, some entries are there and some are not. :-/ I switched to LJ in ’05 after the “ad issue” but then caved and went back to AOL but thank goodness, I did keep a duplicate journal on LJ so I only have from 2003-05 to worry about. (I just manually copied my most precious entries) I personally prefer LJ over AOL or blogspot. And I think I read somewhere that our journals will automatically be transferred to blogger? I hope that will be a smooth transition. I’m not taking any chances.
    thanks again!


  11. Looks like it’s working
    I’ve got my files transferring right now; once it’s done and I see it has worked, I’ll be linking to this entry of yours on both my AOL journal and Blogspot.


  12. This looks like a very useful tool for legitimate use; I’m generally wary of website downloaders though, having been on the wrong side of illegitimate use. To say they can do a number on bandwidth is an understatement, not to mention copyright issues. I don’t really like the look of their RafaBot either, but this is all beside the point – at this point. I’ll just have to download and install them and see how to exclude them in my robots.txt. 😉
    I will pass on the link to a friend of mine who has a huge hometown AOL site, though. Thanks. 🙂


  13. I’m thrilled you were able to download my photoblog and I need to find out how I can get the files from you. I’m baffled as to why I can’t get it to work myself. I’ve followed your instructions to the letter (and it’s not complicated) but all I ever get is an index file. I will be watching for information here on how to download a private journal. Thank you for all your help.


  14. Re: error message?
    Are some of your AOL entries set to “private”? I’m having the same problem with some AOL journals, now that I’ve had a chance to check the offline files one-by-one.
    On the other hand, my public LJ entries seem to all download. I downloaded Anti-AOL again to make sure and BackStreet grabbed over 7 MBs (I never realized I have that much data much on here). LJ’s directory structure is easier to follow than AOL’s is, so I can tell at a glance that it looks like I got everything.


  15. Did you try putting “http://” before the address? Like so:
    If you don’t put the “http://” before the address it won’t download a thing.
    I’m sorry I won’t be able to help AOL users by transferring their files to them. If anyone wants to use the PayPal button found in the sidebar of this blog to donate at least $5 to me for the time and trouble such a job will entail, I will definitely reconsider.
    Anyone I do that for agrees they might not receive all of their files (since apparently, from my tests and other comments left here, AOL is not allowing us access to every single entry, even on public blogs) and understands that I will transfer every single file that I’m able to download, but that I can’t do any more than that.


  16. Yes. BackStreet Browser saves copies of every .html file, .css file and image file that AOL allows it to access to your computer’s hard drive.
    If you want to see for yourself, with BackStreet closed, navigate to Start->My Computer->Program Files->BackStreet Browser->Data, then open the Data folder and look around inside each of the sub-folders. All of your files are in those sub-folders.


  17. I have used the http:// consistently. I’ve tried it from two different computers. I always get the same result. It runs just a second and I have one small file named index.
    I appreciate everything you are doing to help. If I cannot get something to work locally, I’ll be happy to pay you for my files.


  18. Downloading Private AOL Journals
    Marah (and Anti-AOL followers),
    There has been some questions on downloading Private AOL Journals, and for that, I have some perspective on how to do that.
    To download a private journals, I’d like to mention it IS possible with some manipulation. I don’t know if BackStreet Browser can do it, but I *know* Wget can. (My method on this is posted here: )
    The way that a Journal and about 99% of the Web secures content and delivers it to you is through authentication. AOL uses a component on their service known as the “ScreenName Service” which basically means when you login to AOL, any time. Whenever you login, the server will set an authentication cookie when tells the server that you’re logged in.
    Briefly, you would clear your cache and cookies, then login with your Web browser, then find that cookie and use that same coookie (aka, Session), and crawl it and use the authenticated cookie to crawl a private journal.
    Use the following commands in your Wget command:
    –cookies=on –load-cookies=cookie.txt –keep-session-cookies –save-cookies=cookie.txt
    You’d copy over the data of the authenticated AOL cookie into the a cookie.txt file in the Wget bin folder and do that.
    If desired, I could demonstrate this in a video if enough people want me to, because this is pretty darn complex; and it’s a shame AOL is forcing users to employ the use of UNIX applications just to save their blog.


  19. Re: Downloading Private AOL Journals
    Thanks, Joe. I agree this has come to a bad end for AOL Journal and Hometown users.
    If anyone wants to look through BackStreet’s help files with me (they’re massive) they’re here:
    I’ve looked through every help file and while I admit I’m speed-reading to absorb as much as I can as fast as I can, I swear I don’t see anything about how to set session cookies. I thought that was what HTTP Authentication was for – but HTTP Authentication is not working to download private journals. 🙂
    Additionally, I’ve emailed the software developer twice but he or she hasn’t answered yet, so I would abandon hope that I will receive a reply.
    Also, on the Sunflower journal above I was able to download most of it – it seems – but not all of it. I came up with a few empty files and I don’t know why: are their private entries on that journal? Is BackStreet crawling pages that Kat already deleted? Is BackStreet unable to download certain pages for other reasons?
    I don’t have my own AOL Journal to work from – actually, I do – but AOL gives me an error message when I try to access it, saying the username is not in their database – so I can’t download anything from it. I’m pretty much at my wit’s end.


  20. Re: Downloading Private AOL Journals
    The journal you downloaded for me is not private and never has been. Also, I have not deleted anything from that journal. So…I guess the missing files remain a mystery.
    Thank you for the link to the help files. I’ll try and sift through them too and maybe come up with something.
    I tried again tonight to download the journal that you were successful with. Still no luck.


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