Find Big Emails on Gmail

Martin Brinkmann
Apr 10, 2011
Updated • Jan 10, 2015
Email, Gmail

Roman messaged me yesterday about a problem one of his friend's was experiencing. His friend's Gmail account was more or less at the storage size limit which meant that the friend either needed to buy additional storage from Gmail, or delete emails.

Deleting the largest emails in the inbox should free up some space. But that is easier said than done considering that Google Mail has no option to sort emails by size, or to display the biggest emails.

Update: it is no longer necessary to use a third-party service for that. Gmail users can run commands in the search to filter emails by size. Other parameters are also available, for instance to only display emails with file attachments.

Roman pointed out that he discovered Find Big Email, a free service that creates a storage report for all Gmail emails.

gmail inbox size

The service updates statistics during the scan, and an email at the end of the scan lists the top 20 biggest emails in Gmail, as well as emails that are larger than 2 Megabytes, 500 Kilobytes and 100 Kilobytes.

Find Big Email creates labels in the Gmail account that list those matching emails directly. This makes it easy as pie to delete large emails that are no longer needed. It cannot get much easier to find big emails in Gmail. The service revokes all access permissions after the scan has completed, which means that you do not have to manually do that.

The biggest concern that many users may have is that you need to authorize the service to access your Gmail account. While you do not have to enter your password to do that, it still means that the third party service can access all of your emails. If you have trade secrets in your account, other valuable or personal information, or have important accounts linked to your Gmail account, you may prefer a different solution.

One solution is to use an external email program to download all Gmail emails to a local computer to find out which emails use up the biggest amount of space on Google Mail. I recommend Thunderbird for the job but you can basically use any desktop email program, Microsoft Outlook is fine as well for instance.

Thunderbird is available for Windows, Linux and Mac. It is not as easy to use as it requires some initial configuration on your side to link the Gmail account to the desktop email client. Once that is setup though it is more or less automatic.

The account creation screen will be displayed right after installation. You need to enter the account name, email address and password. Thunderbird will handle the rest and look up the Google Mail server information automatically. Make sure you keep the IMAP mail protocol setting and do not switch to POP3.

gmail account

You still need to make one configuration change though if you want that your deleted emails in Thunderbird are automatically removed from Gmail as well. Click on Tools > Account Settings.

Locate your Gmail account in the listing and select Server Settings. Now switch from When I delete a message > Move it to this folder to Remove it immediately.

gmail delete emails

The final change is to enable the size column in the email listing. Click the last icon in the email header listing of the Gmail inbox and enable the Size column.

gmail email size

The column displays the size of every email in that folder, including its attachment size. You can now sort by size by clicking on the Size column in the header.

Deleting messages in Thunderbird will now automatically delete those messages in Gmail as well.

While it takes longer to identify big emails in Gmail this way, it is the safer way of doing it as no one but you gets to access all the emails of the account.

Bonus tip for the impatient. You can display all emails with attachments in Gmail by searching for has:attachment. While you still cannot sort those emails by size, it is usually fair to assume that the emails with attachments take up more space than emails without. Good for some quick cleaning, especially if you can identify messages that you do not longer need to keep.

A third option that you may want to explore is to use an email backup program like Mailstore Home which you can use to backup all Gmail emails.

Find Big Emails on Gmail
Article Name
Find Big Emails on Gmail
Find out how to display large emails on Gmail so that you can delete them to free up space.

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  1. JMGG said on January 19, 2012 at 8:25 am

    You said that Outlook isn’t your main email client, so which is your main one?

    1. BalaC said on January 19, 2012 at 9:42 am

      I think its thunderbird

    2. Martin Brinkmann said on January 19, 2012 at 10:15 am

      It is Mozilla Thunderbird.

  2. Salaam said on September 24, 2012 at 9:52 pm

    Awesome! This actually solved my problem… what a stupid bug.

