Gmail: Storage quota exceeded. Why this happens

I helped a friend out yesterday with her Gmail account. It was at 23% (or something) but email to her was bouncing with a “storage quota exceeded” message.

I googled the hell out of this but couldn’t find the reason, so I thought I’d put it up here for the world.

There are three possible reasons this happens (“storage quota exceeded” bounces when you don’t appear to have exceeded your quota):

  1. You’re forwarding email through/to another Gmail account that has exceeded its quota
  2. One of your filters is redirecting your mail through a full Gmail account
  3. You’re using Google Apps to manage all email for your domain, and your Google Apps domain email account is full.

Taking these in turn.

Number 1, check in your Gmail account under “Mail settings” | “Forwarding and POP/IMAP” if you have any forwarding going on. If you do (and it’s to another Gmail account), check that account hasn’t used up its quota.

Number 2, check in your Gmail account under “Mail settings” | “Filters” if any of your filters send mail via another Gmail account. If so, check if it’s used up its quota.

Number 3 (this is what happened to my friend), go to Google apps (that link will currently take you mostly there, but if you’re using the free version, click on the “Google apps (Free)” link at the bottom left, under “Solutions”. Alternatively, just google the damn site (ie, Google Google Apps. Yes, this is somewhat ridiculous). Google tends to shuffle things around pretty regularly.


  • Sign in to Google Apps – remember, this will be your Google Apps login/password, not your Gmail login/password.
  • Scroll down to “Email”
  • Click on the link underneath the Icon, not the Email icon itself (this goes somewhere else)

This will take you to the inbox for your domain. All email to any accounts on your domain gets copied here (I guess so system administrators can see what everybody’s been up to). What this means is – even if you’re keeping your normal Gmail account nice & low, this domain-wide account will be getting filled up.

THIS is where the “storage quota exceeded” bounce messages are coming from.

Confusingly, there’s nothing in the email headers that will tell you this. You just have to magically know (Thanks Google!) No matter, I’m telling you, so now you know anyway.

From this domain-wide Gmail you can delete all the Spam. Do searches for things like “has:attachment”, then click “select all”, and “select all conversations that match this search”, then click Delete. Or, if you’re feeling wild & crazy, just select everything & delete it. Up to you.

Finally, remember to click on “Bin” (it’s what Trash is called in the Google Apps version of Gmail) and “Delete forever”. This’ll free up all the space, and stop your incoming emails bouncing.

You’re quite safe deleting anything you like from this account. It’s completely separate from your normal Gmail account.

Voila. You’re welcome. Be excellent to each other!


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February 19th, 2011 | Bugs |