How-To Geek

Force Outlook 2007 to Download Complete IMAP Items

After writing about how to setup Gmail IMAP in Outlook, I’ve gotten a lot of feedback from users wondering how to make Outlook download the entire message instead of just the headers. You’ll have to navigate through a convoluted set of menus, but it’s really quite simple.

Note: If you have 500 million messages in your Gmail inbox folder you should think strongly about not enabling this, because it will take simply forever to download them all.

From the Tools menu choose Send/Receive, Send/Receive Settings, and then Define Send/Receive Groups. Or you could just hit the Ctrl+Alt+S shortcut key instead of navigating the ridiculous menus.


This will bring up the Send/Receive Groups dialog, which has some interesting options that aren’t relevant here. Choose the Edit button instead.


Almost there…  now click on your IMAP account in the left-hand pane, and then under the Receive Mail Items section choose either to “Download complete items” or “Use the custom behavior defined below”.


Personally I’d recommend using the custom behavior and only downloading complete items for the Inbox folder. You’ll have to select “Download complete item including attachments” to flip the switch.

Lowell Heddings, better known online as the How-To Geek, spends all his free time bringing you fresh geekery on a daily basis. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 11/8/07

Comments (55)

  1. Brad Sayers

    I have outlook 2002. These options are there but greyed out. Any ideas? Brad

  2. Rich

    Thanks for the great writeup. Wouldn’t choosing to download complete items including attachments allow to have a “carbon copy” of your gmail message store in Outlook? Is your reason for not recommending this related to PST file size? If you would explain further I would appreciate it.

    Thank you for publishing a wonderful blog – I’m one of your feedburner stats.


  3. Mark

    I cannot get outlook 2007 to work with Imap!! it just comes up with the server has recieved an unrecognised certificate or some such ref. Also it say the certificate was for pop when all my settings are for imap both in outlook and on the gmail server. I have my own domain email which I used also to set up but it just wont work any ideas? thanks…

  4. Kristof

    Thx, just what I needed :)

  5. chaz

    thanks! this is just what i needed. i would have never found it

  6. mel

    can you help?

    i have IMAP enabled in gmail, so that i can sync with outlook 07

    when i send an email from outlook, it DOES show up in SENT folder in Gmail. it works fine.

    but, when i send an email from GMAIL, it DOES NOT show up in the sent folder of Outlook.

    how do i fix ?

    thanks for the help !!

  7. Thompson

    Thanks for the help!

  8. Ken Thomas

    A more useful behavior would be to download full messages only for the past 3 days (for example). Any change such time-based scheduling is available?

  9. Rob Kaiser

    I am running Outlook 2007 off of XP. My “Send/Receive” box is different and I don’t have an option for custom settings.

    Any ideas?

    I really need this to work and to get my gmail messages from the past 2 months onto Outlook.

    Is there a way to only import select emails? Can I filter the messages?

    I have all my work emails from a corporate account forwarded to my gmail address. Can I specify the messages that come in under a different email address be imported to Outlook only?

  10. Ken Thomas


    I suspect that you are not finding the settings options (see above); it is not part of the send/receive dialogue, but part of the menuing options (which you may have moved around). If you have a corporately managed distribution of Outlook 2007, it is possible that your IT management disabled it.

    There do not seem to be ways to limit the import, but you can use filters on the messages (filters run “post import.”

    Good luck!

    Ken Thomas
    Horton Group
    The Drupal Communications Experts

  11. Wendy

    Hi..great info but I have an odd problem that I have looked everywhere for an answer to but cannot find. I have my gmail coming through my xp and for some reason, I cannot get my sent messages to download. I cannot go back and look at my sents and I need to be able to do this..Any ideas??


  12. Wendy

    oops…sorry…I mean through my outlook..


  13. inanc


    if i understand your question correctly, the above steps from the Geek will solve your problem if you go to include your “sent items” folder also to fully download on Send/Receive.

    Otherwise, if your sent items folder shows only the headers of your sent mail, which is my case, you can do these:
    – highlight all the ones you want to fully download and right click/select for downloading, which will mean next time you do sync with your server, these items will download.
    – from your mail option settings, mark your option to keep copies of your sent items in your local outlook. this will mean you will have a copy of your sent mail in the gmail sent itmes folder as headers, and a full copy in your outlook sent itmes folder. this is also what i do, as i need the sent mail to stay in my computer.

    my question:
    every time i click on the imap Inbox it syncs the folder with the server if i am online and this locks my outlook 07 until it is finished syncing. same happens if i receive a new e-mail while i am in the Inbox. is it possible to make this manual? (i occasionally click on Send/Receive to manually download and send all messages according to my choices in the options that Geek put up on top.


