How to: Clean up your Gmail Inbox by deleting large attachments (Sort Gmail by Date/Size)

How to: Clean up your Gmail Inbox by deleting large attachments (Sort Gmail by Date/Size)

So, apparently it is possible to fill out your Google Quota on Email. I am constantly reminded by my Google Drive application that Google requires more storage space and that it is at its capacity while Gmail shows a message on the top in red reading: “Your Storage Quota has been depleted and soon you’ll no longer be able to send or receive emails. Free some space or purchase more storage.”

Tu espacio de almacenamiento se ha agotado y dentro de poco no podrás ni enviar ni recibir mensajes de correo electrónico. Libera espacio o compra más espacio. - How to Clean up your Gmail Inbox by deleting large attachments (Sort Gmail by Date or Size) - Good Drive Storage Alert


So what are your choices?

  1. You could migrate to a provider which offers higher storage capacity like Microsoft’s (Click here for very simple instructions and a smooth migration: How to: Migrate from Gmail to (previously &
  2. On the other side you could identify large old emails and delete those as this tutorial will show you shortly.
  3. Last but not least, you could do both! Migrate your email to and then feel free to delete from Gmail as you know your emails are backed up in Who knows… maybe you’ll end up liking better!

So on to how to good identify candidates for deletion:

One key aspect you need to understand about Gmail as you probably already figured out is that there is no way to sort emails from largest to smallest… which I am still baffled as to why they haven’t offered that yet (I do understand how that could potentially impact the performance of their servers but I believe the functionality is very needed in this day and age). Previously you would have to download your emails to Outlook on your personal machine (or Thunderbird, or Apple Mail, or Entourage, etc) to be able to sort them using a desktop application locally; Then you would delete them there (or migrate them) and sync changes back to Gmail. To overcome this Google does offer some cool search parameters you could use to your aid: Display messages larger (or smaller if you wanted) than said amount and display messages older (or newer if you pleased) than said date. I am sure by now you’ve realized the power of this.

So on to the goodies:

  • size:#m – Find emails with attachments of # Megabytes.
  • larger:#m – Find emails with attachments larger than # Megabytes.
  • smaller:#kb – Find emails with attachments smaller than # Kilobytes.
  • older_than: #y – Find emails that are older than # years.
  • newer_than: #d – Find emails that are newer than # days.

Also you have the flexibility to specify the sufix on those operators:

  • larger:smaller and size allow abbreviations like K, M for KB & MB.
  • older_than and newer_than allow days, months, and years.

So takes this query as an example:

larger:10m older_than:1y

 Following Ted Mosby’s rule, if you haven’t used it in more than a year get rid of it. Obviously you should apply your own criteria (maybe 3 or 5 years) and perhaps you might want to focus on super large emails (say over 20 Mb) if you have several of those.

If you are creating an email address then once the migration completes you should feel free to do a more aggressive search (think: larger: 3m older_than: 1m), select all messages and delete them. If you want to keep using Gmail and you are just using it as a backup then focus on large emails you rarely use while if you are permanently migrating do an agresive search. The point being you don’t want people who still write to your gmail address to fill up your inbox which its probably already quite filled up. And do not worry, the instructions (How to: Migrate from Gmail to (previously & do include a part on how to set up forwarding from your Gmail to your account. But you should still tell your contacts to start using your account from now on. You’ll find freeing your Gmail storage space means more available space for Google Drive and Picasa Web Albums.

Also note: might require you to sign in every now and then to keep your account active. I haven’t found the actual criteria and my pretty old hotmail account has been inactive (haven’t signed in but I have received messages) for months if not years at a time and never had that issue… so not sure how that works. You could simply set up your iPhone to check your messages and call it a day!


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1 Response

  1. Rok Strniša says:

    I wrote a small cross-platform tool that allows you to delete attachments in your GMail or Inbox. Feedback welcome.

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