Saturday, February 21, 2009

Gmail’s undocumented POP3 download limit

Maybe this is why it’s “beta”.

Gmail’s POP documentation doesn’t mention anything about a message retrieval (download) limit.

In fact, there is one. It’s not new not new; I’ve found mention of it from 2007.

In my case I can download about 340 messages at a time. I think the limit is in place for a few minutes; I’ve been able to download about 3,000 over 9 or so sessions.

I discovered the problem while dealing with another geek tribulation (these things seem to come in multiples). I’d moved my ancient Eudora archive (abandoware) and, when testing it after the move, I saw my most recent messages were from August 2008.

So I tried again – but I was still in August. It took a few tries and cleaning up some other unrelated (but real) problems to sort things out.

Each time I fetch mail I get about 300-340 messages. It’s been that way for years, but I’d always assumed that was all there was. I didn’t spot the problem because I don’t read the email in Eudora, it’s just my local repository. Gmail is where I read and write.

Now I see that I’ve been slowly slipping behind the email wave front. Each time I downloaded I fetched about 300-350 messages, but there were always more in waiting. So the backlog grew.

This afternoon the backlog was seven months, but I’m down to two months now. I should be caught up shortly.

I haven’t noticed any particular limit with IMAP synchronization, so this may be a left over for a service they’re gradually deprecating.

Shame on Google for not documenting this limitation.


MC said...

Whew! Thanks for this info. It's been driving me absolutely bananas! I thought it might be my settings. Good to know it's not me! :) ... on the other hand, looks like I'll be hitting Send/Receive the whole afternoon!

Anonymous said...

when i got the 300 msgs i assumed it as their limit - i wasnt surprised because the product gmail is not sophisticated - also having used other google prodcuts like chrome and google documents - i believe they have been careless - still i prefer gmail to microsoft or yahoo as i dont have to daily face an advertisement from woman who want to date !

Panamint Joe said...

This behavior of Gmail had me puzzled, too. Thanks for the information.

Gmail has been semi-broken since its inception. It lacks many of the Webmail features that other companies provide, or accessing the features requires a number of arcane steps that are non-obvious even to an experienced user. I use it for a couple of "throw-away" accounts, but 14 months ago I signed up for a Yahoo! Mail Plus account, costing $25 per year, charged to a PayPal account. It works well on POP3 and the price is right. End of problem.

I think Google isn't really interested in being an email service provider. It's just a gimmick to get people to use their other services, so they can point to a huge user base, which helps pump up their stock value.

mastermindesigns. said...

I think there is a limit to how much can be downloaded in one day with imap as well but it is a lot more... I just tried to sync my whole gmail which is about 55% full and I wanted to run some maintainance on it... using apple mail... now it seems google's server is not accepting a connection after getting about 1/2 finished...

Anonymous said...

This is actually a fantastic feature, though it can seem frustrating. I had a 31 character password, numbers, letters (lowercase and CApiTaLS), not to mention a sprinkling of symbols. That did not stop some good overseas from compromising my account, enabling POP and attempting to download every message (none of which contained anything terribly sensitive, fortunately). This is not evidence of broken behavior, but rather a fantastic safety measure. Kudos to Google, security may have eluded them with Buzz, but obviously not with Gmail!

Max V said...

my limit is 265 emails at time. I'm going crazy to backup my emails