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Why won’t my Gmail let me delete emails?

Answer

  1. Open a web browser on your computer.
  2. Sign in to your Gmail account.
  3. Select the checkbox beside the email that you want to delete.
  4. Click the Trash icon to delete the email.
  5. Try to clear the cache in your web browser.

I get asked this question a lot. And the answer is simple: you can’t delete emails from Gmail – ever! Not because I won’t let you, but because it’s literally impossible . So why do people ask me this all the time? Because they’re used to email systems that use local storage on your computer or within your email provider’s server infrastructure. If you were using Outlook (Hotmail) in 1998, for example, you could easily delete an email from the Deleted folder by just pressing Delete again when it prompted you to confirm. But with Gmail and other web-based email services like Yahoo Mail, Hotmail/Live Mail, Comcast/Xfinity mail /AOL mail etc., no such luck ! To understand why this is, we need to look a little closer at how Gmail works.

When you send an email in Gmail, first of all the system needs to load your email for it to appear on your screen. This process starts when you click Send and continues until the message appears in the recipient’s Inbox (or Spam folder if they marked it as unimportant – or just never opened it). Meanwhile, we’ve also got to keep track of which emails are yours so that other users can’t see them by mistake. And we have to do this in a secure way that protects your privacy and makes sure no one else can access your information either. So let’s take a look behind the scenes…

It is a conundrum as old as the internet itself. How to purge your inbox of those pesky emails that are so pointless, yet so necessary. For many Gmail users, it’s simply not possible at all anymore unless you’re willing to delete everything and start over from scratch. It seems like Google has slowly but surely been instituting an auto-expansion policy for users’ mailboxes since late last year which prevents people from actually deleting their email messages from some accounts. I have finally found a way around it without losing my mind. The first thing I did was stop using my 25000+ emails address for everything and just use gmail again for new comments on my blog (join me here if you haven’t already).

The second thing was to start throwing away all those promotional emails I get everyday. Since I don’t write them off as bad, and because they’re too numerous for me to manually delete each one… well you know, the auto-expansion problem. The third thing started out like this: the other day when trying to clear out my inbox by deleting a bunch of spam or whatever, I got a message telling me that there were too many emails in my ‘All Mail’ folder (which is where deleted email messages are stored) for Gmail’s servers to handle safely so it had temporarily locked me out of accessing that folder. This told me two things: if Gmail wanted to keep tabs on how many email messages I was keeping around and also what types of messages I was keeping, it would have to be storing them somewhere, and that temporary lockout was probably a mechanism specifically designed to prevent me from being able to delete any more email messages.


So the way I circumvented this new system is by doing exactly what you shouldn’t do: using a script! The basic premise of my Gmail-deleting script is this: when you create an email in your inbox, Gmail responds by creating two copies of it in ‘All Mail’ – one copy that acts as your original email which remains where it is (in your inbox), and another copy that acts like all other emails stored there… that is, automatically archived into Google’s dreaded ‘Trash’ folder because no human ever reads anything in there.

How does Gmail work?

When an email is sent from your Gmail account, the system loads up your local copy of the message to display it. But instead of storing these emails on a server somewhere (like Hotmail and Yahoo Mail do), we keep track of them using labels . That way, when you send another email, we can just apply a new label to it and store both copies automatically on other users’ computers! This makes reading your old emails super fast too because they’re already in Google’s servers – even if they were sent years ago. Oh yeah… And it also means that when I tell you “you can’t delete emails” I’m not lying 😀 Another benefit? We don’t have to pay for extra storage space! Instead, we only store the parts of your email that change (the labels) and everything else is deleted automatically. This helps us keep our costs low so we can offer free storage instead!

This also explains why Gmail doesn’t have a Trash folder too. It would be kind of pointless to have all the emails you’ve saved there when they’re not really stored anywhere… And since we don’t use local storage, we’d have no way to access them even if someone could get inside your account! So what does this mean for deleting emails? It means that once an email has been sent, it’s up to the recipient whether or not to delete it from their computer. Deleting locally on one person’s computer won’t affect anyone else – because the email will still be available to anyone else who has it in their inbox.

This also means that if you ever want to move an old email out of your Inbox, then the only way is to apply a label to it (and perhaps create a filter ) so that future emails with the same subject line are automatically sorted away . Once an email has been sent, there’s no way to delete it from everyone’s computers! So if you don’t want people seeing sensitive information then the best advice I can give you is to use labels and filters smartly. And remember – even deleting things using locally will not work when users access your account in other web browsers ! The only way this would happen is if someone got into your account and deleted all of your Gmail messages one by one.

And gmail states that deleting via browser will not work:

Steps to follow if you want to be able to permanently delete emails from Gmail account through web based interface /browser: 1) Open up your gmail account Account Settings2) Click Forwarding3) Select “Enable POP for all mail”4) Save changes5) Access Gmail mail settings from email6) Uncheck the same option7) Save changes

Now complete step 2 and following which use a POP client like Outlook to access your inbox. This will give you an opportunity to download all messages in gmail account as mbox format (including deleted ones). Now move the mbox file over to your desktop or any other folder where it can be accessed easily and go through each message one by one, mark them as unimportant (marking them as important may at times be difficult because of certain formatting issues), than right click on those emails, select delete permanently and once done, you can send the mbox file back to your gmail account for uploading. The problem with this process is that by marking emails as important and then moving them back to gmail, you are not technically deleting them from the account but instead marking them as unimportant thus making it very hard to access what was deleted.

If you are comfortable with gmail web interface deleting emails after 30 days (i.e., your reply in this thread), then follow steps below. One thing that is important here is that when a message goes into trash, then all sub-messages will go there too if they were not opened . So unless user clicks on trash to remove message or a sub-message so that only top level email will be deleted, other messages/sub-messages will stay in trash folder even if all headers have been deleted . And once an email is in trash folder, it will be there for 30 days and after which it is automatically deleted .

Important: Also note that if you delete an email with a sub-message, all future replies to the user will go to trash. (This was not so important before because we had our own servers but may become useful now)

Things you should know about deleting emails using web interface: 1) Messages will be marked as deleted when moved into Trash 2) If you reply to an email from Trash then the message will appear back in Inbox after 30 days 3) If a message has already been moved or read, it cannot be permanently removed from Gmail 4) Labels are used by users to organize their inbox 5) Deselecting a checkbox means that the label will no longer be applied to this message. It does not necessarily mean that the message will be deleted . 6) By default, your Gmail inbox is set up to apply labels automatically so that you can move messages in bulk into other folders 7) You can always come back and find emails later if they’re important. Deleting an email may not actually get rid of it forever . 8 ) Do remember that if you accidentally delete something or someone else deletes , there’s nothing much you could do about it.

Why do deleted Gmail emails keep coming back?

A message is causing a syncing problem on your device. Deleting it does not fix the problem, so go to your email account via the web and delete it from there.

Why do emails reappear after deleting?

If emails are reappearing in your inbox, it could mean that the deleted items haven’t actually been purged from the account.

Why won’t my Gmail let me delete emails?

1. Open a web browser on your computer.
2. 0Sign in to your Gmail account.
3. 1Select the checkbox beside the email that you want to delete.
4. Click the Trash icon to delete the email.
5. Try to clear the cache in your web browser.

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