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Cover image for GMail out of space? Delete the attachments, not the emails!
An Rodriguez
An Rodriguez

Posted on • Updated on • Originally published at Medium

GMail out of space? Delete the attachments, not the emails!

Thunderbird to the rescue!


Thunderbird is a free email application that’s easy to set up and customize - and it’s loaded with great features!

You can download from here

Thunderbird has amazing features: attachment removal, calendar integration, encryption, plugins (add-ons) galore, etc...

Here we'll explore a feature I find useful to free up some precious Google cloud storage space.

I'll soon write an article on using Google Photos for unlimited (yes, unlimited) super high-quality photo and video storage.

Deleting attachments from emails

Perhaps one of the most useful features of attachment handling. Thunderbird lets you remove an attachment from an email without deleting the email body.
One of the most useful things is to be able to delete the attachment from an email without deleting the email itself nor its metadata (like date sent). It is also possible to keep the original date.

Detach attachments

Detach attachments

After a save dialog box where you can choose where to save the attachment, Thunderbird warns about what is about to happen:


Detach attachments warning

Back in GMail, you can confirm that the email is still there with all its original metadata (date sent, most importantly).

This way you can clean your inbox of heavy attachments without deleting the emails themselves. You keep all the body of the email and its invaluable metadata (like date sent/received).

Other nice features of Thunderbird (or almost any desktop email client)

I sometimes get fed up with GMail for not letting me order emails by sender or subject. So I decided to test Thunderbird yet again.

GMail is great. No doubt about it. I don't even care that it reads all my emails to serve me advertisements I'd care about.

Ordering emails by sender or subject makes it SO MUCH EASIER to clean up unwanted emails.

Not that I am an "inbox-zero" type of person. But it bothers me when I make a simple search and all this clutter shows up in my search results.

I also don't enjoy deleting my email in general. Only crude advertisement emails that I know I don't care about. I think of my inbox as a type of diary.

Why I like (desktop email clients|GMail)

In GMail you can't order and group your emails by date, like in this view, for example:

Inbox grouped by date

Inbox grouped by date

However, in a desktop, you don't get (at least by default) all of GMail's great filtering like a "Priority Inbox" view: combining unread, important and starred inboxes. This is a feature I truly appreciate.

GMail's Priority Inbox

GMail's Priority Inbox

Interesting add-ons

I've used Thunderbird in the past, so I know quite a few add-ons I used in the past.

If you're curious, head to Tools->Add-ons and take a peek at the power of Thunderbird (69 pages of add-ons).

Back in the day (a few months ago?) there was no way to send an email in the future (in the latest GMail is now possible, also to snooze emails). But Thunderbird had an add-on to do this since years ago...

This is by no means a review of Thunderbird. I just wanted to show you how to delete attachments without deleting the email itself. Thus you can declutter you precious Google cloud storage space.

Top comments (2)

robertallardic1 profile image
Robert Allardice


It's a good strategy to free up Gmail space, we can delete all attachments using thunderbird and make some room for new emails.
However, it is better to save your attachments on your system in case you might need them in the future.
For this, you can backup Gmail email with attachments and save both files in your system.

Best Regards,
Robert Allardice

rokstrnisa profile image
Rok Strniša

Hi Mich,

I wrote an app called Unattach (, which allows you to easily download and optionally remove Gmail attachments from many emails at once. It should be more convenient to use than Thunderbird, since the app was created for this very purpose. Let me know what you think.

Best regards,