OS X: How to Remove Attachments from Apple Mail Messages

Question:

Joe Writes: Apple’s Mail app is great for managing and archiving email messages, but with limited space on my hard drive, I often want to archive just the text of an email and not any attachments. How can I remove an attachment from an email or tell Mail to just archive the email’s text?

Answer:

Remove email attachments from Apple Mail

A little-known feature of Mail is the ability to do exactly what you’re asking for: remove attachments from email messages. To do this, simply select a message with an attachment, go to “Message” in Mail’s menu bar, and select “Remove Attachments.”

Remove Email Attachments Apple Mail

After a few seconds of processing, the attachment will disappear from the email and you’ll notice a new message at the bottom of the email informing you that the attachment has “been manually removed.”

Remove Email Attachments Apple Mail

This process also works with multiple emails at once. Simply highlight a group of messages or an entire mailbox and choose Message > Remove Attachments. Note, however, that the “Remove Attachments” menu option will only be available if you’ve highlighted messages that actually have attachments. Otherwise it will be greyed out.

For those concerned with email attachments in general, you may also want to check out Mail’s preferences to set exactly how the app handles the ones you decide to keep. By default, Mail will temporarily download attachments to a special “Mail Downloads” folder if you open the attachment from within Mail or use Qucik Look. In 10.8 Mountain Lion, this folder is located at ~/Library/Containers/com.apple.mail/Data/Library (in previous versions of OS X it was located just in ~/Library.

Configure When to Delete Mail Downloads

If you’d prefer not to keep these automatically downloaded attachments, go to Mail > Preferences > General and set “Remove unedited downloads” to “When Mail Quits.” This will clear out any attachment downloads each time you quit the application. Alternatively, selecting “After Message is Deleted” will keep the attachment until you delete the original email.