Peter Lu / 10.03.2023Home / Email Security

Gmail storage cleaning—the only guide you need

If you’ve run out of Gmail storage, there are several ways to free it up and avoid disruptions to your workflow. Learn about the most effective ones.
With the average email size of 75 KB, it would take over 200,000 emails to fill up Gmail’s 15 GB of free storage. Unfortunately, Gmail storage is not dedicated to emails but shared between Google Drive and Google Photos.If you use Google Workspace for work or back up your data and photos, the free storage can fill up rather quickly. When it does, you may not be able to receive new mail until you free up the storage.This guide will help by explaining how to declutter Gmail and free up the available space. You will also learn how to get more storage if you’re willing to commit to Gmail in the long run. To ensure you make an informed decision, we will explain whether such a commitment would be wise, taking into account the security risks Gmail has exposed users to.
Streamline your inbox with Skiff MailSkiff Mail's intuitive design and robust search functionality help you efficiently organize your emails and free up space
Sign up

How to clean up Gmail storage

Considering Gmail’s combined storage, there are three things you can do if you’re running low:
  1. Clean up Google Drive
  2. Delete photos
  3. Remove large and old emails

Clean up Google Drive

There’s a high chance that much of your used Gmail storage does not come from the email service but from Google Drive. In this case, the most effective way to free up space is to delete large files you no longer need.You can do this in a few quick steps:
  1. Log into Google Drive
  2. From the main screen, click Storage in the left-hand menu
  3. You will see your files sorted by storage in descending order, so right-click the heaviest files and choose Move to Trash
Source: Google Drive screenshotYou will notice your storage hasn’t changed. That is because the file wasn’t deleted entirely but only moved to the Trash folder, where it will remain for the following 30 days. To delete the file immediately and free up your storage, follow these steps:
  1. Go to the Trash folder
  2. Click the three-dot icon in the upper-right corner of the file you want to delete
  3. Click Delete forever and confirm
Another option is to delete all files permanently by clicking the Empty Trash button as shown below:
Source: Google Drive ScreenshotDepending on the number and size of your files, this step alone might free up enough storage for you to keep using Gmail uninterruptedly. If not, you should move on to another platform tied to Gmail’s storage—Google Photos.

Declutter Google Photos

If photos from your phone or computer are automatically backed up to Google Photos, your storage might fill up without you realizing it. You will need to delete the photos you no longer need manually, which you can do by following these steps:
  1. Log into Google Photos
  2. Select the photos you want to delete by clicking the check mark in their upper-left corner
  3. Click on the bin icon in the upper-right corner of the screen and confirm the deletion
Source: Google Photos screenshotYour photos will be moved to trash, similarly to files in Google Drive, but there’s an important distinction here—your storage will be freed up immediately. Files in Google Photos’ Trash folder don’t take up your Google storage, so permanently deleting them won’t be necessary.Deleted photos will be removed automatically after 60 days. If you want them deleted permanently right away, you can follow the same steps you would when deleting files from Google Drive’s Trash. The layout looks virtually the same, so you can find the corresponding options by referring to the steps in the previous section.

Delete large and/or old emails

Attachments can often make emails significantly larger than the average size. If you still don’t have enough space after deleting files and photos, you can remove heavy emails and conversations you will no longer refer to.Gmail’s advanced search can help you identify such emails and delete them in bulk. For example, if you wanted to find and delete emails with attachments larger than 15 MB, you’d follow these steps:
  1. Type has:attachment larger:15MB in the search bar
  2. Select the emails you want to delete or click the checkbox above the inbox to select all emails from the given page
  3. Click on the bin icon above the inbox
Source: Gmail screenshotYou can use a similar approach to find old emails by entering different commands and parameters to define the time frame, such as:
  • After:
  • Before:
  • Older_than:
Note that the emails will go to Trash, which you must empty to clean up your inbox and free up storage. Here’s how:
  1. Click More at the bottom of the left-hand menu to expand the folder list
  2. Go to Trash
  3. Click Empty Trash now

