How to Bulk-Delete Gmail Messages

Gmail
Reader Al wants to know “how to delete several thousand messages in the Gmail inbox, all at the same time.”

As Al notes, Gmail lets you select and delete only a screen’s worth of mail at a time. So how can you work past that? How can you bulk-delete Gmail messages?

The trick lies in creating a filter that deletes mail older than whatever date you specify. Here’s how:

1. Open your Web browser, head to Gmail, and sign into your account.

2. Next to the Search the Web button up top, click Create a filter.

3. In the "Has the words" field, type before:2010/01/01. That's just an example date; it would delete all messages received prior to January 1 of last year. You can use any date you want, as long as it conforms to the format YYYY/MM/DD.

4. Click Next step.

5. Check the box marked Delete it, then check the box for Also apply filter to ### conversations below. (Tip: If you want to preserve your mail while still getting it out of your inbox, choose Skip the inbox (Archive it) instead.)

6. Finally, click Create Filter. Depending on how many messages meet the filter criteria, the deletion process may take a minute or two.

Just make sure you really want to permanently delete all that mail. Unless you’re approaching your storage limit, the smarter move is to archive it instead. That way it’ll still be available when your run searches, but won’t clutter up your inbox.

Contributing Editor Rick Broida writes about business and consumer technology. Ask for help with your PC hassles at hasslefree@pcworld.com, or try the treasure trove of helpful folks in the PC World Community Forums.

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