Email plays a major role in communication and online activity in general. Everyone these days has one, some even have separate email addresses for different aspects of their lives — work, personal, subscriptions, etc. With this much information channeled through multiple emails, there is a need for a convenient way of staying on top of it all. Mail application is Apple’s way of helping you manage all of your mail. Yet you have probably noticed by now, that it tends to feast on your disk space with the course of time

Where is Mail Stored on Mac?

Apple’s Mail is notorious for taking up tons of storage. In order to make your emails available offline, Mail keeps a local copy of an email as well as all of its attachments. Considering how much mail is coming in on the daily, these numbers tend to grow quickly. Before you know it — Mail can take up over 10GBs on your drive.

For the most part, this number will be composed of attachments. To check the amount of space currently taken by Mail attachments open Finder, press Shift+Command(⌘)+G and paste this directory if you are running Sierra or later versions of macOS:


Right click Mail Downloads folder and select Get Info to view the size of the folder.

mail downloads location

How to Remove Attachments from Mail

It’s already been established that the majority of space taken on your Mac by Apple’s Mail is taken by attachments. There are a few ways how to handle the situation and take back the free space.

One of your options is to fully delete an attachment from the email after downloading it. It’s kind of tedious and somewhat inconvenient, as it involves fully removing an attachment after you are done with it, yet it will prevent Mail from storing excessive cache.

To fully erase attachments from an email you will first have to open the Mail app and select an email with an attachment.

After selecting an email, click on Message in the Menu bar and hit Remove Attachments. Please note, that this will fully remove the attachment not just from your computer, but also from the email server.

delete attachments mail

Note: You can also create a Smart Mailbox from within the Mail app. By choosing Contains attachments filter you will easily collect all mail with an attachment of any sort. This allows for bulk selection (hold command(⌘)+click to select multiple).

smart mailbox apple mail

How to Clean Mail on Mac Without Losing Attachments

The second option is to manually clean out attachment cache. This will remove the files locally stored by the Mail app and free up space on your Mac. “But will I lose my attachments?” — Not at all. This method takes quite a bit of extra effort, but when executed correctly, you do not lose anything.

Open Finder and press Shift+Command(⌘)+G, copy and paste the directory:

~/Library/Containers/ Downloads

This will take you straight to the folder where your attachments are cached. Select all files and move them to Trash. Note, this will not remove your attachments from the email server, which mean the next time you open an attachment it will automatically be cached again.

remove mail downloads

Optimize & Scan Email Attachments Using an App

Your final option involves deleting attachment caches on Mac by means of third-party applications. This method proves to be the fastest and safest if you are dealing with a large number of attachments synced through Apple Mail.

MacFly Pro is a reliable app capable of safely removing attachments. It knows exactly where to look for all sorts of cached email data in OSX. It also allows to view and choose the files you want to remove.

delete mail attachments

Download and install MacFly Pro, then select Mail Attachments and hit Scan. Once it’s done scanning, simply select what you want to remove and hit Delete Selected.

How to Prevent Mail from Littering Your Disk

Now that you are done with cleaning out your attachments you can prevent Apple’s Mail app from downloading and storing such an obnoxious number of data. Bring up Mail>Preferences and switch to Accounts tab. Under the Download Attachments setting pick Recent or None, depending on what you want Mail to keep.

mail attachments preferences

The bottom line is that Mail can be quite troublesome to manage at first, yet it remains one of the top free apps to use with multiple email addresses. Dedicated Mac utilities can help a great deal when clearing out cached attachments. However, if that still is too much of a hassle, you can ditch Mail altogether and switch to a different app.