  14. Fletch

    “Or you could just hit the Ctrl+Alt+S shortcut key instead of navigating the ridiculous menus.” – hah hah hah I like your style. Yes it is rather ridiculous that IT professionals need Google’s/your help to find such a basic option. But the location kind of makes sense… when you know…

    PS: It worked thanks.

  15. Marcus

    Thanks for the advice, mostly everything is working fine however:

    When I read email on my blackberry I notice that the email changes to read on my Gmail account, but still shows as unread on Outlook. Deletions work fine on both Gmail and outlook in realtime, any suggestions as this is a major irritant.


  16. AJ

    Thanks for your lovely tip. It was really benefecial.

  17. rene

    thanks this really helped me!
    but i still have one question (i’m new to outlook, used thunderbird before): how can I donwload the content (and attachments) for all my old mails in the inbox? i need this for the filter/search mail-functionality to work…

  18. David A. Desrosiers

    This actually didn’t work for me. I have 103,000+ emails in Gmail going back to 1999.

    When I select the “All Mail” folder in the hierarchy, and tell it to download all of the messages + attachments, it just downloads headers… every time.

    I have to go to each folder, Select All, and then right-click and choose “Mark to download message(s)”, and then go to Send/Receive in the toolbar, and choose “Process marked headers in this folder”.

    Long, and VERY tedious… when it shouldn’t be this difficult.

  19. Dina Brown

    Thank You!!! That was driving me BONKERS! I love the internet!!!

  20. Drew

    I’m using Outlook 2003 and when I go to the screen, my options to ‘download headers only’ or ‘download complete items including attachments’ are both greyed out and I can’t select either. Any ideas?

  21. laurie

    exactly the answers that I needed per my google search. You are the Five Star Geeks!

  22. Bernard

    I just configured my microsoft outlook 2007 with my gmail account. The test message shows that my gmail account has received the test message. However, I can’t receive mails through outlook, but instead, can only send mail out from outlook. What do I need to do?

  23. Eric

    This does not work for me.

  24. lethanhlan

    I want to download all mail from gmail to outlook 2007. I have already done as you said but it didn’t work. If any can do it , please give me some advice.

  25. SJ

    if i view the emails in another pop / imap account i cannot then get outlook on main computer to download it. How do i tell my PC to download all messages not just ones that i have not seen yet??

  26. Ryan

    Didn’t work for me either. Still only gets the headers.

    Whether I do “Download complete items including attachments for subsccribed folders” or “Use the custom behavior defined below” route, it doesn’t do anything.

    Each message has the “Only the message header was downloaded” icon, so I have to either open it, or right click it and “Mark to Download Message(s)” then “Porcess Marked Headers in this Folder.”

    Why, oh why, is this not working???

  27. Ryan

    Ok… I think I found the problem.

    It will only work if you DO NOT MOVE the Outlook datafile for the email box. I had moved it off my OS drive, onto another drive. When I moved it back, it works, move it again, it stopped working. Repeated several times with the same result.

    To move it I:

  28. Ryan

    Here are the steps I did to to move it:
    1. Copy PST file to NEW location
    2. Go to: Control Panel -> Mail (32 bit) -> Data Files…
    3. Delete PST file from CURRENT location.
    4. Double-Click the email in the Mail (32 bit) -> Data Files… tab
    It will let you select the new location.
    This will prevent IMAP from syncing. You will notice when you click Send/Recieve in Outlook, it will not include the email accounts that moved the data files for.

    Repeat the steps to move it back, and voilla, it works.

    I tried looking for registry keys to point the new location the keys in: HKEY_USERS\#####\Software\Microsoft\Office\12.0\Outlook\Catalog
    that poing to the pst locaiton looked promissing, but didn’t help at all.

    That’s my 2 cents.

    Is there any way to move the PST files without causing this issue?


  29. Jonathan B

    Thanks a bunch – that’s really helpful.

  30. Eric

    Ryan’s right. That fixes the problem, but WHY. Anyways, great find. This was definitely a huge annoyance.

  31. Michael

    Hey Ryan, this didn’t work for me. I have the Main PST file, and i have the IMAP PST. Did you move both or just the one?

    Anyone else, have the problem where the “download” option doesn’t work?



  32. Bill

    I ran into this issue of the selection being greyed out. We went over to an email archiving system that required us to pull in all our users old Archive PST files. I wrote a batch that copied any *.pst files from the users machine on log off. Forgetting about the IMAP accounts which also use PST files. The solution is simply to remove the IMAP account and put it back.

