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June 26, 2009

Your Ever Burdensome Inbox

Filed under: Main — admin @ 12:01 am

Where once you bought a new computer ever two or four years, people are now keeping their PCs for six, eight, or ten years. That means you dragging around a lot of digital dust.

Take your email program, for example. I would use a new email program every time I bought a new computer. Originally that was two years, but then it got up to four years. So after four years of using one e-mail program, and collecting four years of email, I switched to a new computer, new email program, and new inbox.

Now that people are using computers longer, they’re probably hanging onto their email programs longer. That means lots and lots of old mail.

My observation is that most folks just keep all their messages in the inbox. They let them stack up. That’s okay.

I like to keep my inbox relatively empty. After replying, I delete the message. Or, if the message is worth keeping, I move it off into one of several mail folders I’ve created.

While I keep my inbox clean, I do retain a copy of every message I send. Currently, my Sent folder contains 6,458 messages.

That’s a lot of stuff.

Out on disk, those messages occupy storage space, plus they require overhead for the email program to manage. The storage space isn’t much, maybe 250K on my computer, but managing all those messages gets messy.

As you keep your computer longer, the message bulk will grow and grow. Eventually, at some point, your email program will break. First it will get slow, then intolerably slow. Then it won’t work at all.

Beneath its skin, an email program is really a database. Its job is to organize mail messages. Some mail programs do a great job, some not so great. As people keep their computers longer, and even after that if they transfer their computer files — including email — to a new computer, then the email bulk will become a burden.

I’m sure that already there are some users who’ve suffered from email overload. At many businesses, they use servers that manage all the messages. But for individuals, my assumption is that the email program developers simply assume that it would be ridiculous for a person to keep thousands of messages over a dozen years. If that’s true, then we have a looming problem.

Back in the old days, when I used Eudora, I would routinely archive my email folders. I simply copied them to another location on the hard drive. (I still have those copies.) Then I when into Eudora and deleted all my messages. You can do this as well: Make a copy of your email program’s files and folders. Then inside your email program, select and delete all your messages. That makes everything start afresh, and should avoid any speed bumps.

Because email is all basically text, you can use any text editor or word processor to peruse your old messages. So if you need to review something you wrote several years ago, it’s entirely possible. (My email archives go back to 1999.)

In the meantime, if you’re adverse to my suggestions, simply consider cleaning out your inbox. Delete things! It may actually help speed up your email program should it be showing signs of sluggishness.


  1. heh, i havn’t bothered with using any e-mail program at all, i just use the web based client and check on it from time to time. no cluttered hard drive space for me 🙂

    Comment by linuxlove — June 26, 2009 @ 2:28 pm

  2. Do you ever clean it out? I used GMail for a long time and had over 6,000 messages stored. Eventually I deleted them all.

    Comment by admin — June 28, 2009 @ 9:06 am

  3. yeah i probibly need to do some cleaning. i have 297 messages stored 😛
    though email doesn’t keep piling up on me like it probibly does for you; i’m just not that popular on the internet.

    Comment by linuxlove — June 28, 2009 @ 2:55 pm

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