Gmail – Storage Issue / Archiving Solution

Screenshot from Google saying that I am over my storage quota

Written by Paul Ginsberg

8th February 2024

OFF-TOPIC ALERT! Do you have a Gmail Account or Google Workspace, and have you recently received an alert such as:

You’ve exceeded the pooled storage limit for your account

You’ve exceeded your pooled storage limit and your account has been placed in a 14 day grace period.

After the grace period ends on Jan 31, 2024, your account will go into a “read-only” state. In this state services will be impacted, including users not being able to upload new files or create new Google Docs, Sheets, Slides or Forms. Learn more about the features that will be impacted in this state.

Google has phased out the ability to tie their Workspace accounts to Google One for storage, so – as well as cancelling your Google One storage – you have a decision to make regarding what you want to do going forward.

Otherwise known as: You’ve exceeded whatever “free” storage Google has given you, and they now want to charge you extra.

Well, this is my cheap and cheerful solution to reducing your online storage size – nothing particularly Salesforcey or neurodiversity related; just everyday life interrupting. It’s mainly a simple step-by-step guide for a specific problem however I do consider whether this exercise has been worth my time. See Preliminary #1 (just below) for that.

Also worth noting: I’ve read articles around this subject but I have never managed to join up the dots, to come up with a solution which I thought was appropriate for me, a small business owner… so time to document the method!

Screenshot from Google saying that I am over my storage quota


  1. Is this an efficient use of my time? “Debatable.” I’m currently on a Business Starter plan costing £5 a month for each of our two user accounts, offering 30gb storage each. For Eli and me, to upgrade to the Business Standard plan will cost a total £100 a year more*, but offers 2TB pooled storage and a better method of sharing folders. It’s a lot more hassle to reduce my storage to under 30gb by archiving current data; it means that older information is no longer instantly accessible and undoubtedly more than an hour’s work – but it does give me emotional satisfaction to deny Google additional income. If I was well over the included 30gb storage plan then it definitely wouldn’t be worth my time.
  1. Check your Google Storage so you can see your state of play
  1. Create and download a Google Takeout to backup all your files before doing anything else (this can take up to 48 hours)
  1. This article is written from a Windows 11 and Office 365 user’s point of view. You’ll have to adjust things accordingly if you are using other platforms.

*Calculation: £240 new licence fee less £120 old licence fee which I would have to pay regardless less £20 additional cloud backup storage elsewhere. Also there is hypothetical protection against paying the higher licence costs should Naturally IQ ever want more Google Workspace accounts.

Google Drive Files

You’ll see from the above screenshot that your storage comes in three sections: Google Drive, Gmail and Photos. We’ll tackle each one in turn.

  • Install Google Drive for Windows if you have not already done so
  • Install Treesize Free (direct link, rather than explainer page)
  • Personally I allow Admin access if it asks, for running the actual app
  • Select your directory, point it at G:\My Drive and press “Select Folder”
  • Using the Size column identify the largest folders/files
  • Move them to “offline storage” – that’s to say an encrypted portable hard disk/USB drive or similar and/or simply delete files that are past their use-by date. A few backup copies of DVDs met the great (non) recycling bin in the sky during my clean up.
  • If you want to be really daring, then empty your recycling bin. Or – better – just wait 30 days to see the result of your cleanup; that way you can possibly pull files back should you discover you need them. Full disclosure: I didn’t wait.


Screenshot illustrating instructions below
  • Load Gmail
  • Filter for the emails you wish to archive, pressing return afterwards, e.g. after:2022/12/31 before:2024/1/1

…this identified all emails in my mailbox dated 2023; you can adjust the year to capture other years – I actually went for yearly from 2011 onwards, which is when I started using Gmail.

Note: If you press the Filter button (to the right hand side of the search bar) you will see that there is also an option for attachment size as an alternative option.

  • If you then tick the box just underneath “From” you will see, and should tick, the option to select all the conversations/emails in the search.
  • Then tick the label button and select “Create New”. I created labels 2011, 2012 and so forth and confirm the bulk action – to label the emails – when prompted. This concludes the Gmail part for the moment.
  • If you then tick the box just underneath “From” you will see, and should tick, the option to select all the conversations/emails in the search.
  • Then tick the label button and select “Create New”. I created labels 2011, 2012 and so forth and confirm the bulk action – to label the emails – when prompted. This concludes the Gmail part for the moment.
  • Load Outlook 365
  • Add/Connect your Gmail account
  • From the Home tab click the right hand button alongside “New Email” select “More Items” and then “Outlook Data File
  • Give it a useful name (e.g. Paul’s 2011 emails) and note its location
  • Within the Gmail inbox on Outlook, navigate to the Label you created, and do a Ctrl-A to highlight all the emails, then drag and drop them into the Outlook Data File (“Paul’s 2011 emails” in my example) you created earlier. Depending on the number of the emails within the label, it may take a long time to move the emails.
Screenshot illustrating a synchronizing screen on Outlook
  • Outlook will then Sync. Wait until it is completed – the status bar is along the bottom. If it is a large volume of emails, this may take a few hours.
  • Once done have a quick check by scrolling up and down – are all the emails there that you would expect (e.g. the entire date range). Worth noting: you may get some “extra” emails. I got some from later years because I had forwarded earlier-dated emails, for instance.
  • Then right mouse click on the Outlook Data File and close it
  • Check the file in Windows Explorer and see if the file size looks like the right sort of size – this may become clearer once you backup/archive all the emails you want.
  • Then move that file to a backup location – perhaps cloud storage, perhaps cold storage such as a USB drive, somewhere off the PC. I tend to do both, otherwise you have a single source of failure.
  • Repeat this exercise for additional labels/storage files. For what it’s worth, I decided to break my Outlook Data Files up by year for ease of reference, and only do the period 2011 to 2019.
  • Now comes the fun/scary bit! Quit Outlook and load Gmail. You will see that whilst the labels are empty, the emails actually still exist – this is because of a quirk of how Gmail and Outlook (don’t) interact nicely with one another.
  • Rerun the search (e.g. after:2022/12/31 before:2024/1/1 )
  • Select all the emails in that search
  • I originally said here “Deselect any more recent emails that have been swept up incorrectly due to the search algorithm and that you may still want immediate access to.” unfortunately this removed the “select all” functionality and makes the next step far more tedious. Instead, I would advise that you set your search criteria for emails that you definitely don’t think you will need in the next six months
  • Hit the delete key!
  • And voila – gmail mailbox reduced in size, particularly once you empty the wastebasket, although again you may want to wait 30 days. You can also delete any redundant labels.

Honesty note: Actually I had about 15,000 emails to delete and it took half a dozen hits of the delete key – Gmail seemed to run out of energy after deleting around 2000 emails in each block, for me.

Should you want to access any of these old emails, copy them back to your PC and then you Outlook to open the Outlook Data File and access them.


I’m not particularly a photo person as my love of the above blurry photo attests, so “only” have 3.5gb worth. Given the massive amount of storage cleared up with the above Drive and Email clear out, I’m putting one of my newer learnings into practice: I don’t have to decide right now. I might archive them in a similar “year by year” technique later on, should it become necessary or I might decide to pay for extra storage. That’s a problem for another day. In the meantime I can decide what to spend the “saved” money on! 🥳

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