When Gmail’s 7GB Isn’t Enough

When Google Inc. introduced its email service Gmail in 2004, it offered one Gigabyte of free storage space while competitors like Yahoo! Mail offered just 4MB at the time. Gmail has since been gradually adding more and more storage space and now offers a generous 7+ GB per email account.

Big inboxes, like the one offered by Gmail, have made it convenient for us to share large file attachments like high-resolution pictures, video clips, bulky PowerPoint decks and more without having to worry about storage constraints. Some people even use Gmail as an online backup system to securely save their important files to Google servers – they’ll compose an email, attach the file(s) and send it to their own address.

Even with 7GB of storage space, it’s no wonder that some Gmail users are either nearing the borderline or have already exhausted their free quota. That’s a worrying scenario because if your mailbox gets full, incoming messages will be returned to the sender and you won’t get any new email until you delete some existing messages from your Inbox and create space.

If your Gmail account is in such a state, there are a few steps you can take to get back lost space:

Step 1: Empty your spam and trash folders because your inbox space is also shared with these folders.

Step 2: Go to the Gmail search box and type a query like “has:attachment filename:(WMV OR AVI OR MOV OR MP3 OR WAV)” without the quotes. This filter will find all email messages that have audio and video attachments. These are often bulky, so getting rid of them will help you reclaim precious space. You may replace the file extensions with PDF, JPG, ZIP, and so on to find messages that contain other types of file attachments.

Step 3: Messages are flowing into your Inbox from all directions. When a friend writes something on your Facebook wall, you get a message. When there’s a breaking news story, you get an email alert. When there’s a new deal at the iTunes store, you get a notification. These messages are often small in size but if you have thousands of them, the space requirement adds up. OtherInbox.com is a free web service that helps categorize email messages from online shopping sites, social networks and other commercial email into relevant categories, or labels. You can thus delete these non-essential emails in bulk without having to create any filters manually. You need to authorize OtherInbox to access your Gmail account once and it does the categorization automatically. None of your emails are deleted, it just moves them to relevant categories based on the message headers.

Step 4: The most storage space is consumed by messages that contain bulky attachments, but unfortunately Gmail doesn’t offer a way for you to easily search emails by their size. However, there’s a third-party service available at findbigmail.com that can help you in the hunt for big emails. All you have to do is log on to www.findbigmail.com with your Gmail account, and it will then scan your mailbox and mark the bigger emails under appropriate labels.

Both OtherInbox and Find Big Mail use Google’s OAuth for authentication and there’s no need to share your Google account credentials. You can also revoke access to your Gmail inbox anytime from your Google Accounts page under the “Authorizing Access” section.

Alternatively, if you don’t feel comfortable using a third-party service to clean your Gmail account, you may use a free Windows utility called IMapSize (see detailed review) to track all emails that exceed a particular size (say 10MB). The utility also offers an option to download the attachments before you delete them from the Gmail server.


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