Learn the Proper Way to Check Your Google Storage Quota

Messages, documents, and even trash take up more space than you think

Google allows users to store up to 15 GB of data per account. This amount might seem generous but old messages, plus documents stored on Google Drive, use up space quickly. Here's what's included in the storage limit and how to find out how much of your allotted Google storage space you're using and how much you have available.

Person checking their storage on Gmail
Lifewire / Derek Abella 

What Counts Toward the Google Storage Limit

Before you learn how to check your Google data quota, it's helpful to know what's included in it and what's not.

Your Gmail Account

Each email message has a small data footprint but you probably have many of them stored in your account. Additionally, some messages have attachments that take up additional space.

These factors add up, which is true for any email service but especially so for Gmail. Google makes it easier to archive than to delete emails, so messages that you think you deleted might be archived and using up space.

Google Drive

Everything in your Google Drive counts toward your 15 GB allotment, including downloads, documents, spreadsheets, and all the other items you store there.

Google Photos

The one exception to the storage limit is high-resolution photos. Photos you upload without compressing don't count toward the limit, which is fortunate because photos would use your space up very quickly.

Check Your Storage Usage

Use the following steps to find out how much storage space your data occupies and how much you have left:

  1. Visit the Google Drive storage page.

  2. If you're logged into your Google account, you'll see a line graph that shows how much space you've used (in blue and red) and how much space is available (in gray).

    Storage usage website with Gmail total

You also can get a quick idea of how much space remains directly from your Gmail account:

  1. On any Gmail page, scroll to the bottom.

  2. Find the current online storage usage on the left, toward the bottom.

    Gmail storage status message on main Gmail web page

What Happens With Gmail If the Storage Limit Is Reached?

As soon as the amount of data you're using reaches a certain threshold, Gmail displays a warning in your inbox. After three months of being over quota, Gmail displays the message, "You can't send or receive emails because you're out of storage space."

At this point, you're able to access all messages in your account, but you can't send or receive new emails. To resume normal service, reduce the amount of data in your account to below the storage quota.

When accessing the account through IMAP, you might not receive an error message and you may be able to send messages via SMTP (from an email program). That's because using email this way stores the messages locally (on your computer), rather than exclusively on Google servers.

While the account is over quota, anyone who sends an email to your Gmail address will receive an error message that says something like, "The email account you are trying to reach has exceeded its quota."

The sender's email service will usually keep trying to deliver the message every few hours for a specified amount of time. If, during that time, you reduce the amount of storage you're consuming so that it's again within Google quota limits, the message will eventually be delivered. If not, however, the mail server will give up and bounce the email. The sender will receive the message, "The message could not be delivered because the account you are trying to reach has exceeded its storage quota."

If Your Storage Space Is Running Out

If you only have a few megabytes of storage left, you can do one of two things: acquire more space or reduce the amount of data in your account.

To increase your storage space, you can purchase up to 30 TB more from Google to share between Gmail and Google Drive. If you decide instead to free up some space, try these strategies:

  1. Empty Trash now in Gmail
  2. Empty the Google Drive Trash:

    1. Open Google Drive.
    2. In the left panel, toward the bottom, select Trash.
    3. Near the top of the window, select the Trash drop-down arrow.
    4. From the menu, select Empty trash.
    Empty trash in Google Drive
  3. Delete large and unnecessary messages in Gmail, or archive them to another email account or locally to a computer.

Use these pointers to find messages you may want to delete:

  • Use the Gmail has:attachment search operator to show all emails that include attachments. From there, delete those you no longer want.
  • Use a service such as Find Big Mail to discover the largest emails in your Gmail account, then delete them.
  • Set up Gmail as an IMAP account in another email program (such as macOS Mail or Mozilla Thunderbird) that can search by message size. Then move the biggest emails to an archive on the other email account or in the mail program's local folders.

Deleting messages from your Gmail account is a two-step process. Selecting Delete on a batch of messages puts them in your Trash folder. Make sure you empty it afterward.