What To Do When Gmail is Full: An Easy 3-Step Space Clearing Guide

Is your Gmail account clogged and running out of storage?

Hey there, digital creators and online entrepreneurs! Our inbox is often where tasks begin and end. But nothing slams the brakes on our digital flow like that dreaded notice—your Gmail storage is almost full. And if it hits max? Ouch! No more incoming emails. It’s a digital headache, especially when our work and personal chats all happen through email.

what to do when gmail is full screenshot

Well, you’re certainly not alone. I’m here to help. I’ll guide you step by step on how to clean up your Google Storage and, importantly, how to keep this issue at bay in the future. So, let’s roll up our sleeves and dive in!

What To Do When Gmail is Full: An Easy 3-Step Space Clearing Guide

Understanding Gmail Storage

Gmail is an integral part of our digital lives, acting as a hub for not just emails, but documents, photos, and files. If you’re using the free version of Gmail, Google provides you with a total of 15GB of storage shared across Gmail, Google Drive, and Google Photos.


It’s important to understand that this storage is not mutually exclusive to Gmail. Every email, document, photo, or file uses up a fraction of this storage.

The main contributors to your Gmail storage are:

  • Emails: Every email, including attachments, takes up space. Larger emails with weighty attachments can quickly eat up your storage.
  • Google Drive: Files saved directly in Google Drive are included in your quota. It also includes files you create, such as Google Docs, Google Sheets, Google Slides, and Google Forms.
  • Google Photos: Photos and videos backed up in original and Storage saver quality.
important update

You may find outdated information online suggesting that Storage Saver photos or Google Docs don’t count towards your storage. However, since 1 June 2021, Google has updated its storage policy. Now, newly created or modified Google Docs and photos/videos backed up in Storage Saver or Express Quality after this date count towards your storage quota. For the latest details, check the official Google storage help page.

Now that we have a grasp on how Gmail’s storage functions, let’s delve into how we can manage it better and free up some much-needed space.

Identifying Your Storage Usage: The Starting Point

As you might have gathered from the previous paragraph, clearing out unwanted email clutter and organizing your mailbox are just the starting points to tackling the full Gmail storage issue. It’s a trio affair – your Gmail, Drive, and Photos all contribute to the storage space. In the upcoming section, we’ll unravel easy and effective strategies to manage storage across all three platforms, helping you regain control and breathe easy once more.


Note: Before diving in, it’s wise to back up your data. Accidents happen, and it’s better to be safe than sorry. Here’s how you can do it in a Google One account:

  • Sign in to your Google Account
    • Go to Google One.
    • Click on “Sign in” if you’re not already signed in to your Google Account.
  • Access Backup Management:
    • Once signed in, click on your profile icon
    • Click on “Manage your Google Account”
    • Go to “Data& Privacy” section on the left-hand side
  • Initiate Backup:
    • Look for the “Data from apps and services you user” section on the page
    • Click on “Download your data”. Google One will then present you with options on what data to back up.
  • Select Data to Back Up:
    • You can choose to back up data from various services like Google Drive, Gmail, and Google Photos.
    • Select the checkboxes next to the services you want to back up.
  • Start the Backup Process:
    • Once you’ve selected the data you want to back up, click on “Next.”
    • Review your backup settings, and click on “Start” to initiate the backup process. You might want to select the “Export once” option in this case.
    • Click on “Create export”.
  • Monitor Backup Progress:
    • You can monitor the progress of your backup or you could grab a cup of coffee and do something else in the meantime;-)
    • Once the backup is complete, you’ll receive an email notification.
  • Access or Download Your Backup:
    • After the backup is complete, you can access or download your backup from the “Backup” section in Google One.

Here is a quick video on how to do it:

Since there are three key components – Gmail, Drive, and Photos – that could be hogging your storage and leading to the full Gmail problem, it makes sense to tackle them separately. I’ll provide tailored advice on how to handle each of these storage sources. But before we dive into the solutions, it’s crucial to identify which of these components is the primary offender. So, let’s start by pinpointing the naughty ones.

To get a clear picture of your Google One storage situation, you have two straightforward options. First, you can visit one.google.com and click on “Storage” on the left side to see a breakdown of how much space each component—Gmail, Drive, and Photos—is using. This breakdown will give you a clear insight into which area is consuming the most storage, enabling a targeted cleanup.

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Alternatively, if you’re more email-centric, simply open your Gmail, scroll down to the bottom of the page, and you’ll see the amount of storage used. This figure is a quick indicator of your storage status, although it won’t provide a detailed breakdown like the first method.

No matter which way you choose, knowing how much storage you’re using is the first step. It lets you make a plan to tackle the issue head-on.