  33. Alex

    You rock – Outlook 2003 + IMAP was a pain – now sorted.

  34. harsh

    i have configured my gmail account with outlook but outlook starts downloading all my messages from my gmail inbox…….i dont want outlook to download all my messages from 2005….i just want messages 2008 onwards…how do i fix this problem

  35. Darren

    For Brad and others who see the radio buttons to “download headers only” and “download full msg and attachments” but can’t click on them because they are greyed out: I ran into this problem too. Click on the folder in question and the radio buttons will be enabled! I clicked on “Inbox”.

  36. Aliesky

    In my case is the opposite, outlook 2010 download full items even with “Download only headers” any explanation?

  37. Moshe

    I set my outllok to get Gmail IMAP emails.
    Now i have two sets of folders: the original set of Outllo folders and below the gmail folders.
    Is it possible to see only the Gmail folders like in exchangr server?
    Thank you,

  38. mankboy

    Great tip many thanks.

  39. SammyD

    Thanks – I struggled with the greyed out options for a while before I came upon yout embarrasingly simple solution. Make ya want to hit yourself in the head and ay – DUH ! :-)

  40. sandeep

    it worked out………thnks dude……

  41. ankur agrawal

    thank you gentel men this really helped and amy query is completely solved thank you sir

    +91 9823022752

  42. Robert


    It does not work with Outlook 2010 !!
    When you change it according to the description and click save, after opening again settings you’ll see that download headers only is enabled.

    Any solution ? Maybe in regedit ?

  43. Richard

    Setup outlook 2007 with the IMAP gmail account , and test works fine ,but doesnt dowload the messages in gmail to outlook at all.

  44. Devorah

    Hi, can someone help me out? I use outlook 2007 with two different IMAP gmail accounts. The problem is that it is very slow. When I switch between folder or move an email to a different folder, it is very slow. Can someone help me out? I checked my setting and it seems i download the headers only. Can you email me directly please? Thanks a mil!

  45. Denis

    Wish all the tips were as clear and easy as this one…!

  46. Praveen

    Hi recently my hard was carashed and i’ll not able to retriv my data also including my official outlook mails. i’ve configured outlook in the new system and i’ve download my official mails. but i’ve recd. only inbox mail that is only from nov-10 and i’ve also not recd. single from send items.

    Guys pls, suggest how do i get all mails begining from mar-10 to till date including sent items.

    pls, help me.


  47. Diane

    Hi fellow outlook users,
    I am stuck in Outlook 2003 in corporate-land and followed the above instructions but still the message headers were all I got – the selection didn’t seem to matter. But then I noticed a little yellow icon in the status bar of Outlook that said “Connected (Headers)” with a little down-pointed arrow next to it. Click the arrow and “Behold!” there is another place to select what to download, with options “Download full items”, “Download Headers and full items”, and “Download headers” which stunningly enough, had the 3rd option checked. Selected the first item and now I am getting the full messages. Why oh why does Outlook have so many places to do that same thing???
    Hope this tip helps someone else.

  48. Biju Sreekumar


    I Am Running Outlook 2007 after downloading the mails from sometime time it has stopped downloading for mails even if i do a manual send and receive it is not working


  49. Binod

    I am using outlook 2007, I want to download all the mails from gmail to outlook but unable to do so, can u help me out.


  50. Outlook Stinks...

    Biju – same problem. Outlook 2007 keeps making sound notifications that it is downloading something new but none of the mails appear at all. It’s a huge pain and I’m considering getting rid of it entirely. Just not sure what else I can use since I did like the ability to have linked calendars and contacts. Thunderbird doesn’t do all that yet and Google has no offline client, thinking we are connected 100% of the time.

  51. Cella

    Thanks – I had checked the box and couldn’t remember where I had done so. You fixed my problem – thanks!

  52. sandeep doshi

    Dear Sir,

    I have 7 gb mails (approx 1million email communication) will i be able to download all email in my inbox… Google will allow this ??

    Please reply

    Sandeep Doshi

  53. daddio

    Worked like a charm! Thanks for the great and EASY tech article!!!

  54. coldtea

    outlook 2010 doesn’t have the same options like 2007?!

    i have a client computer that has checked the option leave a copy of mail on server, and checked the mail via webmail.. now she CANNOT get that mail to retrieve when she S&R in her outlook 2010..

    what the hell is wrong with this picture?

  55. rabbitboy

    I have the same problem. I have set up outlook to download all emails from Gmail via imap but this only works while my datafiles are in the default folder (C:\Users\rabbitboy\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Outlook). Now my c drive is full and when i move the data file, outlook only downloads headers. Anyone has a solution?

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