How do I free up email space on cPanel?

Eva Pettifor


February 2015


Some of our clients running older websites may still have their website and email hosted on a cPanel server. Whilst we do not use this type of hosting any longer, this article may help any one who is running out of disk space.

The first thing to do is determine the reason for the disk space warning, it could be that there are too many images or files added to your website but in most cases the problem is caused by email storage.

How cPanel email hosting works

The cPanel web hosting environment has a fixed disk size which is available to store website files, images, database, scripts and in some cases, email accounts.

Problems arise when the email accounts are not cleared from the server regularly and you may run out of disk space. This is quite an urgent issue, if your mailbox uses all of the disk space, you will encounter mail bouncing and your website crashing.

In the mail set up section of cPanel, the system allows you to set a quota for each email account. Unfortunately the system allows you to enter any quota here and on some occasions my clients have assigned a huge quota that exceeds their entire hosting account. Generally the cPanel account has a 1GB disk quota which is ample for running a large website. Web hosting is not however designed to store emails but simply to drop them down to your email software of choice for day to day use (eg Outlook, Thunderbird, etc).

How to fix the immediate problem

Firstly you need to clear the hosting space to prevent mail bouncing (and the website going offline) and to do this you must delete the build up of mail from each email account.  This can be done in two ways:

  • Temporary Solution:  If you don't have the confidence or time to fiddle with your email software settings, a quick fix it to login to webmail by visiting your website and adding '/webmail' to the URL. Enter your username (email address) and your email password to access the webmail console.  From this console you can then delete all mail. It's important to delete mail in the INBOX as well as the SENT items. Once your mail is deleted it cannot be retrieved so be careful, or seek the advice of an IT professional. Be aware this is only a temporary fix because the mail will continue to build up once you have cleared it.
  • Long Term Solution: You will ultimately need to configure your mail software to download and delete all emails from the web server rather than keeping a copy on the server (see screenshot below), you may need to get the assistance from an IT specialist to ensure you have a local backup of any important messages you wish to save before adjusting any settings.

The above procedure will need to be carried out for each email account using the hosting service. 

How to prevent this problem from re-occuring

If you have cleared your mailbox using the second method above, ie configuring your software to delete mail from the server after downloading, you are almost there.

The settings may look a little different across different mail software

The account on at least one of your devices must be configured as a POP account (which downloads) not IMAP (which does not download).  Note that this is not a setting done from the web server, this account type is chosen when you configure your computer or device mail software.


The email hosting used to come complimentary with cPanel hosting and I used to offer this to my clients as a free option. For some clients it has worked fine for many years without incident. These days I do not offer or support email hosting at all. I don't believe any professional business should leave this to their web designer. I do not specialise in software or device set ups, so my level of support and availability is very limited if problems arise. This is not worth the risk for your valuable business communications.

Please contact me if you would like a referral to a local IT provider who can assist with your business email needs.

Eva Pettifor

Founder and project manager at Darwin Web


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