Google Storage Management

Quick Wins to Free Up Space

Did you know there’s a built-in Storage Manager in Google that can help you free up space in your Gmail? It’s easy to use. Here’s how:

  1. Go to one.google.com.
  2. Click on ‘Storage’.
  3. Now click on “Clean up space” on the page.

Once you click “Clean up space”, Google will show you several options to help clear out space from one place. It’s really helpful!

what to do when gmail is full screenshot

Here’s what Google might suggest:

  • Delete large photos and videos
  • Delete files in your bin.
  • Remove spam emails.
  • Get rid of emails in your bin.
  • Delete unsupported videos.

And there’s more! If you scroll down, you’ll find a ‘Clean up by service’ option:

  • Click on ‘Google Drive’: It will show you the largest files.
  • Click on ‘Google Photos’: You’ll see photos and videos taking up space.
  • Click on ‘Gmail’: You’ll see emails with large attachments, emails in bin, and spam emails.

Now, you can easily see what’s using up your space and decide what to delete to free up space in your Gmail.

If the built-in Storage Manager didn’t do the trick, no worries! I have some more ideas that might help free up even more space. These tips will help you look closer at what’s taking up space in your Gmail, Drive, and Photos.

Strategies to Free Up Gmail Storage

Let’s dive into Gmail and explore additional tactics to reclaim some storage space.

Empty Trash And Spam

Always remember that your Gmail trash and spam folders contribute to your storage limit. Therefore, make sure to regularly empty your trash and spam folders to save some storage space. Take a look at my article where I discuss strategies to prevent spam emails from cluttering your inbox.

Harness the Power of Filters and Labels

Gmail’s filters and labels are your allies in keeping your inbox under control. Use them to bulk delete emails from specific senders or with particular labels. For instance, you could set up a filter for an old newsletter you no longer read, and zap them all away in one go. Here’s a video of how I tackled it 🙂

Say Goodbye to Old, Unwanted Emails

Purge old emails that hold no significance or value to you. This can also be executed using the search bar on Gmail. Simply type ‘older_than:[value]’ where value is the timeframe. For instance, ‘older_than:1y’ will bring up emails that are older than a year. You can review these and delete the unnecessary ones.

Hunt down large attachments

Large attachments are usual suspects in the case of disappearing Gmail storage. Use the search term size:[value] to find these bulky items. For example, size:5000000 will reveal all emails with attachments larger than 5MB.

Alternatively, use the has:attachment filter in Gmail, and tinker around to identify the emails hogging your space.

Once identified, it’s decision time. If the attachments are important, save them elsewhere. If not, it’s time to hit the delete button and free up that precious space!

Having tackled Gmail, let’s now shift our focus to another crucial aspect of our digital space – Google Drive.

Managing Space in Google Drive

If Google Drive files are taking up too much space, here’s a clear two-step plan to get some of that space back:

Delete Large Files:

  • Go to your Google Drive and click on the ‘Storage’ indicator. This will show you the large files that are using up your space.
  • Delete the ones you don’t need. But remember, this just sends them to the Bin.
  • To really free up space, go to the Bin and empty it.

If you’re looking to delete many files at once, simply click on the first file, hold down the ‘Shift’ key, and then click on the last file in the list you want to delete. This will select all the files in between, making bulk deletion a breeze. Alternatively, if you want to select multiple individual files that are not listed together, hold down the ‘Ctrl’ key (or ‘Command’ key on Mac) and click on each file you wish to select.

Find and Review Old Files:

  • Use the search bar in your Google Drive.
  • Type before:2023-10-03 to search for old files. (2023-10-03 is just an example date. Feel free to use a different date that suits you!)
  • Look through them and decide which ones to keep and which ones to delete.

Following this plan will help you free up space and keep your Google Drive organized.

Strategies to Free Up Google Photos Storage

Alright, let’s swing our attention to the final player in this game – Google Photos. Below are some nifty strategies to keep your storage woes at bay:

Opt for Storage Saver

Head over to your Google Photos account and click on ‘Settings.’ Select the ‘Storage Saver’ option. This handy setting compresses your photos a tad while backing them up, freeing up some precious storage space. It’s a little trade-off between quality and space. So, weigh your love for crisp images against your need for storage, and decide!

Embrace the Manage Storage Feature

Still on the ‘Settings’ page? Great! Now click on ‘Manage Storage.’ This smart feature nudges you to review and possibly delete large photos and videos, blurry snaps, screenshots, and unsupported videos. It’s like having a savvy friend helping you decide what to keep and what to toss. So, take a few minutes to go through these suggestions. You might be surprised at how much space you can reclaim!

Convert Existing Media to Storage Saver Quality

While you’re still in the ‘Manage Storage’ area, scroll down a bit and you’ll spot an option to convert your existing photos and videos to Storage Saver quality. This could be a game-changer if you’re okay with dialing down the quality a notch. It might take a little time for the conversion, but think of all the space you’ll free up!

