How to Permanently Delete Emails in Outlook

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You can permanently delete an email 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 dustbin 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 an Email 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. 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 below. 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 select Options.

  3. Open the Advanced category.

  4. Make sure Prompt for confirmation before permanently deleting items is not checked under Other.

  5. Select OK.

Empty the Deleted Items Folder in Outlook

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

  1. With the right mouse button, select the Deleted Items folder for the account or PST file you want to empty.

  2. Select Empty Folder from the menu that has appeared.

  3. Select 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 Deleted Items folder in Outlook.

  2. Go to the Folder ribbon.

  3. Select 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 emails 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. Select 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. Select OK.