  3. Claud said on December 19, 2012 at 2:08 am

    If this is the same bug that I’ve encountered, there may be another fix: (1) hover over open Outlook item in Taskbar, cursor up to hover over Outlook window item, and right-click; (2) this should give you Restore / Move / Size / Minimize / Maximize — choose Move or Size; (3) use your cursor keys, going arbitrarily N/S/E/W, to try to move or size the Outlook window back into view. Basically, the app behaves as though it were open in a 0x0 window, or at a location that’s offscreen, and this will frequently work to resize and/or move the window. Don’t forget to close while resized/moved, so that Outlook remembers the size/position for next time.

    1. Lynda said on February 12, 2013 at 3:37 pm

      THANK YOU Claude!!! I could get the main window to launch but could not get any other message window to show on the desktop. You are my hero!!!!

    2. Chad said on November 20, 2018 at 4:24 pm

      Solved my issue! 6 years later and this is still problem…

    3. Ivan X said on January 21, 2021 at 4:50 pm

      Fantastic. Thank you. Size did the trick.

  4. Andrew said on October 26, 2013 at 7:06 am

    This solved my Outlook problem, too. Thank you. :)

  5. Charles said on December 7, 2013 at 7:23 pm

    Thank you so much, this started happening to me today and was causing big problems. You are a life saver, I hope I can help you in some way some day.

  6. garth said on November 7, 2014 at 7:13 pm

    You are a god – thank you!

  7. Faisal said on February 9, 2015 at 10:09 am

    thanks a lot…. work like charm.. :-)

  8. Simon said on March 24, 2015 at 11:36 pm

    Yah…thanks Claude. I’ve been having the same problem and tried all the suggestions…your solution was the answer. It had resized itself to a 0/0 box. Cheers

  9. Olu said on April 14, 2015 at 1:35 pm

    Excellent post. This had me baffled even trying to accurately describe the problem. This fixed it for me.
    Thank you

  10. Coenig said on July 23, 2015 at 7:36 am

    Thanks a lot for the article. Don’t know why it happenend, don’t know how it got fixed, but it was really annoying and now it works :-)

  11. Fali said on January 20, 2016 at 4:19 pm

    Thanks a lot. I was facing this issue from past 3 week. I tried everything but no resolution. The issue was happening intermittently and mainly when I was changing the display of screen ( as i use 2 monitors). The only option i had was to do system restore. But thanks to you.

    1. MIki said on January 10, 2019 at 11:54 am

      I’ve been tried to sole this problem for 12hours. Your comment about changing the display of screen helped me a lot!! Thanks!!

  12. Christina said on January 20, 2016 at 6:14 pm

    Thank you…don’t know why this happened but your instructions helped me fix it. Running Windows 10 and office pro 2007

  13. Oz said on July 22, 2016 at 3:20 pm

    Great tip! Thanks!

  14. Tracy said on September 1, 2016 at 4:48 pm

    Worked for me, too – thank you!!!

  15. shawn said on September 9, 2016 at 10:25 am

    It’s Worked for me, too
    thank you very much!

  16. Jari said on October 31, 2016 at 11:53 am

    I had a similar issue with Outlook 2013 on Windows 10 and this helped me to fix it. Thank you very much!

  17. Michel H said on November 30, 2016 at 11:08 pm

    Thank you so much. Solved!
    Considering you published this in 2012, incredible not been debugged by Microsoft.
    Thank you again. M

  18. Ziad Bitar said on January 9, 2017 at 2:00 am

    This problem was faced by only one user logging to TS 2008 r2 using outlook 2010.The issue was resolved.


  19. Anonymous said on February 15, 2017 at 5:24 pm

    Great tip. Thank you!!!! If it helps, I had to use the Control Key and the arrow keys at the same time to bring my window back into view. Worked like a charm.

  20. Rochelle said on March 6, 2017 at 11:59 am

    Thank you, this worked !!!!

  21. anom1234 said on May 20, 2018 at 11:20 pm

    Man, you are a fucking god. Thanks a lot, what an annoying bug!!

  22. JC said on October 12, 2020 at 2:14 pm

    Awesome, this post solved the issue. Many thanks!

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