You’ve cleaned your GMail inbox, so why is extra mail still showing in Thunderbird (or whatever email client?)

If you’re using Thunderbird or another IMAP email client with GMail, you might have – if you’re disorganized like me – let 10,000 messages pile up and then decided some Sunday to get to Inbox Zero. So you go to the GMail web UI and lather/rinse/repeat on archiving those 10,000 messages in the very inefficient ways that GMail allows you to do so. (Somebody please tell me in comments if there’s an easy way to say “find me all messages older than X and archive them” in GMail, because try as I might, I could not find a way to do it in one swell foop and had to click like 500 times).

And then you go to Thunderbird or your IMAP email client and let it chew on the GMail inbox and … WTF, there are still like 387 messages left. Which you can’t see in your Inbox on GMail. What.

So it should be obvious this is a clickbait post for confused people on search engines so they can just find it and have their problem fixed. I like making these kinds of posts.

If you haven’t disabled GMail’s stupid “tabs” then that is where the mystery emails are hiding.

I still had a “Social” tab and a “Promotions” tab, but those tabs are only semantics within the GMail web user interface. The messages still live in your Inbox, and that’s why your IMAP client displays them there.

To fix:

  1. Turn off the stupid GMail tabs. Settings > Inbox > and disable all the tabs. Bam! Mystery messages now visible in the GMail web inbox.
  2. Archive them in whatever terrible way is the only way you can archive tons of messages in GMail since it’s not easy (again if it IS easy please comment and I will update).
  3. Check your IMAP client, let it chew on the Inbox, and rejoice!

HTH.

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