Sunday, 11 December 2011

Finding emails with large attachments from your GMail account, then deleting them

If you haven’t noticed by now, one of GMail web client’s missing features is the ability to show the size of an attachment in the email list.  Sure, you can see which emails have an attachment but if you want to search for the ones with large attachments and then delete those you will need to download all the emails to your local email client then delete them.  This is a waste of bandwidth so I have tried to find a solution.

I started with the free program ImapSize which can be found here [1.8MB]:
I wanted to use the program to identify all large emails and keep the email but remove the attachments (which I already had on my local PC’s HDD).

Here are the instructions of how to delete the attachments:
BUT, when I followed the instructions I could see that a new email was created without the attachments – BUT the original email was not deleted as I thought the program would do.  I see other people in the forums also had similar problems. 

So, I proceeded to use ImapSize to remove all large attachments and use a workaround using my email client (see below) to delete the emails with the large attachments.

I noted that ImapSize hasn’t been updated for a looong while: Version 0.3.7 released (February 19th, 2009), and I also see that the author (Ivan ivecanski) hasn’t got any time to update it and has started making it OpenSource – but the files are still not available :(

Due to the above problems I resorted to using my Outlook email client (as a workaround):
I configured it to use IMAP although on second thoughts pop3 would have been fine.
The main “trick” being that you need to configure the email client to only download headers – and not the attachments nor the body of the emails.
First, setup GMail to allow downloading POP or IMAP:
Here’s the instructions on how to set up your email client to fetch the emails:
POP3: (preferred):

The above steps will tell Outlook where your GMail emails are and what the passwords and ports are.

Outlook will then start downloading all your emails and attachments… but, hold on – we do NOT want to download any emails – we JUST want to download the list of emails (headers).
So, before telling your email client to go fetch the emails – we need to configure the client to only download the headers:
* Select Tools | Send/Receive | Send/Receive Settings | Define Send/Receive Groups... from the menu.
* Highlight the desired group.
* Click Edit....
* Go to the desired account in the Accounts list.
* Under “Folder options”, select ‘Download headers only’.

* Click OK.
Now, when you click Send/Receive, Outlook will only download the headers information for messages exceeding your threshold size. But getting the full emails is easy, as is deleting messages right at the server without downloading them in full ever.

Once you have all the headers then you can use Outlook’s search functionality to find the emails that are larger than nMB:

Or type the following in the search bar: messagesize:>2MB received:<Oct 2011

This will search through the current folder’s headers and list only the emails that are larger that 2MB and received earlier than Oct 2011.

Select the emails (Ctrl-A) and delete them.

Outlook will then tell GMail to send those messages into the ‘Trash’ folder.

Go to GMail’s web client and “delete them forever” from the Trash folder – check the “%full” reading on the bottom of the mail list.


There you have it – all large emails identified and deleted without actually downloading them to your local computer.

If you have any better methods, then please share them in the comments below.

1 comment:

  1. Why dont you use Binfer to send large attachments? Then you dont to deal with all that complexity. Check:


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