Your Deleted Items Safety Net

Why the Deleted Items folder is your friend

There’s a feeling around for some people that they need to keep their Outlook ‘clean’ or ‘uncluttered’ with messages removed from the Inbox immediately and even the deleted items folder kept empty.

While this sounds like a good idea, it’s really not necessary with modern software. 

There are good reasons to keep emails and you can make things more difficult for yourself by deleting emails prematurely.

Outlook has an option to clear out the Deleted Items folder when you exit the program Tools | Options | General | ‘Empty the Deleted Items folder upon exiting’.

We suggest you turn this OFF.   It may seem a ‘tidy’ option but it really removes messages before you have a chance to recover them.

Deleted Items is your ‘safety net’, you get a second chance to read a message you may have accidentally removed.  That’s easy to do when you’re removing spam and other unwanted messages, occasionally other messages get deleted by mistake.

If you clear the Deleted Items folder when you exit Outlook you’re denying yourself that safety net.  Instead of bothering people to resend ‘lost’ messages, just look in your Deleted Items.

The alternative is to let the Auto-Archive feature do its work or our choice, manually remove old messages from Deleted Items every few months. 

Switch to Deleted Items and sort by date order and select the older items you want to delete (ie leaving the more recent deleted items untouched).  Do this by selecting the youngest message you want to delete (maybe a month or two old) and select to the oldest item by holding down Shift then press the End button.

How many messages is too many?  That’s up to you really, in Peter’s mail account he waits until there’s about 10,000 Deleted Items then removes the older 5,000 – that represents about 2-3 months of email traffic.

There should be no noticeable performance difference simply based on the size of your Deleted Items folder.

The same applies, and more, to the Junk E-mail folder.  Anti-spam filters are not perfect and occasionally genuine messages get automatically shunted to the Junk folder.  Many times we’ve heard from people frustrated by a message they’ve been waiting for but hasn’t arrived and they blame the sender.  In fact they’ve had the message all along, sitting in the Junk E-mail folder.  So while it might be tempting to delete ‘spam’ immediately, it’s more prudent to leave the messages for a time – just in case.