How to Purge Deleted Messages Automatically in Outlook

Automatic purge of emails works when you are online

Businessman at train station using laptop
Compassionate Eye Foundation/Steven Errico/Digital Vision/Getty Images

It's convenient that Outlook does not forever delete messages immediately in IMAP accounts. It allows you to undelete when you are too quick to trash an important email.

It also allows for messages to accumulate, however, and for folders to grow bigger and bigger until you purge the deleted items manually.

You can do that on your own from time to time—once a week should be enough—or you let Outlook do it automatically.

Danger of Automatic Purging

You do lose a bit of the safety net, though, when you set up automatic purging. There's no guarantee that a message will be recoverable for a specific time. Whenever you change folders online, all the deleted items in the folder you leave are purged.

Purge Deleted Messages Automatically in Outlook

To have Outlook purge messages marked for deletion automatically when you leave a folder:

  1. Open a folder in the IMAP account you want to set up for automatic purging.

  2. Select Edit Purge Purge Options... from the menu.

  3. Make sure Purge items when switching folders while online is checked.

  4. Click OK.

Remember that Outlook only purges automatically while you are online. Deleted messages in folders you close while offline are purged the next time you open and leave the folder while online.

Purging Manually

If you decide you'd rather not take the chance with automatic purges, you can always use the manual approach: 

  1. Click the Folder ribbon at the top of Outlook.

  2. Select Purge in the Clean Up section.

  3. Select an option from the drop-down menu. Choose Purge Marked Items in All Accounts to remove all the deleted messages from all IMAP accounts or choose an option to purge a more limited amount of messages.