How does it work?

Find Big Mail attaches labels to your biggest emails so they are easy to find. To undo the scan just delete the labels. The labels are not 'live' or constantly up-to-date, but only a snapshot of the situation at the moment when the scan was run.

  1. Authorize: FindBigMail redirects you to Google where you authorize the following access:

    • Know who you are on Google.
      We don't actually ask for this but google just adds it themselves for no obvious reason. We don't know, or care, who you are on Google+, and never use it.
    • View your email address.
      We use this to email the report to you. We do not, and will never, disclose or sell your email address to anyone, and we will never send you spam. If we ever get around to reimplementing the payment system again, we would use it to work out whether you need to pay for the service, or not. Even then we do not store the email address but only a one-way hash of it. We circumvent security risks simply by not keeping anything worth stealing.
    • View and modify but not delete your email.
      To determine the size of your email we need to 'view' it. We honestly have no interest in reading your mail, but need this permission to determine how big each individual email is. To attach a label to an email, we need to 'modify' it. We don't actually change anything of the email, other than to attach the label. Removing the label reverts the message to exactly the same state it was before it was 'modified' to attach the label.

    For your security, authorization is not retained, but proactively revoked at the end of every scan. Therefore we need to repeat authorization at the beginning of each and every scan.

  2. Label: Google will redirect you back to FindBigMail and you'll see a page which reports the progress of your scan. If there are others in the queue before you, there might be a wait. You can watch, or leave this page, or quit the browser entirely. None of these actions will cancel or interrupt the scan.

    The scan works by sorting your email in order of size and labelling the first 20 emails with the "FindBigMail Top 20" label. It then continues adding labels down the list until the emails are too small to warrant a label. The scan then generates a report and emails it to you.

  3. Report: When the scan is complete, if your browser is still open, you'll be redirected to the report. After a period of time the report will be deleted and thus all trace of your scan is lost.

How much does it cost to use FindBigMail?

It's currently free, although this was not the case in the past, and may not remain the case in the future. Our previous pricing plans can be found on our pricing page, including plans that are FREE. Feel free to donate toward the running costs of this service.

How do I delete the large messages now that they're labeled?

Click on each label to view the large messages. Then follow these Gmail instructions to remove the mail you no longer want. Be sure to empty the Trash using "Delete Forever" if you need to free up the space immediately. Otherwise it will automatically be removed in 30 days time.

How do I uninstall or remove FindBigMail access to my email account?

We've been asked several times "How do I remove FindBigMail access to my email account?". The short answer is: "We already have!"

However, please don't take our word for it. Because we use OAuth and get a token from Google for temporary access, you can verify that we've removed the token at https://www.google.com/accounts/IssuedAuthSubTokens. If you still see FindBigMail listed there, then we're either in the middle of scanning for large emails, or some sort of error occurred that we're not aware of. If we're done (check the status link in the first email we send you to be sure), definitely revoke the token, and please let us know what email address you were scanning so we can find out what went wrong. (We'll run it through our one way hash and then examine the logs).

If you revoke the token before the scan finishes, the next time there is a network disruption and the service needs to reconnect to Gmail's mail server, the service will fail to access the account. You'll get an email saying that the service encountered an error and your scan is not complete.

By the way, even if something goes wrong and the token wasn't revoked, we don't have it anymore. We don't store the token anywhere, except in memory while the scan is running. By not storing it, we can be more confident that even if our site is hacked, there won't be a treasure trove of tokens to steal -- or even a list of email addresses, because we don't keep those either!

We're trying hard to make this simple and secure. If you have more questions or suggestions, please get in touch.

What do you do with my email address?

We recently changed our Privacy Statement to reflect some auditing and cleanup we did on our logs. Unlike many websites of late, this increased your privacy. We don't like the responsibility of having your email address so we work very hard to never see it and to never store it anywhere that someone might find it. This is how we treat your email address:

  • we use it once to send you an initial "we're starting, here's where to get status" email
  • we hash your email address using a one way code so it looks something like b852fb9f7c5d851875ef6fa282f1f859 and that's what we store in our logs. We can't ever get your email address back from this, but if, say, someone starts doing lots of runs with the same email address, this allows us to detect it. Or, if you contact us with a question, we can take the email address you give us, calculate the hash, and then check our logs.
  • we send you a final results email when we've finished your scan
  • we 'forget' your email address - an easy thing to do, because we never stored it anywhere, except in memory while we ran your scan

Of course, we never ever see your password. With your authority, Google gives us a temporary token to find big emails in your mailbox, and we explicitly invalidate that token when we're done (you can double check permissions at Google's site here).

How do I remove FindBigMail labels?

After you've found all your large messages and created some more free space, you may wish to remove the labels that FindBigMail created to help you.

The following Google article describes how to use Gmail labels including deletion.

