How to Recover Deleted Emails in Outlook

How to get back those deleted emails in Outlook

Young businesswoman reading piece of paper from the trash can in office.

 XiXinXing / Getty Images

When you delete an email in Microsoft Outlook, it disappears but it's not completely removed from your account. These deleted messages are moved to another folder in Outlook and not permanently deleted. These deleted emails are retained for your convenience in case you accidentally delete a message and want to recover it.

Instructions in this article apply to Outlook 2019, 2016, 2013, 2010; Outlook for Office 365, Outlook for Mac, and Outlook Online.

Where Do Deleted Emails Go From Outlook?

Chances are that any email you delete is still kept, hidden from normal view, for at least a few weeks and often much longer. To recover it, find the email in question.

Deleted emails are found in these locations:

  • The Deleted Items folder (in Outlook or your email account).
  • Under Recoverable Items (with Exchange and Office 365 accounts).
  • In a backup location (on your computer, in the cloud, or with your email provider).

Recover an Email You Just Deleted in Outlook

If you change your mind right after you delete a message you want to keep, undoing the damage and recovering the email is particularly easy. To undo a deleted message that has been moved to the trash, press Ctrl+Z (Windows) or ⌘+Z. (Mac). The message returns to its original folder as long as no other action (such as moving or flagging another message) occurred after the message was deleted.

If you performed other actions after you deleted the message, undo the series of actions until you have successfully undone the deletion and restored the desired email. If you want to restore more than one message, go to the Deleted Items folder and recover the email.

Recover an Email From Your Outlook Deleted Items Folder

Most deleted emails in Outlook are moved to the Deleted Items folder. This is also the place where you are most likely to restore emails.

To restore messages that are in the Deleted Items folder:

  1. Select the folder that contains the deleted email messages.

    For POP, Exchange, and Outlook Mail on the Web (Outlook.com) email accounts, go to Deleted Items. For IMAP accounts that use a folder for deleted items, go to Trash.

    The Deleted Items folder in Outlook.
  2. Open or highlight the message you want to recover. Highlight more than one email to recover several at one time.

    If you cannot find a message, use the Search box to search the folder for the message's sender or subject.

    A deleted message is highlighted in Outlook.
  3. Go to the Home tab and select Move > Other Folder. Or press Ctrl+Shift+V (Windows) or ⌘+Shift+M (Mac).

    The move dropdown menu within Outlook.
  4. Highlight the designation folder for the recovered message.

    The Move Items dialog box is displayed in Outlook.
  5. Click OK (or Move for Mac).

Recover an Email Purged From an Exchange Account's Deleted Items Folder in Outlook for Windows

Emails are removed from the Deleted Items folder after a certain period set by the account administrator, when you empty the Deleted Items folder, or if you permanently delete a message in the Deleted Items folder.

For most Exchange accounts, messages that are purged from the Deleted Items folder may be recovered for a period of time. This time period depends on how the Exchange administrator set up your account. This also applies to emails that were permanently deleted.

To restore messages that have been removed from the Deleted Items folder in Outlook for Windows:

  1. Connect to your Exchange email account in Outlook.

  2. Go to the account's Deleted Items folder.

  3. Go to the Home tab.

    Deleted items from an Exchange account in Outlook.
  4. In the Actions group, select Recover Deleted Items from Server.

    Selecting the Recover deleted items from a server in Outlook.
  5. In the Recover Deleted Items dialog box, highlight the messages you want to recover.

    Selecting deleted emails to be recovered in Exchange within Outlook.
  6. Sort the list using any of the column headers such as From or Deleted On; click again to reverse the sort order.

  7. To highlight multiple emails, press and hold Ctrl then select the messages. To select a range of messages, press and hold Shift.

  8. Select Restore Selected Items.

  9. Select OK.

  10. The message or messages are recovered and moved to the Deleted Items folder.

  11. To restore the message, go to the Deleted Items folder and highlight the recovered message.

  12. Go to the Home tab and select Move > Other Folder.

  13. In the Move Items dialog box, select the Inbox or another folder.

  14. Select OK.

Recover an Email Purged From an Exchange Account's Deleted Items Folder Using the Outlook Web App (on macOS, Linux, etc.)

Outlook for Mac does not offer an interface to recover messages purged from an Exchange account's Deleted Items folder. Instead, use the web interface to the account.

To restore an email that is no longer in an Exchange account's Deleted Items folder using Outlook Mail on the Web and Outlook Web App:

  1. Open Outlook Web App for your Exchange account in your browser.

  2. Open the Deleted Items folder.

    If you don't see the full list of folders, select the Folders dropdown arrow (⌄).

    Viewing deleted items from Outlook online.
  3. Select Recover items deleted from this folder.

  4. Hover over the email you want to recover and select the checkbox.

    Messages are sorted by the date they were deleted and moved to the Deleted Items folder.

    Selecting an email to recover in Outlook online.
  5. Select Restore.

    Restoring the recoverable email within Outlook online.
  6. The email is moved to the folder where it was located before it was deleted.

Restore Emails From a Backup Location

If you're unable to restore an email, you have other options. Check the following places for a backup copy of your email account:

  • Your email service: You may be able to restore messages from a backup copy either by yourself or by contacting support.
  • Your computer: Look for automatic backup copies of downloaded or cached messages.
  • Your other email account: If you forward messages from one of your addresses to another, look for a copy at the forwarding account.

To restore emails from email service backups (other than Outlook Mail on the Web and Outlook 365), examine these options:

To restore messages that have been saved using backup software and services:

If your Outlook data is not backed up and you lost your PST file, you may be able to recover the PST file using free data recovery software.

Restoring deleted Outlook email from a backup can be difficult. Explore other options first.

Before returning to any previous stage of your email archive, save your Outlook's current state and messages. Otherwise, you could lose messages you received in the time between and end up having to restore these.

Restore Emails Seemingly Lost Forever in Outlook: ​The Last Straw

If you're only missing one or two messages, ask the sender to send you another copy. They may have the email within easy reach in their Sent folder.