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Outlook Tip: Quickly Delete Outlook Emails Permanently

By at 27 July, 2010, 1:40 pm

Most people delete Outlook email messages by clicking on the Delete command or using the Delete key on their keyboard. However, this doesn't permanently delete the message; rather, it sends it to the Outlook  Deleted items folder. And there it sits in most cases, waiting to be permanently deleted when the user finally gets round to using the Empty Deleted Items command (from the right click context menu). In the interim, hundreds or possibly thousands of emails to be deleted accumulate and take up precious space. If you have a limited size Outlook PST file, this can become an issue as space used for these emails means less space for new or other emails that you want to save. Users can configure Outlook options to automatically empty the Deleted Items folder on exit , but how many people know this or have actually take the time to do so? Then there are folks (like me) who want to maintain deleted emails for a period of time after deletion so clearing the Deleted Items folder on exit isn't an option. If you want to permanently delete Outlook email messages quickly and easily, Microsoft has provided a very simple way of doing so on a message by message or folder by folder basis:

Hold down the Shift key and press the Delete key.

That's it; nothing fancy or complex. When you delete a message this way, it bypasses the Deleted Items folder and is gone for good. If you do this with an Outlook Folder, it permanently deletes the entire folder.

Categories : Non-Legal Software | Software | Tips and Tricks

Keith Rabun March 3, 2011

Your overview/tip fails to notify the reader that it's not really a permanent deletion.  They still have 14 days when the "deleted" message is sitting in a hidden repository that can easily be recovered through simple Outlook steps.

Nerino Petro March 31, 2011


When you use this trick or remove them from the Deleted Items folder, the only way to recover them is 1) if you are using Exchange and have it configured to save Deleted messages 2) Recover Deleted Items function in Outlook which may include having to make changes to the Registry or 3) use a third party recovery product. So while technically correct that they remain where they can be recovered, the average user won’t know or make use of these capabilities. This trick simply allows them hard delete emails in a one step process rather than two using just the Delete Key or button and then emptying the Deleted Items folder.

binary May 25, 2011

What if e-mail message is opened? I.e., new e-mail comes in, notification is displayed, user clicks on notification and opens message in new window. It's possible to "delete" (move to trash box) message by hitting Ctrl+D from this view. Delete key does not work, neither do Shift+Delete and Shift+Ctrl+D.

Ron June 25, 2011

Thank you so much for the SHIFT-DELETE tip.  I was having trouble deleting Outlook email that were received from iphone senders.  They would not delete and would not be moved to Deleted items folder.  SHIFT-DELETE made them go away.  Happy, happy. 

bill January 12, 2012

I have en email with attachement and I can not delete it  It is stuck in microsoft outlook it will not delete normalt nor will it delete by holding ctrl and right clicking  delete  HELP

george January 17, 2012

Outlook 2007 will not allow me to delete item using the shift delete method. The message says you can provice greater capacity for storing items and folders but I cannot understand how to do that and my emails are are not coming into inbox.

skyline March 7, 2012

Good Tip, a realtime saver

Tim June 25, 2012

Pressing the Shift & Delete is not deleting my messages…using Outlook 2007 (12.0.6607.100) SP# MSO (12.0.6607.1000)…My mailbox is full and it won't delete anything.

Christy June 25, 2012

I tried this method , and all of my Emails disappeared , but when I was having problems with my computer , a friend set his up for me to use , and ALL of my permanently deleted Emails appeared , so this doesn't really seem to work .

Nerino Petro June 27, 2012


The emails are deleted but can be restored if someone runs a recovery operation on the computer. This sounds like what happened to you.This is no different than deleting your emails which puts them in the Deleted Items folder and teen using the Empty Folder Command, it just saves you a step.

Nerino Petro June 27, 2012


You need to highlight the emails that you want to delete and then, while pressing the Shift key, right click on the emails selected and press Delete. If they won’t delete, then you have another issue.

