How to Permanently Delete a Message in Outlook

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You can delete an email immediately in Outlook—without it going to the Deleted Items folder and with no questions asked.

Why Does Outlook Maintain a "Deleted Items" Folder?

The trash can in your kitchen and the dust bin in Outlook are both convenient; maybe they are convenient not for the same reasons, though.

In the kitchen, the trashcan lifts the burden of having to go to the compost pile with every tea bag.

In Outlook, the Deleted Items folder lets you recover accidentally deleted items easily.

What if, then, if you want to make sure an item cannot be recovered, let alone easily? You can empty the trash, of course, and the item is gone, but you still have to move it there first, and all other emails, contacts and what not in Deleted Items will be gone as well.

Fortunately, there is another way.

Permanently Delete a Message in Outlook Beyond Recovery

To permanently delete a message (without having the message go to the Deleted Items folder at all) in Outlook:

  1. Hold down the Shift key while pressing Del.
    1. You can also hold Shift while clicking the Delete button on the main Outlook Mail window's Home ribbon or any open message's Message ribbon.
  2. Click Yes under This message will be permanently deleted.
    • You can disable this confirmatory dialog. See blow.

(The same works with entire folders, too.)

Turn Off the Confirmation Dialog for Deleting Permanently in Outlook

To prevent Outlook from asking you to confirm every time you are about to delete a message permanently—using either the command for immediate deletion or by emptying the Deleted Items folder:

  1. Select File in Outlook.
  2. Now click Options.
  3. Open the Advanced category.
  4. Make sure Prompt for confirmation before permanently deleting items is not checked under Other.
  5. Click OK.

Empty the "Deleted Items" Folder in Outlook

To permanently delete all messages you have previously trashed in Outlook:

  1. With the right mouse button, click on the Deleted Items folder for the account or PST file you want to empty.
  1. Select Empty Folder from the menu that has appeared.
  2. Click Yes under Everything in the "Deleted Items" folder will be permanently deleted. Continue?. (This is with permanent deletion confirmation enabled; see below for turning this dialog off—permanently.)

As an alternative, you can also:

  1. Open the Delted Items folder in Outlook.
  2. Go to the Folder ribbon.
  3. Click Empty Folder in the Clean Up section.

Have Outlook Empty the "Deleted Items" Folder Automatically

You can also set up Outlook to automatically and permanently delete items in the Deleted Items folder (or folders) when you close Outlook.

To have Outlook delete all items from the Deleted Items folder when you exit it:

  1. Click File in Outlook.
  2. Select Options on the sheet that appears.
  3. Go to the Advanced category.
  4. Make sure Empty Deleted Items folder when exiting Outlook is checked under Outlook start and exit.
  5. Click OK.

(Updated March 2016, tested with Outlook 2016)

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