03 September 2015

Free up some GMail storage space

GMail is great and I have been an admirer of the free service since first signing up as an early adopter way back in 2007. I haven't touched Outlook since and have found the whole idea of messages and attachments available anywhere so much better than having them downloaded and access restricted to one or two devices.

Over all the years, though, the volume had built up and, whilst well short of the free 17GB storage Google provide I had noticed that GMail was taking up a good 9GB or so and decided to whittle that down a bit.

First step is to back up messages. That's easier said than done. I used Upsafe which is free and, eventually, seems to have stored them all somewhere on my hard drive should I really need to dig out something from the past. That took a while because there simply have been so many messages and the software seems to have taken several goes at it too. Despite declaring that it 'failed' I can see what appears to be all the messages stored and have read a few at random just to make sure. I have written to Upsafe to enquire what the failed message is all about but haven't heard from them yet. That may be another story. For now, though, I was happy that important messages were still available.

So on to the next stage. Let's delete some messages, tens of thousands of them to be more precise!

If you're happy to delete absolutely everything in a folder then there is a quick option. If you select all on the first page of a folder then Google will put up a message asking if you want to delete the lot. So it may be worthwhile using that - it will save a lot of time as some folders of mine had over 5000 messages. I wanted to keep the first few pages so didn't use that option but I could have made my life easier by changing the label (folder) for the first few pages and then doing the delete all thing for those that remained after moving those I wanted to keep.

That delete, though, isn't enough. they are still there and still counting towards your storage space. You have to delete them forever as Google dramatically puts it. To do that, go to the Bin (also called Trash confusingly) and select the whole lot (using the first page then all of them method described above) and hit Delete forever. It can take a while if there are a few thousand to be removed. That will make a difference, at last.

It didn't do as much as I had expected, though. The culprit may have been the Sent messages folder which had another 8000 messages, many conversations being those that had been deleted in their own folders but, confusingly, remaining, apparently, with the replies I'd made. So most of those got deleted forever as well.

After a good hour or three doing this I managed to get my Storage for GMail down to a bit more than 4GB, a decent reduction but I still cannot figure out what is occupying that 4GB of data from the much reduced messages remaining, mostly just comparatively recent ones. I shall have to investigate that further.

I notice that All mail shows over 70000 messages! Surely I don't have to trawl through that too?

What I am getting at here, as well as indicating how you need to go about freeing up space as things stand, is how Google could help us all a great deal but making their Manage Storage much more helpful. At the moment the link merely shows us a pretty pie chart and some notes on what takes up storage. That's Viewing Storage not Managing Storage! What I'd like is a way to select messages older than n years in folder X, m years in Y and maybe all in Z and delete those forever in one go. With a nice instant display of the effect on storage too. Indeed, that effect could be presented as we select various elements of our GMail and allow us to make sensible choices where one particular folder could account for the majority of space usage and save us having to plough through years of messages with less impact on space use.

Another helpful tool would be to extract attachments from messages. As it is the attachments that are the real culprits in occupying that valuable space and we may well have already kept copies of those we particularly want to save locally, a simple way to delete them would be nice. The Digital Inspiration man has made an attachment finder that works as a script in Google Sheets but that is a bit clunky and I find it keeps failing and, whilst helpfully identifying a few big attachments, you still have to go looking around for them and deleting them one by one which is a real drag.