How to Download Only the Headers for Large Messages in Outlook

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In a hurry? Outlook can skip message bodies and download only headers for large messages. Stockunlimited

You can set up Outlook to download only the subject, sender and other minimal data for big messages automatically.

You Want It All. Really?

Usually, when you get an email you do want to get it completely, do you not? When a message is but a virus, though, or contains huge pictures attached that you don't need immediately, downloading just the headers in a first go can speed things up considerably, and it might be more secure, too.

In Outlook, you can reap these advantages easily and automatically by setting up your accounts to fetch email headers only for messages that exceed a certain size.

Download Only the Headers for Large Messages in Outlook

To make Outlook 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 2007, 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 POP account in the Accounts list.
    • ​Note that downloading only headers is not 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.
  1. Enter the desired threshold.
    • The default 50 KB are pretty sensible.
  2. Click OK.

Get the Rest of the Message

Now, when you click Send/Receive, Outlook will only download the headers information for messages exceeding your threshold size. But getting the full emails is easy, as is deleting messages right at the server without downloading them in full ever.

(Updated May 2016, tested with Outlook 2007 and Outlook 2016)