As we've discussed in this FAQ: How do I uninstall or remove FindBigMail access to my account, after your run is complete we no longer have access as we remove it as soon as the run is done. We only leave behind the labels. Technical note: We've found that the messages will still retain the label even after the label is deleted, so if you add the label back again with the exact same name, the messages will magically re-appear. If you don't want this to happen, you can select all the messages with the label and then remove the label from the messages before deleting the label itself.

Reasons why all of your big emails might not be labeled

We've mentioned before how hiding folders from the IMAP protocol can make the emails in those folders be skipped during the labeling process.

Besides hiding Gmail folders from IMAP, you can also limit the number of returned emails. People usually do this because they are using an IMAP client and only want to see the most recent emails. Doing this however means that some emails are never "seen" by the FindBigMail service.

If you've turned this on but want FindBigMail to find all your big emails, exit your IMAP client, turn off this option within your Gmail Forwarding and POP/IMAP settings as shown in the following image.

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After your scan completes you can return this option back to the limit you choose.

Only my inbox was scanned, what about the other folders?

The most effective way to find free space in your email is to scan every email in your Gmail account. Normally we do this by looking for the "All Mail" folder (including some tricks to account for local languages) and then scanning the size of those messages.

However, sometimes (about 0.5% of scans so far), we cannot find the "All Mail" folder. In those cases we scan the Inbox and mention it in the summary email.

Why does this happen? As near as we can tell, it's because you are using the Gmail settings feature that lets you hide Labels from your IMAP client and you have configured your IMAP settings to hide the All Mail folder. Searching for this in Google suggests that many Mac Mail users do this to avoid duplicate messages showing up in Spotlight.

For returning users, hiding any of the FindBigMail folders will cause labeling of emails to fail. If you hide these folders to avoid downloading them into an IMAP mail client like Thunderbird, close the IMAP client, show these folders in your Gmail settings, run your FindBigMail scan and then you can unshow these folders again.

The check box to show a label in IMAP is located to the far right of the label name, under Gmail Settings on the Labels tab.

Why do my emails have multiple size labels?

FindBigMail.com labels individual mail messages not threads. In most case, when you see more than one size label on a thread or conversation, this simply means that the thread contains mail messages from all the size labels attached. For example, a thread with both the 'FindBigMail > 10mb' and 'FindBigMail > 5mb' labels has at least one message that is 10mb and at least one other message that is at least 5 mb in size. Deleting an entire thread can free up space at multiple levels!

How large are the emails with each of the labels again?

"FindBigMail > 10mb" messages are larger than 10,000,000 bytes.
"FindBigMail > 5mb" messages are between 5,000,000 and 10,000,000 bytes.

Use these labels to find out what is taking up all that space, so you can free it up for the next round of photos, music, videos and similar space hogs!

Are there any known issues?

A very small group of users have restricted access to their All Mail folder (see What is All Mail). In most cases, this is because they disabled it to keep Apple Mail happy and this can be easily fixed as described in our FAQ: Only my inbox was scanned, what about the other folders?. For another even smaller group, their All Mail is available, but not readable. In that scenario, we scan and label all readable folders, which takes longer but achieves the same result.

If you are having problems using Find Big Mail, please let us know. We're keen to unearth every little gremlin and fix or workaround it. We want your search for free space amidst your gigabytes of storage to be hassle free!

The report links appear to not work

The emailed report contains direct links to large emails and labels. There are two cases where the links will not to work.

The first is if you are logged into multiple accounts. In this case, the links may attempt to open the folder or email in the incorrect account. To work around this, log out of the other Gmail accounts.

The second case were the report links will not work is if you are clicking on them within an unsupported browser. Using Internet Explorer or using a mobile version of the Safari browser will not work with the links. In this case, using Chrome or FireFox will allow you to see the folders and emails linked from the report.

Although the report links do not work every browser, if Gmail runs in the browser you're using, you can still access the newly created FindBigMail links from the left hand side of web Gmail. If you have many labels, you may have to scroll down to see them. Click on one of the FindBigMail labels and examine the emails associated with it. After deleting those you want to get rid of, remember to empty the trash to get the space back.

Why do you ask for payment only after I've authorized my account?

There are lots of reasons why an account may not authenticate. Some of these causes are outside of your control, such as your domain administrator turning off IMAP access for your entire domain and network access problems. We've even had people who entered non-Gmail-hosted email addresses such as those at yahoo.com.

Authenticating first makes sure the email address is a Gmail-hosted account, the user is authorizing the system to process it and the system is able to access the account. A payment does not do any of these things.

If payment is done first and authentication fails, the payment has to be refunded. It's cleaner for the system to authenticate a user before the payment rather than pay and then authenticate.

How large can one email be?

We see this question a lot on twitter: What is the largest email I can send with Gmail?

The answer is 25MB. This is equal to about 5-10 mp3 songs or the same number of full resolution photos from a modern digital camera. For video, it's a few minutes at most (but video size varies a lot depending where it came from). Careful though, as Google says, even if you can send 25MB, the person receiving your mail may not be able to receive emails that large!

Remember, those large emails can chew into your free space very quickly! We'll help stop you from running out of space by helping you find these messages.