I have a personal account that's running out of space (mostly due to family members emailing huge pictures). I plan to move those all to Flickr, but in the mean time, what will happen when my GMail account runs out of space?

I've heard anecdotal evidence that "nothing happens" and things continue to work as expected. If that's the case, awesome; but if, say, I stop receiving emails, that could be seriously catastrophic.

  • Take a look at this question also.
    – Alex
    Commented Jan 11, 2012 at 15:09
  • Email is chiefly for messaging, rather than for storing. Take a look at Inbox Zero for the future inboxzero.com/articles
    – msanford
    Commented Jan 11, 2012 at 15:16
  • @Alex I saw that; that's not quite what I wanted to know. Hence, I posted my question.
    – ashes999
    Commented Jan 11, 2012 at 16:42
  • @ashes999 See this comment and follow the link in it.
    – Alex
    Commented Mar 20, 2012 at 7:09

6 Answers 6


If you approach your storage limit, the quota indicator will change from green to red. If you go over your limit, incoming messages to your account will be returned to the sender.

From the Gmail help page on storage limit.

  • But is this actually what happened? Like I mentioned in my question, anecdotal evidence from different users suggests this doesn't happen.
    – ashes999
    Commented Jan 11, 2012 at 16:42
  • 6
    @ashes999: Who cares about anecdotal evidence? Don't rely on other users' short-term luck as a basis for your longer-term plan. Google has stated their rules, and they can enforce them at a time of their choosing. Google might have a soft limit (causing these anecdotes) and they might change that limit without notice (causing problems for you). Commented Jan 12, 2012 at 9:42
  • 1
    Yes, it happens. See blog.findbigmail.com/2012/01/… for screenshots that show the bounce messages.
    – mm2001
    Commented Mar 20, 2012 at 7:05
  • @mm2001 please don't spam your service all over SE
    – ashes999
    Commented Mar 20, 2012 at 10:55

Google lets you buy extra storage. See this page. As mentioned by others and described on this page all mail will be returned to sender if you already has run out of storage.

It is normal for webservices/quotas to be enforced "loosely" - maybe you'll have functioning mail after exceeding the limit but don't count on it!


Note that you can also delete huge messages from your Gmail account.

Several ways to do this:

  • Using a desktop client and IMAP - see this article
  • Using a third party service (Find Big Mail) - see this link
  • Using the Gmail search engine to find attachments (has:attachment) - see Google Support

I agree with Jmax: you can delete a lot of your stuff, which I am pretty sure you will never need.

But if you really need all the data or are feeling lazy, there is a very fine tool to your rescue.

Go to Savemyinbox and install the tool on your machine, give it credentials to your dropbox account (create one if you don't have one) and your Gmail account.

It will back up all your mails to dropbox which you can then access from anywhere.


Another thing you could do is install a program like Thunderbird and grab all your email from Gmail and store it locally. (I haven't tried this myself, although I have been considering doing it since my Gmail inbox is approaching 45% full.)


Just create another Gmail account. Link it through POP or IMAP to lift all mail from certain folders which contain big attachments to the the point that it takes about half the load from your main account, and let it do the job overnight while you dream of how cool this is.

For example, I have a Gmail account called "[email protected]". It takes only a few clicks. I use it only to lift all my sent mail (which invariably contains big attachments, but which I MUST also keep as proof, for the off chance someone disagrees with me about the content I sent). In this way, my main email account is not going to get full any time soon. It's not really like you are abusing the system. You should also look into cloud management (I know a guy who has 35 Gmail accounts and centrally manages through an app all the dropboxes of these accounts, making it seem as though he has half a terabyte online).

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