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Google Mail currently offers 7,679 MB of free storage. For the average user, that is enough space to last a lifetime. But what if you run out of storage space nevertheless? How can you find and delete obsolete emails in bulk or track down large attachments to regain precious MBs? This article highlights three ways to quickly make room for more mail.
Before we begin, let me go through some basics. I recommend to set your maximum page size to show 100 conversations per page, which will make scanning emails easier. To do this, click the wheel icon at the top right of GMail and select Mail Settings from the drop-down menu. In the General tab, select 100 from the drop-down list in Show x conversations per page. When you’re done, scroll to the bottom of the page and click the Save Changes button.
When a folder or search result contains more than 100 emails, Gmail lets you select all of them, even though you cannot see more than 100. First, click the Select checkbutton at the top left to select all emails shown on the current page. Then note the little bit of text directly above these 100 emails. It will say something like “All 100 conversations on this page are selected. Select all xxx conversations (…)” Click the second part of that text and all respective emails will be selected, no matter how many there are. You can now either delete all of them,mark them as read or unread, label them etc.
1. Empty Trash & Delete Spam
Messages that have been labelled as spam or trash for more than 30 days are deleted automatically. However, when you are in urgent need for space, be sure to delete these emails first. Both labels provide a little link above the list of emails that allows you to delete all messages immediately.
Be mindful that sometimes legitimate emails are marked as Spam. Thus, I always scan emails before deleting them forever. In this situation, the first tip from the basics section above may be helpful, i.e. showing up to 100 messages per page.
2. Find Messages With Attachments
The next best way to free up space, is to locate emails with large attachments. To do this, simply type the operator has:attachment in the search field. Clicking the little arrow in the search field will open up additional filter options.
You can fine tune the results by searching only for specific file types. Either add the respective file type to the above operator, e.g. has:attachment jpg or use another operator, which works just as well: filename: .jpg
While you can search for all emails with attachments, there is no way to sort emails by size in Gmail. If you don’t fancy an IMAP workaround, where you use a desktop client to sort emails by size, I recommend using the online tool Find Big Mail.
Find Big Mail scans your Gmail account and labels emails based on four categories: top (biggest emails), emails over 1MB, emails over 5MB, and emails over 10MB. You can scan the respective labels in your GMail account, download attachments, i.e. back them up locally, and delete the respective emails. Finally, be sure to empty the trash (point 1), to delete emails forever. Unfortunately, removing just the attachment from an email is not possible.
An exemplary result of a Find Big Mail scan is shown below. The labels will be shown in the sidebar of the Google Mail webmail client.
A more thorough write-up of this point can be found here: How To Quickly Find Messages With Attachments In Gmail
3. Find & Delete Emails in Bulk
Gmail is my online email archive and personally, I don’t want to delete most of the emails with attachments. However, there are lots of emails without attachments that I really don’t want to keep forever, such as newsletters, notifications, adverts, and other stuff that ended up in my archive at some point. So how about getting rid of these space wasters first?
For this task, the first step to create a filter from a specific email and/or using the advanced search comes in handy. Find an example of an email that you want to remove from your archive, then click the little arrow on the right-hand side next to the email header, and select Filter messages like this.
The advanced search with a suggested filter or in this case search term will pop up. Make sure this only covers emails you really want to delete and adjust if necessary. When you are satisfied with the result, use the tip for selecting all conversations matching the search criteria (see basics above) to manually delete all of these messages.
With the above example I deleted over 1,800 emails and freed up 1% of additional space.
Note that if you actually create a filter with the search, you can delete all past emails, but you also will delete all future emails matching the keywords, until the respective filter is deleted. Generally, it is a better idea to opt out of email subscriptions, rather than creating a filter to automatically send them to the trash. In most countries, respective unsubscribe options are required by law and are typically found in the small print at the very bottom of the email. Filtering to the trash should be a last resort in case unsubscribing is not possible.
For more tips and tricks to backup attachments, emails, and use your Gmail storage space, have a look at these articles to help you clean out your GMail webmail account:
- How To Extract & Download Multiple Email Attachments In Bulk
- How To Download & Back Up Your Gmail & Other Google Data
- How To Use Your Extra Google Mail Storage Space With GMail Drive [Windows]
You will also find it useful to take a look at Craig’s article on useful Gmail filters which gives you some examples of what to look for in your archive.
Did you ever exhaust the Gmail storage space and how did you deal with it? What advice and tools would you recommend for freeing up more space?