A large number of email messages in an inbox.
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Is your email account filling up? Don’t pay a monthly subscription fee just to store a bunch of newsletters, promotional emails, and other junk you’ll never look at again. Here’s how to quickly purge your email of the worst offenders.

Which Emails Do You Actually Need?

We’re not here to encourage you to dig through thousands (or hundreds of thousands) of emails one by one. That sounds time-consuming.

Instead, we have some helpful tips for sorting the junk emails from the pile. It’s easy to pick out large numbers of emails that just aren’t useful.

Search for Common Phrases in Junk Emails

Consider searching for common phrases in junk emails. For example, try searching for the following phrases:

  • Unsubscribe
  • Verify
  • Welcome
  • Activate
  • “Password recovery”
  • “New sign in”
  • “Account registration”
  • Alert

If you start searching for these, you’ll find a lot of useless emails that you probably don’t need. If they all look useless, you can quickly perform a “select all” action and delete them.

(Of course, you should be careful. There might be an email that’s important to you that has the word “Unsubscribe” in it. Only you really know which emails are important to you.)

Searching for "Unsubscribe" in Gmail.

Search for Accumulating Newsletters

If you’re like most people, you probably get regular email newsletters from multiple organizations.

In most cases, you probably don’t need to keep every single email newsletter or promotion that you get. To erase many newsletters at once, locate one of the newsletters and look for the address it was sent from. For example, it might be from newsletter@example.com.

Perform a search for messages from the sender “newsletter@example.com” in your email client, and you’ll find all the newsletters they’ve ever sent you. With a quick “Select All” and “Delete,” you can delete a large number of emails.

For example, our newsletter address is newsletter@howtogeek.com. If you find it useful, that’s great, and we’re grateful for your subscription. But you probably don’t need to keep an archive of every newsletter we’ve ever sent, so feel free to delete them to free up space.

Searching for How-To Geek newsletters in Gmail.

If you’ve been in the habit of archiving all the emails you receive rather than deleting them, you may easily find thousands and thousands of useless newsletters that you can quickly delete.

Consider deleting rather than archiving useless emails in the future. It’ll save you time.

RELATED: Why You Should Delete Emails Instead of Archiving Them

What Other Useless Emails Do You Have?

Everyone’s email is different, of course. Think of the useless emails you likely have lurking in your inbox, and consider whether you want to keep them.

For example, let’s say that you took part in a mailing list many years ago, and you have many emails from that mailing list buried in your archive. If you realize you’ll never need them again, you can search for the address of that mailing list, then delete them all with a quick “Select All” and “Delete.”

You can also pay attention to the emails coming in in the future. Let’s say that you receive a type of email that you’ve received many times before, and you realize that you really don’t need to keep it. Rather than just deleting that specific email, search for the subject or sender—whatever makes the email unique—and delete all emails of that type. It’s a quick way to clear wide swathes of emails without having to dig through them one by one.

How to Delete the Emails Using the Most Space

If you delete a large number of useless emails, you’ll recover more space than you might expect. However, much of the space used in your email account might come from large emails with attached images and files.

To find these, you can search for emails with attachments, or sort your email archive by message size.

Which features you have available will depend on the software you’re using. For example, Gmail lets you search for emails by attachment. Just search for “has:attachment”. However, Gmail does not show the file size of each email message or thread in its web interface.

Gmail does let you search for messages over a certain size. For example, you can search for “size:10m” to see all messages 10 MB or over in size. Gmail doesn’t clearly indicate the precise size of each message, however.

If you use Gmail, consider accessing your email account through IMAP with Mozilla Thunderbird. You can then sort your email account by message size and quickly find the email threads using the most amount of space. Focus on deleting those if you really want to free up space quickly.

Profile Photo for Chris Hoffman Chris Hoffman
Chris Hoffman is Editor-in-Chief of How-To Geek. He's written about technology for over a decade and was a PCWorld columnist for two years. Chris has written for The New York Times and Reader's Digest, been interviewed as a technology expert on TV stations like Miami's NBC 6, and had his work covered by news outlets like the BBC. Since 2011, Chris has written over 2,000 articles that have been read more than one billion times---and that's just here at How-To Geek.
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