Ask Techland: How Can I Clear Up Space in Gmail?

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Question from Steve: My Gmail inbox is almost full. What’s the best way to free up some space?

Answer:

Ah yes, the Gmail promise: Never having to delete an e-mail. Everything is archived, and since people are given a (relatively) insane amount of storage space, we’d never need to worry about our inboxes getting clogged.

The problem is that the whole “no deleting” concept can catch up with people who get a lot of e-mail. Fortunately, you have a few options. We covered this topic back in October of last year, but here’s a quick overview with some additional tips and tricks:

Pay for More Storage

This is the easy way out, but it costs money. You can get 20 gigabytes of space for just $5 per year, which is dirt cheap, and you’ll also be able to use that extra space for storing photos using Google’s Picasa service and for Google Docs. But free is free (and more fun) so let’s move on.

Clear Out Your Spam

spam

Mail that winds up in your spam folder gets automatically deleted every 30 days anyway, but deleting it yourself makes for a really quick way to free up some space in a pinch. Simply jump into your spam folder and click the link up near the top that says “Delete all spam messages now.” Easy.

Find Messages with Attachments

Clearing out spam is a quick way to free up some space, but it likely won’t free up a big enough chunk of space to be a long-term solution. A better, more thorough way to free up space is to search for messages that contain attachments, then delete the ones you no longer need.

In Gmail’s search box, type in “has:attachment” (without the quotes) and click the Search Mail button. You’ll be returned a list of messages containing inline images as well as actual attachments, at which point you can work your way back to the oldest messages on the list—the assumption being that your older messages are less important than your newer ones—and start deleting the ones you no longer need.

(MORE: How to Free Up Space in Gmail)

To make this process easier, you can search for messages from before a particular date. For instance, type “has:attachment” and “before:2005/01/01″ (both without quotes) into the search box and you’ll get a collection of all the e-mails sent to you before 2005 that contain attachments and/or inline images.

both

Assuming you don’t need anything from that far back into the past, you can quickly just delete all of those messages. You can check out additional advanced Gmail search terms here.

And if you’re looking to really drill down and find messages sorted by attachment size so you can delete the biggest ones first, this how-to over at Labnol.org is worth a read. The process is somewhat more involved, but one big cleanout ought to free up plenty of space for quite some time.

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