Grace July 31, 2012

I have been trying to delete permanently some of my emails in Microsoft Outlook 2010 but i keep seeing them in my Sent items or deleted items. Please HELP.

Rich September 13, 2012

Where is the configuration option on Mac/Outlook that allows you to forgo the "are you sure you really want to delete this message" dialogue.  The PC version has that option and i live by it.

Eric September 17, 2012


Is there any way to delete deleted items such that they are permanently unrecoverable for a corporate IT network with Outlook? is there some cache that empties out after 14 days? (per Keith) Thank you, Tim.

john December 6, 2012

The shift-delete trick has not permanently deleted the emails. they re-appear a little later in the day.
Only by going to the ISP's server can I permanently remove them from Outlook.
thank you to anyone for any further clues.

Ann Ward February 12, 2013

Someone please help me!  I have tried all the suggested ways of permanently deleting emails from Outlook 2010.  I have this mysterious folder called "google mail" which appeared when I set up Outlook on my new laptop and this folder seems to contain every message and not I have ever created even ones I thought were long deleted.  I have tried delete, shift delete, delete and then "Purge Marked Items" and the messages look like they have gone away but I only need to click out of that folder and then click back in for all the deleted messages to reappear!  Very frustrating!

jean stigers March 6, 2013

I use to delete emails then I could thengo to the delete inbox & delete them permanently. But now I can delete items but I cant use the inbox to permanently, I have tried everthing. 

MysticGurl March 24, 2013

hiii i cant do the shift delete.. please i want to delete the mails permanently never to be recovered thank u !!

Sean March 28, 2013

To remove the Are You Sure prompt go to the File tab and then Options.  Under the Outlook Options box go to "Advanced" and down that page to the bottom under "Other" and you will see the box for "Prompt for confirmation before permanently deleting items."  Uncheck this box and you have now save countless clicks.  Of course, use at our own risk.  I use it and still manage to delete things I wish I hadn't.

millie April 5, 2013

is it possible to highlight the items I want to delete from the delete box and delete the en masse?

mike jmike j April 13, 2013

Is there any more recent and definitive advice on this subject >
 mike j  13.04.2013

chip May 2, 2013

when in the deleted folder, when i permanently delete it says "are you sure?"- is there a way to get rid of that message so I can just hold the delete button down and see progress much faster as I clean out sections of my folder?

Nicole July 18, 2013

I cannot delete any emails. It seems I have reached my quota/size but it won't let me delete I keep getting an error message…. Any advice?

Prash July 30, 2013

I have deleted some unwanted emails (Shift+delete and empty deleted items folder, almost everything) but those emails appear when I do a search using the sender's name. When I select those emails, the attachments that existed before deleting are gone but the body of the email (in full/part) is still available. How do I totally get rid off these 'specific' unwanted emails? Thanks

Mike August 2, 2013

Is there a way to delete messages in mass quantities, like all over 150 days old?   Control and click just aint gettin it! Thanks

Edward August 26, 2013

After configuring my yahoo mails to outlook 2007, i cant permanently delete emails from outlook they cant even go to deleted items. Advise please.

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Tom Smith September 23, 2013

I find that the question of how to empty your delete folder rather simple.  The more complicated question to answer is how do you delete email in your inbox.  I have over 3000 emails in my in box and it looks like I have to click on each one of them individually to send them to the delete folder.  Is that true?  Is there a magic way to select them in a group and send them to the delete folder.  Once in the delete folder, like I said, uh it's so easy.  Empty folder!  duh.

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Tom Smith September 30, 2013

Does anyone know where the UnDo tab is on Micorsoft Word 2010?

Eileen Donahoo October 2, 2013

When we delete in Outlook 2010 it simplys puts a line accross it but does not delete it.  When using Shirt and delete it asks if you want to permanently delete the item when you answer YES it is still there with a line through it.  How do I stop this

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