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How can I delete (or move) lots of emails in one go?

Most email applications allow you to select a whole range, or a selection of emails so as to perform the same operation on them, such as deleting them or moving them all to another folder.

The example below is based on Outlook 2010, but the same or very similar method will apply to most other Windows-based email applications.  The example illustrated assumes that you want to delete a large chunk of contiguous emails.

  1. Open the folder that contains the messages you want to delete.
  2. If the messages to be deleted share a common feature, try sorting the folder using the appropriate column as a sorting key (such as the Subject column).  You can sort them by clicking on the appropriate column header.
  3. Scroll to the first of the messages to be deleted, and click once on that message so as to select it:

    Selecting the first in a range of messages

  4. Now scroll to the last of the messages to be deleted, then hold down the SHIFT key while you click on that message:

    Selecting last in a range of messages

  5. You will notice that all messages in the selected range will now be highlighted. If only the last message is highlighted, you have probably not held down the SHIFT key, and you'll need to start again from step 2.

    Alternatively, you can select a series of individual messages by holding down the CTRL key instead of the SHIFT key while you click on each message.  Each selected message will be highlighted.

  6. Click on the Delete function or briefly press the Delete key to remove the selected messages.
    If you only wanted to move the messages to another folder, you can do this by holding down the left mouse button on any of the selected messages, and dragging the mouse pointer on to a required folder (which should highlight to show it has been selected), then releasing the mouse button so as to move' the messages into the selected folder.
    Note that your mail application may not let you select too many messages in one go, so you may have to select smaller numbers of messages at a time if you have a great many to delete or move.
  7. Repeat steps 3 to 6 as necessary, if you're deleting or moving messages in chunks.

Remember that if you are using Outlook, the deleted messages will be moved to your Deleted Items folder, and will continue to occupy the same amount of mailbox space.  You will need to empty the Deleted Items folder (or repeat steps 1-5 in that folder) so that the messages will be deleted completely from your mailbox space.  This is important if your reasons for deleting the messages are to reclaim mailbox storage space.

If you want to delete a range of messages that share a common feature such as the same sender or the same Subject, you can sort the messages first, according to the required sort criteria, by clicking on the display header column bar (such as From or Subject) of the list of messages.  Note that clicking the header bar a second time will sort the messages in reverse order, if required.  Then follow steps 1-5 above.  See our Guide to using Outlook for details on how to sort message lists.

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This is question number 2487, which appears in the following categories:

Created by Andy Clews on 30 April 2012 and last updated by Richard Byrom-Colburn on 23 September 2016