Consider External Storage Options

If you have photos and videos that are dear to you but are taking up a lot of your Google storage, consider moving them to an external hard drive or another cloud storage service.

Don’t forget the bin!

Deleted items linger in the bin across Gmail, Google Drive, and Google Photos, still occupying your storage space. So, after you’ve conducted a clean-up on any of these platforms, make sure to empty the bin to truly recover the storage you’ve cleared up.

With these tricks up your sleeve, managing your Google Photos storage can be less of a headache. So, go ahead, give these a shot, and watch your Google storage space breathe a sigh of relief!

Is It Time to Upgrade? Weighing the Google One Subscription

Sometimes, no matter how much we try, the space in Gmail just isn’t enough. This is where the paid Google One subscription can help. Using the tips from this guide will help slow down how quickly your Gmail storage fills up, but there might still be times when you need more space. If you receive a lot of large files in your email, upgrading to Google One could be a wise decision for personal needs. It provides you with that extra storage cushion, ensuring you don’t hit a wall when you need to receive or store important files.

On the other hand, if your storage needs are more business-centric, considering a switch to Google Workspace might be the right move. Google Workspace not only offers more storage but also provides additional business-oriented features, making it a suitable choice for professional use.

Nevertheless, getting more storage with Google One or switching to Google Workspace doesn’t mean you can stop keeping your email and Google Drive organized. Even with more space, if you don’t keep things tidy, you’ll run into the same storage problems again. So, think of upgrading as an extra help, not a replacement for staying organized. The saying ‘The more the merrier,’ is true, but keeping things well-managed is key;-).

How to not run out of storage moving forward

Not keen on upgrading and determined to make the most of that 15 GB storage? I’ve got your back! Here are my top tips to keep your digital space breezy and uncluttered:

  • Try Other Storage Spots: Consider moving your photos over to another cloud storage. Regular transfers from Google Photos to alternative spaces, followed by a good old clean-up, can keep those storage warnings at bay.
  • Keep Your Emails in Check: Remember to unsubscribe from emails you don’t want and clear out old emails regularly. It’ll keep your inbox light and easy.
  • Move Big Files Elsewhere: Got big files like videos or large documents? Consider storing them in a different place. There are many other storage options out there.
  • Clean Up Regularly: Check out my other articles for tips on keeping your email and Google Drive organized. Set aside some time to clear things out in your emails, Google Drive, and Photos.

Wrapping up

We’ve navigated through the nitty-gritty of managing your Google storage across Gmail, Drive, and Photos. Now, let’s distill this into an actionable plan:

Step 1

Identify Storage Offenders

Begin by understanding where most of your Google storage is being used. Use Google One or Gmail’s storage indicators to identify whether Gmail, Google Drive, or Google Photos is consuming the majority of your storage. Don’t forget to back up your data before making changes.

Step 2

Clean up

Utilize the built-in Google Storage Manager to pinpoint and delete unwanted items, whether they’re in your email, Google Drive, or Google Photos. Employ filters, labels, and targeted searches to find and remove old emails, large attachments, and unnecessary files. Ensure you empty the bin in all three platforms to fully recover the storage space.

Step 3

Maintain your Google storage

Adopt a routine to manage your storage better moving forward. Regularly transfer photos to alternative storage solutions, unsubscribe from unwanted emails, delete old or large files, and set aside time for routine clean-ups across Gmail, Google Drive, and Google Photos. By keeping a consistent maintenance schedule, you’ll avoid hitting your storage limit and keep your digital space organized and functional.

By sticking to this straightforward three-step action plan, you’re not just reclaiming your Google storage but also setting the stage for a tidy digital space moving forward. Now, why stop here? Dive deeper into the digital organization by exploring more tips and tricks about email organization.

I’d love to hear from you! Did you find this guide helpful? Do you have any questions? Share your thoughts in the comments below or reach out through my contact page.

Gmail Storage FAQs

Gmail storage is counted against all your emails and their attachments. This includes all messages in your inbox, sent folders, drafts, and even in the trash and spam. In addition, Google Drive files and Google Photos also count towards your quota.

Sometimes, Gmail’s storage behaves like a mystery wrapped in an enigma. Even post-cleanup, you might find your storage unmoved, often due to unemptied Trash or large files lurking in Google Drive.

When your Gmail is full, don’t worry, you won’t lose any of your existing stuff. But, there’s a catch – you won’t be able to send or receive new emails. Any emails sent your way will boomerang back to the sender. Also, you might hit a wall trying to upload files to Google Drive or back up your pictures and videos.

You can check your current Gmail storage by scrolling to the very bottom of your Gmail page. There, you will see a bar showing your usage of Google Drive, Gmail, and Google Photos.

Yes, if you need more space, you have the option to buy additional storage via Google One. Google One offers different storage plans that can be expanded up to 2TB or more, depending on your needs.

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