How to Download Only the Headers for Large Messages in Outlook

Save time and space by downloading headers only in Outlook.

Good news... Halfway there!
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Usually, when you get an email in Outlook you want to get it all. However, a message can contain malicious code, a virus, or huge picture attachments that you don't need immediately (or ever). Downloading just the headers at first speeds things up considerably, and it might be more secure, too. You can set up Outlook to download only the subject, sender, and other minimal data for big messages that exceed a certain size automatically.

This works only for the POP3 protocol.

Download Only the Headers for Large Messages in Outlook

To instruct Outlook to download only the headers of large messages automatically:

  1. Go to Mail in Outlook.

  2. Make sure the Send/Receive ribbon is active and expanded.

  3. Click Send/Receive Groups in the Send & Receive section.

  4. Select Define Send/Receive Groups from the menu that has appeared in Outlook 2016 and Outlook 2013. In Outlook 2007 and Outlook 2010 select Tools > Send/Receive > Send/Receive Settings > Define Send/Receive Groups from the menu.

  5. Highlight the desired group.

  6. Click Edit.

  7. Go to the desired POP3 account in the Accounts list. (Beginning with Outlook 2013, downloading only headers is no longer available for IMAP and Exchange accounts.) 

  8. Make sure Download complete item including attachments is selected under Folder Options.

  9. Now make sure Download only headers for items larger than is checked, too.

  10. Enter the desired size threshold. The default is set at 50KB.

  11. Click OK.

Get the Rest of the Message

Now, when you click Send/Receive, Outlook only downloads the header information for messages that exceed the threshold size. Getting the full emails is easy, as is deleting messages right at the server without downloading them in full—ever.