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How to Purge Deleted Messages in Outlook

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Windows has a trash can, your kitchen has a dustbin, and Outlook has its Deleted Items folder. That's just the way to get rid of old and superfluous stuff.

Why Deleted Messages Are Not Really Deleted

Not with IMAP, though. If you "delete" a message in an IMAP email account accessed through Outlook, neither is it deleted immediately nor does Outlook move it to the Deleted Items folder.

Instead, these messages are marked for deletion. Outlook will usually indicate that by graying them out, but you can also make it hide deleted messages. Still, you have to "purge" the half-gone emails to actually and permanently delete them from the server (or risk running into performance and possibly storage space problems).

Purge Deleted Messages in Outlook

To purge messages marked for deletion in Outlook:

  • Select Edit | Purge | Purge Marked Items in All Accounts from the menu.
    • This will purge all deleted messages from all IMAP accounts. Of course, you can also choose to purge in only the current folder or its account.

Outlook can also purge deleted items automatically when you close a folder.

Purge Deleted Messages in Outlook 2003

To purge deleted messages in Outlook 2003:

  • Select Edit | Purge Deleted Messages from the menu.
  • Click Yes.
    • Keep in mind that this command removes deleted items only from the current folder.

If selecting from the menu bar seems a bit too much work for so often used a command, you can place a Purge button in your Outlook toolbar:

  • Select Tools | Customize... from the menu.
  • Go to the Commands tab.
  • Choose Edit under Categories.
  • Drag Purge Marked Items in All Accounts (or the equivalent commands limited to the current account or folder, or Purge Deleted Messages in Outlook 2003) from the Commands: column to the desired place in your toolbar.
  • Click Close.
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