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Email Storage Space

Overview

When you get an email account, you automatically receive 3 GB of storage space if you have a non-sponsored SUNet ID (faculty receive 5 GB; sponsored SUNet IDs receive 1 GB).

This default storage is called email quota. The way you deal with stored email varies depending on what kind of email program you have and whether you're using POP or IMAP email service. This is important: if you fill up your storage space — i.e., exceed your mail quota — your email program will stop working properly, because you'll be unable to get new email.

How does this happen? New email comes into the Stanford email system and is sent to your personal mail spool, which resides on one of many Stanford email servers. When you check your email, the new messages are downloaded from the server if you are using POP (this is default behavior of POP) or stay on the server if you are using IMAP. The messages can stay on the server for three days, three weeks, or a month or more. The time limit is determined by settings in your email program. If the time limit is too long, or if the attachments you receive too big, your mail spool fills up, you run out of storage space, and you can no longer receive email.

Cleaning up your storage space

When someone sends mail to your @stanford email address, the message actually gets sent to your mail spool on the Stanford email servers first. It waits there, along with any other messages that come in, until you check your email.

When you check your email, the message is sent from your mail spool to your email program. If your email program uses the POP protocol, the message is downloaded onto your desktop computer.

But, if your email program has been set to leave a copy of your email on the server or your email program is configured for IMAP, your mail stays on the mail spool until you remove it. Eventually, the size of your mail spool may prevent your email program from working correctly.

Mac and Windows POP email programs

When you check your mail, your messages are downloaded to your personal computer and, by default, deleted from the server. This clears storage space on your mail spool.

However, if your email program has been set to leave a copy of your email on the server, your mail spool fills with duplicate messages (and attachments).

To remove mail from your mail spool:

  1. Go to webmail.stanford.edu.
  2. Open your Inbox folder.
  3. Check the box to the left of the messages you want to delete and then click Delete on the tool bar. (This only deletes duplicate messages residing on the Stanford mail server, not the messages sitting in various folders on your desktop. The messages in your spool are old ones you've probably seen already.)
  4. Right-click (or CONTROL + click on a Mac) your Trash folder and then click Empty Trash. (Items that have been deleted from the trash are no longer counted against your email quota.)

IMAP service

With IMAP, your email messages are are kept and stored on the mail server - you can work with all your mail, old and new, from any Internet computer. However, your archive of mail grows on the mail server.

When you near your quota, you can either delete messages or use a desktop client such as Apple Mail, Outlook, or Thunderbird to move some messages down from the server to a local folder on your desktop to free up space. Any mail you move will reside on your local computer within the email program that you used to move it.

Webmail

With Webmail messages that you delete are moved to the Trash folder, which counts as part of your quota. You can empty the trash to permanently delete those messages and recover the space, although items in the trash will automatically be deleted after 30 days. (It doesn't matter what the date on the original message is; items remain in the Trash folder for 30 days before being automatically purged.)

To remove mail messages from your Trash folder, right-click (or CONTROL+click on a Mac) the Trash folder and then click Empty Trash. Items that have been deleted from the trash are no longer counted against your email quota.

Alpine (UNIX-based email program)

By default, Alpine is configured for IMAP on all Stanford UNIX timeshares. When you near your quota, you can either delete messages or move some messages down from the server to a local folder to free up space. Any mail you move will reside in your AFS home directory.

Alpine can also be configured as an IMAP client and used to store some messages in local files located in your AFS home directory, much like a desktop client can store messages in a local folder on your desktop computer or laptop. This is the recommended setup for moving  messages from the server to a local Alpine folder:

  1. Access the Alpine folder list by pressing "l" from the main menu. Two collections of mail folders are listed:
    • "Folders on sunetid.pobox.stanford.edu..." contains mail stored on the server.
    • "Local folders in ~/Mail/" contains mail stored in your home directory.
    You can navigate between the two by highlighting one or the other with the arrow keys and pressing RETURN.
  2. To manage your mail spool, first create a new folder in the local folders collection to hold the archived messages.
    • Navigate to the local collection and press "a" to add a new folder.
    • Type a name for the folder, e.g., "Archive", and press RETURN.
    • Return to the folder list by pressing "<", or by way of the main menu by pressing "m" and then "l".
  3. Navigate to the server collection. Your mail spool is stored in the INBOX folder in this collection, but you can view and manage mail in other server folders as well (this is an advantage of the IMAP configuration). Enter a folder containing messages to be archived by highlighting it with the arrow keys and pressing RETURN.
  4. There are a couple of options for moving messages between folders.
    • You can move a single message simply by highlighting it with the arrow keys and pressing "s" (for "save"). By default, Alpine will prompt you to save to a folder in the server collection. To navigate to a folder in the local collection press CTRL and "t" and then "<" when prompted. Highlight the local collection using the arrow keys and press RETURN; select the Archive folder you created earlier and press return twice to complete the action. The selected message will be copied to the local folder and the original marked for deletion.

    • You can also select a group of messages to move in a batch using the ":" key. Highlight each message in turn and press ":". Each selected message will be marked with an "X"; you can unselect a message by highlighting it and pressing ":" a second time. If you'd like to move all messages in a folder instead, press ";" and then "a" (the ";" command will also let you select message by more complex criteria including message number, date, or size). Once you've selected all the messages that should be moved, press the "a" key (to "apply" a command to the selection) and then "s", and navigate to a local folder as described above. Selected messages will be copied to the local folder (this may take some time) and the originals marked for deletion.
  5. Once you've completed your management tasks in the current server folder, press "x" to expunge the messages marked for deletion (you will be prompted to confirm this action). This is an important step, as server storage will NOT be recovered until marked messages have been permanently expunged.

More about storage

  • Mac and Windows POP email programs
    On one hand, these programs are good at keeping your mail spool from building up because your email gets downloaded to your desktop each time you check your mail. On the other hand, these programs can create lots of big mail spools because they tend to have "Leave mail on server" and "Keep copy" options that can be set incorrectly. The Cleaning up your storage space options in the section above tells you how to avoid this problem.
  • IMAP service
    With this service, your email does not get downloaded from the email servers. So what do people do if/when their mail spools fill up? They just buy more storage space. See How to get more storage space, below.
  • Attachments
    Remember, it's not just email that clogs up storage space. Attachments count too. Several large .jpg, .mpg, or multimedia attachments can send you over the limit fast. Note that you cannot send or receive any individual email larger than 50 MB, including attachments.
  • How full is your storage space?
    To find out how much email quota you have used:
    1. Go to Webmail.
    2. Your name is displayed in the upper-right corner of the banner.  Hover your cursor over your name  to display your current quota usage in megabytes and by percentage.

How to get more storage space

Whether you have POP or IMAP email service you can always buy more storage space. All you need to do is find someone with the appropriate account privileges to sponsor this purchase for you. (In other words, to affirm that you're using the extra space for University purposes.) Information about buying more mail quota can be found on the Sponsorship Manager page.

Last modified July 12, 2012