It’s a process….

Joshua123 over at Gmail’s Google Groups has step-by-step instructions. I haven’t tried it yet. I’m perplexed with the dilemma of simply buying cloud storage just to maintain old attachments, or deleting shit I’ll probably never look at again but are part of my person’s digital archive.

Anyhow here is his instruction:

Here is a solution for deleting email attachments in Gmail without deleting the message itself.

This is a better way then forwarding the message to yourself because you actually save the original message and timestamps, but with attachments removed. This solution gets the results you want, albeit a little time consuming. The basic idea is access your gmail account as an IMAP account using Thunderbird, and then use Thunderbird’s feature for deleting attachments. You just need to make sure messages are first moved to a local folder, then moved back to an imap folder.


– Determine messages in Gmail that need an attachment removed.
– Access these messages in Thunderbird via IMAP access. To make this easier, in the Gmail web interface you can create a new label such as “delete-attachments” for these messages.
-Select messages in TB and “Copy To” a local folder. This will download a copy of the message and attachment(s) to your local drive.
-Then, using the Gmail web interface, delete the messages permanently.
-Return to Thunderbird and access the messages stored in the local folder.
-Delete the attachments in the locally-stored messages individually.
-Finally select the messages and use the “Move To” command and select a label within Gmail to move the message. This will copy the messages back to Gmail without the attachment and upload the message to Gmail servers with original time stamps.


-While attachments are delete with messages saves, you will probably lose any labeling that you had previously. If there were no labels, then the easy solution is to “Move To” the label “All Mail.” If there was a primary label, then you can move the message to this label to at least return the message with one label. If your labels are filter based, then you could probably update filters and apply to all conversations.
-Another complication is conversations. Gmail labels conversations instead of individual messages. This means that in TB, in the “delete-attachments” folder, messages display individually and so some messages will not have attachments while others do. If you move those individual messages to another label such as “attachment removed,” then gmail might update the associated messages–that have attachments–as attachment removed.

-If you try to delete attachments in TB from messages in an IMAP folder—instead of a local folder—then you will essentially delete the message. The problem is that, apparently, IMAP has no protocol for deleting attachments. So what would happen is that gmail would delete the original message and create a new message without the attachment, but with a new message date of the current date and time. Thus, if the particular message was dated months ago, the new message copy would have the current date.

This is such a first-world problem it’s honestly not a problem. Just buy additional cloud storage and it’s done, because the archived material size is negligible compared to what is pressed and sent around today.

Thus I can’t tell if this is a waste of time or an actual space-saving solution.