I have several email accounts I need to check regularly. The most important are a Gmail account, and a organizational account.

For a long-time I have been using Thunderbird mapping both of theme via IMAP. This works alright.

Problem is that thunderbird downloads local copies of all emails, even with IMAP. That is about 5GB of emails. Which is a lot on my netbooks 30Gb hard-drive. (Last time I tried to reconfigure thunderbird to stop doing that, it deleted my remote copies. I did manage to recover them from another local copy though.. Still I am not keen to mess with thunderbirds settings again.)

I thought I would switch to using the GMail webclient and adding external accounts. However, that does not support mapping IMAP, only POP3. I do not want to POP3, as that will break my ability to check the emails using my existing solutions.

  • Must have: support to IMAP multiple accounts
  • Must not: store full local copies of all emails
  • Should have: good calendar support
    • I am disappointed with thunderbird+lightning+google calendar provider, it seems finiky and fragile
  • Nice to have a good search function.
    • Though doing this without local copies is hard, searching local copies of just the headers (subject) is good.
  • Nice to have light weight (no point swapping 4Gb of email for a 4Gb email client)
  • OS Windows is a must, linux is a nice-to-have
  • Can be a web-app or a desktop app
    • Webapp tends to have advantage that very few will ever touch the local machine for email storage
  • Cost: Gratis is nice, but I would consider payed options if they offer a good trial
  • Open source is nice

A suitable thunderbird plugin might do. If you have personal experience that it will not do things like delete my remote emails.

Key difference between this and other questions about email clients is that my focus is primarily on avoiding having local copies of emails. If you can not answer that part of the question, then your answer will not be useful (but might be good on some of the other email client questions :-D)

  • You can GMail on the web to check/download from third party email adresses Commented Oct 19, 2017 at 16:30
  • @DuarteFarrajotaRamos as I said, on gmail you can only set it the check other email addresses, via POP3 Commented Oct 19, 2017 at 22:42

1 Answer 1


If you change your ThunderBird account settings you can turn off the downloading of messages to the local machine:

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If you wish to get rid of the messages on your current machine:

  1. Make a note of all of your settings and make sure that you know the password(s).
  2. Uninstall ThunderBird Do NOT delete any mail before doing this
  3. Delete any remaining messages on the drive
  4. Reinstall ThunderBird
  5. Set up your accounts making sure you set the synchronisation to not keep messages locally.

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