Remove Gmail Archived Messages

Published by Torry Crass on

Many many moons ago I setup a gmail account to use as a collection bin for garbage messages (spam) and the like. When I set it up, I didn’t change the options within the mailbox to stop Google from storing all of these messages indefinitely otherwise known as archive.

By default Google uses the archive setting and while the altruistic motive could be argued that it’s to ensure that users always have messages they might need in the future. I’m somewhat convinced that this is actually not the case. You see, these messages, whatever they are, have intrinsic value to Google, especially in bulk. By offering to archive vs. trash these messages by default it allows Google to continue to benefit from all the messages you would have otherwise discarded.

A few reference articles (among the many out there):

Among other things, Google makes it extremely hard to actually remove those archived messages in the event that you choose to change your options (thus why I’m posting this). If you do change your settings and start trashing messages, it ONLY applies to new messages, not any that have previously been archived.

In addition, they do not provide an ability to easily search, locate, select or otherwise identify your archived messages to go back and remove them. They make you work for it.

The trick is to use label filtering in a reverse approach. By simply not displaying everything of value, you’re then left with the remaining messages; your archive. In the search field at the top simply enter the following text.

-label:{inbox trash sent spam} has:nouserlabels

What this does is it tells google to NOT display inbox, trash, sent, or spam. These are the default labels (or folders, if you prefer to refer to them that way). Then append the next set of text which tells it to display only messages that do NOT have a user label (i.e. nothing that you’ve added labels to or otherwise filed away).

Now you should be left with your archived messages to review and take what action you may with.

Happy archive deleting everyone!


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