How to Purge Deleted Messages

Windows Mail or Outlook Express

A delete button close up picture of a keyboard
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What to Windows is the Recycling Bin, to Windows Mail and Outlook Express is the Deleted Items folder — unless you use an IMAP account, of course.

If you access your emails via the powerful and comfortable IMAP, messages you delete are not moved to a special folder but marked for deletion. This makes deleting a speedy process, and it provides a safety net should you ever hit the Del key inadvertently. Emails marked for deletion are either displayed crossed out, or they are hidden from view.

Either way, the deleted messages are still there. Of course, it makes sense to get rid of them from time to time, or your Inbox will grow to gargantuan proportions in spite of your happily deleting (or moving) old mail. How's it done, though, there being no Deleted Items folder to empty?

Purge Deleted Messages in Windows Mail or Outlook Express

To physically and finally delete emails marked for deletion in an IMAP account in Windows Mail or Outlook Express:

(You can also select Edit | Purge Deleted Messages from the menu.)

Make Windows Mail or Outlook Express Purge Deleted Mail Automatically

While the click on Purge Messages is easy, it is still a click — a superfluous click if you never undelete any emails and always purge them at once (which makes the click many, many clicks).

If that's you, let Windows Mil do the clicking and have it purge deleted messages automatically:

  • Select Tools | Options from the menu in Windows Mail.
  • Go to the Advanced tab.
  • Click Maintenance.
  • Make sure Purge deleted messages when leaving IMAP folders is checked.
  • Click Close.
  • Now click OK.

In Outlook Express:

  • Select Tools | Options from the menu in Outlook Express.
  • Go to the Maintenance tab.
  • Make sure Purge deleted messages when leaving IMAP folders is checked.
  • Click OK.

You may also want to hide deleted messages so you can forget about them the moment you have trashed them.