How to free up space in your Google/Gmail account

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Well, it finally happened. I’m almost out of storage space on my Google/Gmail account.

Google space


I actually got this Google account back when the Gmail email service was first introduced, which was in 2004. So it’s taken me 15 years to almost fill it up. Google gives you 15 gb of storage space with each account, and I archive the majority of my emails, so that kind of tells you how much you can fit in 15 gb. It’s a lot.

But your Google account doesn’t just store emails. That 15 gb of space is also used by whatever you have stored in Google Drive and in Google Photos. To see the status of your account’s storage, go to this link:

When I go there for my account, this is what it shows me:

Google storage

So you can see about 1/3 of my usage is in Google Drive, and 2/3 is used by my 15 years worth of emails. I also store all of my photos in Google Photos, but if you let them optimize the images to reduce the file size, that doesn’t count toward your storage limit

And here’s an important thing to note: you definitely DON’T want to let that storage get to 100%, especially if you use Gmail as your primary email account. If you use ALL of your storage space, you won’t be able to send or receive any emails until you clear some of it out.

I’ll tell you right up front, the quickest and easiest way to fix this is to upgrade to a Google One account. It’s only $20 per year, and you get these benefits:

  • 100 gb of storage space – in my case, that’s more than a lifetime supply
  • help from Google experts – you can actually contact someone from Google if you need help
  • option to share – you can share your storage space with up to 5 other people

In my case, that’s probably what I’ll do. But what if you don’t want to pay Google for more storage? You can just delete some of the things you are currently storing. I’ll do that with my own account and we’ll see how it works.

First up, Google Drive. You may not even be using Google Drive for anything, but I do have several things stored there – documents, spreadsheets, videos, etc. Most of these things I don’t use now, so I don’t need them any more.

I went through and deleted a bunch of files from Google Drive, and checked my total storage again. Guess what – it made no difference at all. Documents take up very little space, so deleting them didn’t save space.

So now we move on to Gmail.

With email, it’s important to note that a standard email message does not take up much space at all. But if an email has an attachment – that’s what uses storage space.  So my first thing to try is to find all of my old Gmail emails that have attachments bigger than 5 mb get rid of the ones I don’t need (which is probably most of them).

To find all of the emails larger than 5 mb, go to and sign in, then go up to the search bar and do this search:

5mb emails

In my case, I had 142 emails that were 5 mb or larger. I deleted the 42 oldest ones. Still no difference. BUT – that’s because deleting them really just puts them in the Trash folder, and that still counts toward your storage limit. So I emptied the Trash. Now we’re seeing progress.

My new report:

Google storage

Overall down to 86%, so that definitely gives me some breathing room. In my case, it probably gives me another year before I need to deal with this again.

There are also some third-party programs that can help you clean up your Gmail account. One of the more popular ones is called Find Big Mail ( In the past, you had to pay for this service, but at the time of this post it is free. They may start charging again in the future. They will ask you for a donation though, so you can decide if it’s worth paying for.

Just go to the website and follow the instructions. You’ll end up with a report that tells you what was found, and some of your biggest emails will have a new label, so you can just view them (and delete them if you want to). When I did this, and emptied Trash again, I got this revised storage report:

Google storage

So I got it down to 81%. Not bad! Definitely better than almost full at 98%. When it starts to get full again, I probably will just go ahead and buy more storage space since it’s so cheap. But for now, I don’t have to worry about it.

Did you get rid of some stuff in your Google account? How much space did you save?

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Larry Cairncross
September 30th, 2019

How do you delete the oldest emails? Say you have 5,000 emails and you want to delete the oldest 4,000.

Scott Johnson
September 30th, 2019

I believe you can only do that manually, 50 or 100 at a time.

Glyn Hunt
September 30th, 2019

Thanks Scott:

Is there a way to group e-mail – say by sender -, to delete a bunch at at time instead of individually clicking on them

Scott Johnson
September 30th, 2019

Yes, just do a search on the sender’s name so you’re only looking at emails from that sender. Then just delete all of those.