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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 want to remove email attachments without removing them from the server too, to save some space locally. The options I found are:

  • 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.

What other options do have to accomplish my goal (ideally without having to use 3rd party applications or Terminal)?

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  • 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, 2019 at 10:49

4 Answers 4

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On Mail.app Version 13.4 (3608.120.23.2.4), MacOS Catalina 10.15.7 (19H524)

Go to Mail > Preferences > Accounts, and select the account you'd like to avoid downloading attachments from. Under the Account Information tab there is a "Download Attachments" dropdown selector. Select "none". This may or may not delete already downloaded attachments. If this is a problem, on IMAP accounts you can just delete the account and add back again, with the "none" option already selected.

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Jaime Santa Cruz's answer is good, but there's a step missing..

As he said:
Go to Mail > Preferences > Accounts
Select the account from which you'd like to avoid downloading attachments.
Under the Account Information, change the "Download Attachments" dropdown selector:

  • "None" will not download any attachments
  • "Recent" will only download attachments in the last 15 months

Neither of these options above will delete any attachments already downloaded!

To do so, you need to Rebuild the mailboxes: Depending on the macOS version, the Rebuild command will only rebuild the currently selected mailbox (Mojave and older), or all of them (Monterey)

Note: Rebuilding the mailboxes will re-download some or all of your existing mail, so make sure you have a good connection, and a decent amount of time..
During the process, your messages will look like they disappeared, this is normal, don't interrupt the process..

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Disclaimer: Only to be used if you do not intend to use the email client delivered with OSX. This does the job but will likely break it.

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. Oct 21, 2019 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, 2019 at 3:15
  • it removes all email databases, i would not recommend doing this. May 12, 2021 at 0:07
  • This is a terrible suggestion.. Use this only if you do not intend on using the Mail application any more..
    – Peter
    Feb 4 at 7:38
  • @Peter I added a disclaimer on top of the answer.
    – Marek
    Feb 4 at 8:16
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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. May 29, 2019 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, 2019 at 19:23

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