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I use an email provider that provides me with 30gb of space on their server. Using IMAP, I send and retrieve emails on my laptop, iPhone and iPad using the default Apple Mail clients in each.

I do not understand why there's not an option in Apple's Mail client to remove email attachments without removing them from the server too. While I understand some benefits in having duplicates of your emails in every device and server that uses your email, its ability to choose whether attachments are also stored appears to be half-heartedly implemented:

  • You can choose not to download attachments as new emails arrive locally
  • You can choose to only retrieve the last 15 months of attachments, described as 'recent' in options
  • You can permanently remove the attachments from all devices, including the server with a prominent 'remove attachments' option.

I don't understand the lack of an option to remove an attachment from an email (leaving it in the same state as it would have been had 'none' been selected as the option for attachment downloads in options) but retaining the attachment on the server for reference later, if needed.

I'm slow to move from Gmail for personal email for this reason. Using it avoids filling up my devices with space that I'm fine to leave on the server (and use only through my web browser). I'd rather use an email provider and client from a third-party that's not Google but I can't find a way to efficiently return all local emails to text-only after I'm finished with them without also removing the attachments from the server or having to use a cumbersome folder browsing method or third-party utility. Gmails primary advantage to me is not using space on any of my devices.

Do those who lament how quickly their phone's space fills up not also want this option when it's perfectly possible to implement? I'm fine with the reduced backup safety of only having the attachments in one location (the server).

  • I understand the frustration, but it would be easier to read and focus on one question if you could remove some extra information and some sort-of-rants. are you talking about macOS or iOS? – anki Oct 12 '19 at 10:49
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On 10.14.5 Mojave.

I just went to

/Users/<username>/Library/Mail

And removed directory named V6. This cleared out 16.62GB of memory on my SSD. This would only remove the local e-mails. I don't guarantee it wouldn't break the Mail app (not like if I cared... personally, for me it was a mistake to start using it in the first place).

In the Mail app I changed settings to stop downloading attachments by default but it was too late as there was no way of automatically clearing out already downloaded attachments and I didn't feel like removing them manually one by one using the menu.

Before

Before

After

After

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  • Thanks but this doesn't seem to avoid a cumbersome folder browsing method as mentioned in the question. Also, it's not clear from your explanation if this just removes attachments or entire emails. – biscuitstack Oct 21 '19 at 13:51
  • @biscuitstack you don't really need to browse anything, you can just remove this entire directory tree with a single command. Regarding other question, I can't tell for sure as before doing it I removed the e-mail index, but I believe it removes both attachments and messages. – Marek Oct 23 '19 at 3:15
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I don't know if this is appropriate for you, but here are the attachments

https://www.idownloadblog.com/2017/07/19/how-to-delete-old-mail-attachments-mac/

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  • Thanks but I referenced this method when mentioning "without ... having to use a cumbersome folder browsing method". I'm hoping there's a built-in method I missed. It just feels like a genuinely useful approach to using IMAP with storage efficiency that I'm surprised may not be implemented. – biscuitstack May 29 '19 at 12:03
  • I admit, I read the message quickly. To my knowledge there is no way to delete download attachments from email. Personal does not find it difficult to delete attachments via the folder. After if it's for another user, nothing prevents you to make a small AppleScript for their use. – The33Coder May 29 '19 at 19:23

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