How Come Email Messages I Delete Aren’t in the Trash in Mac Mail?

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If you use Apple’s Mac mail app, occasionally you may find that your deleted email is not going to the trash folder (i.e. the emails you delete don’t go in the ‘trash mailbox’ as Apple calls it). Or you do an email-wide search, and while your trash is included in your search, it’s not turning up that email that you know you just deleted. Here’s one reason that deleted mail messages may not be in your trash folder in Mac mail.

In all likelihood, the issue is with one of two settings (or both) being re-set (perhaps by an update). Here’s how to check.

From the Mac Mail app menu, select Preferences


 

mac mail menu

 

mac mail preferences

 

In Preferences, select Accounts


 

mac mail preferences accounts

 

Once in the Account section, go to the Mailbox Behaviors section

apple mac mail mailbox behaviours

 

Now, the first thing to determine is whether the little checkbox next to ‘Move deleted messages to the Trash mailbox’ is checked or not.

move deleted messages to trash mailbox

 

Here is the part that isn’t clearly spelled out, and so may be unobvious to some: if ‘Move deleted messages to the Trash mailbox’ isn’t checked – what do you think happens to the messages when you hit ‘delete’? They are gone for good! Instead of going to the Trash mailbox, they are instantly vaporized (well, ok, not really, but the digital equivalent of instant vaporization).

So, make sure that ‘Move deleted messages to the Trash mailbox’ is checked.

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How Come Email Messages I Delete Aren’t in the Trash in Mac Mail?

move deleted messages to trash checked

 

The next thing to check is the interval which you have set for Mail to permanently erase deleted messages.

mac mail when to permanently erase deleted messages

 

Your options are never, one day old (i.e. after 24 hours), one week old (after one week), one month old (after one month), or whenever you quit the Mail program.

intervals for permanently erasing deleted messages apple mail

 

Both ‘one day old’ and ‘Quitting Mail’ can result in email that you have deleted disappearing permanently rather quickly. We use ‘Never’, and that’s what we recommend, because it’s better to be safe than sorry, and you can always go into your Trash folder and delete everything from it permanently whenever you like.

Bear in mind – and this is very important – the ‘Permanently erase deleted messages when’ settings only take effect if you have ‘Move deleted messages to the Trash mailbox’ checked!

In fact, if you haven’t checked ‘Move deleted messages to the Trash mailbox’, then you are not able to access the ‘Permanently erase deleted messages when’ settings at all.

mac mail erase intervals greyed out-1

 

If you have Mac Mail checking more than one email account, be sure to look at these settings for all of your accounts.

We have found that these two items – ‘Move deleted messages to the Trash mailbox’ and ‘Permanently erase deleted messages when’ – having been reset are among the most likely causes of deleted email not going to the Trash folder. Fortunately, it’s very easy to fix.

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How Come Email Messages I Delete Aren’t in the Trash in Mac Mail?

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5 Replies to “How Come Email Messages I Delete Aren’t in the Trash in Mac Mail?”

  1. Yeah, that did not solve my problem. I have deleted emails that don’t appear in my trash, but for all my accounts I have indeed check-marked “move deleted messages to the Trash mailbox” . thanks anyway.

  2. Well, now, I’m not having much success. I have gone mail/prefs/mail behavior/trash and for both gmail and cloud, i’ve CHECKED moved deleted to trash; not checked store on server; permanently delete upon ‘quitting mail.’ I keep quitting and reopening and see no change in my inbox total. What is your analysis? Thanks.

  3. Truly appreciate your graphics and straight-forward, step-by-step instructions and insights. Rare to find such easy and reliable information when you need it. Kudos.

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