How to get more Gmail storage

If you want to keep all your files and emails but still need more storage, you will need to subscribe to one of Google’s paid services, which vary between personal and business Gmail users. The former can opt for Google One, with the following plans:
Basic$1.99 per month100 GB
Standard$2.99 per month200 GB
Premium$9.99 per month2 TB
Business users also have three standardized options and a custom plan:
PlanPricing (with annual billing)Storage
Business Starter$6/user per month30 GB
Business Standard$12/user per month2 TB
Business Plus$18/user per month5 TB
EnterpriseCustom5 TB with the ability to request more
While the plans are relatively affordable, you should think carefully before committing to Gmail and other Google products. You might get the storage you need, but you’d still be exposed to a significant vulnerability—weak security.

Why your data might not be safe with Gmail

Gmail has been the target of numerous cyberattacks over the years, many of which have given hackers access to users’ emails. Worse yet, the company itself has undergone scrutiny due to privacy concerns and invasive practices.Many of these issues stem from the same problem—weak encryption. Gmail uses the TLS protocol to protect emails in transit and AES-256 encryption for data at rest. While it may seem like the attack surface is minimal, there are two significant issues here:
  • The TLS protocol is outdated and full of vulnerabilities
  • Both encryption forms involve keys created and stored by Google, allowing your provider to decrypt and read your emails
Paying for an email provider that doesn’t ensure adequate safety isn’t necessary—especially when there are privacy-first email services that do a far better job at protecting your emails for free.Privacy-oriented platforms use end-to-end encryption (E2EE), the gold standard of email security. The encryption keys are created and stored on your device, ensuring complete privacy, and your messages are turned into ciphertext before they reach the provider’s server. Only the recipient holds the decryption key, so nobody can read plaintext copies of your emails.If you need a provider that offers such advanced security, check out Skiff Mail.

Skiff Mail—Private, secure, and free

Skiff Mail is a secure email service that implements E2EE by default. Your correspondence is kept safe using two separate keys—a public encryption key shared with the recipient and a private decryption key stored on the recipient’s device.Nobody—including Skiff—can access your encryption keys, assuming your device hasn’t been compromised. Only the recipient can decrypt messages using their private key.The platform’s security doesn’t end there—you can sign up without leaving any personal information, and your account credentials and other critical data will be encrypted using the Secure Remote Password algorithm. You can also use two-factor authentication (2FA) to further secure your account against cyberattacks like phishing.

Secure storage, advanced features

Free storage is typically scarce among popular E2EE email services, as shown in the following table:
ProviderFree storage
Tutanota1 GB
Proton Mail500 MB out of the box plus 500 MB unlockable through different actions
Mailfence500 MB
Skiff Mail’s rich free plan comes with 10 GB of end-to-end encrypted storage, which is far above the industry standard. If you need more, you can unlock up to 2 TB with the platform’s affordable paid plans.Other notable features you get with the free account include the following:
  • Fast email and text search
  • Folders, labels, and filters
  • Integration with MetaMask, Coinbase, and various other crypto wallets
  • Schedule and undo-send features
  • Four aliases and one custom domain
Skiff is open source and fully transparent about their codebase. Visit Skiff’s GitHub or read the whitepaper to learn more about the security measures employed.
Leverage Skiff’s secure email and storage Skiff offers secure, private storage options, allowing you to manage your files effortlessly
Sign up
Source: Skiff

Additional E2EE platforms at no extra cost

Skiff Mail is one of four end-to-end encrypted products that create a secure workspace, the other three being:All Skiff platforms are available with the free account and compatible with iOS, macOS, Android, Windows, and all major browsers.
Source: Skiff

Protect your correspondence with Skiff Mail

If you want complete privacy and control of your data, you can get started with Skiff Mail in three steps:
  1. Go to the signup page
  2. Choose a username and password
  3. Explore Skiff Mail and other E2EE products
Switching from Gmail doesn’t mean you’ll lose your correspondence—Skiff’s one-click migration lets you transfer all important data instantly. Your emails and files will be end-to-end encrypted from the moment you migrate, and Skiff won’t store any unencrypted copies.

Join the community

Become a part of our 1,500,000+ community and join the future of a private and decentralized internet.

Free plan • No card required