Securely Deleting Email in Outlook

When an email containing sensitive data needs to be deleted, it needs to be removed from all Outlook folders. Selecting "Delete" for any message sends it to the "Deleted Items" folder, where it will be held for 30 days and then purged.

Messages can be purged from your mailbox before the 30-day retention policy expires if you access your messages through a Windows desktop client, the Outlook Web App (OWA), or the Outlook 2011 or 2016 Mac desktop client.

Windows (Outlook 2013)

The following steps include searching for the messages, permanently deleting the messages, and then purging the messages.

  1. In the Outlook search bar, enter the search terms needed to locate the messages (such as "confidential").
  2. On the right of the search bar, click the down-arrow and select All Outlook Items. As recipients reply to a message, the number of copies of that message grows. If you wish to view the folder locations of the messages, hover your mouse over the entries. Please be sure to search all folders for the messages you wish to delete.Outlook mail search bar
  3. Select the messages that you wish to permanently delete.
  4. Right-click the messages. The shortcut menu opens.
  5. While holding down the Shift key, select Delete from shortcut menu. The "This will be permanently deleted" message displays.Note: Selecting only Delete sends the messages to the Deleted Items folder. Holding down Shift saves the step of having to then delete the messages from the Deleted Items folder.
  6. Click Yes.
  7. Select the Folder tab, and in the Clean Up group, select Recover Deleted Items. The Recover Deleted Items window opens.Recover Deleted Items tool
  8. To purge the messages, select the messages, then at the base of the window, click Purge Selected Items > Ok. You will be prompted.Purge Selected Items tool
  9. Click OK again. The messages are securely deleted and purged from Outlook.

For additional information, view the Microsoft support article here.

Outlook Web App (OWA)

The following steps include searching for the messages, permanently deleting the messages, and then purging the messages.

  1. Log in to OWA:  https://exchange.tufts.edu/owa/
  2. At the top of the Mail pane, in the Search bar, make sure that it reads "Search Entire Mailbox."
  3. Enter the search terms needed to locate the messages (such as "confidential").Example search in OWA search tool
  4. Press Enter. Any matching messages will display.
  5.  Place checks next to the messages you wish to delete.checked messages for deletion
  6.  On your keyboard, hold down the Shift key and select Delete. The prompt "Do you want to permanently delete..." appears.
  7. Click OK.
  8.  In the left Navigation pane, right-click the Deleted Items folder and select Recover Deleted Items. The Recover Deleted Items window opens.
  9. Select the message you wish to delete and click the X icon (Purge Selected Items). You will be prompted.* Select multiple adjacent messages by holding down the Shift key while clicking messages.* Select multiple non-adjacent messages by holding down the Ctrl key (Command key on Mac).
  10.  Click OK to permanently delete messages.

For additional information, view the Microsoft support article here.

Mac Desktop Client (Outlook 2011, Outlook 2016)

Mac Outlook desktop client users need to log in through OWA to securely delete emails. This is recommended because Mac Outlook desktop client "permanently deleted" messages can be recovered through OWA or the Windows desktop client, even though they can no longer be viewed through the Mac Outlook desktop client.

To securely delete Mac Outlook desktop emails, please follow the Outlook Web App (OWA) steps above.

Mobile Devices

For personal mobile devices that sync Exchange mailboxes, we recommend completely resetting and wiping your devices according to the device manufacturer's guidelines before trading them in.

In the case where devices are lost, call your service providers to have them assist with the remote wipe process.