I answered a question recently from someone who was having problems with Outlook Express.
This particular problem is one that creeps up on long-term Outlook Express users, who think they’re doing everything they need to do.
I’ve written about the problem in a general manner before, in my article Deleting an Email Completely.
The issue is that every email program has one or more files (usually one per folder in the email program) that actually hold the emails. When you delete an email in your email program, the program does two things:
- First, it copies the email into the Trash or Deleted Items folder, and
- Second, it marks a label on that message in the original folder to indicate that the message has been deleted.
But, it doesn’t actually delete the email from the folder until you Compact the Email Folder.
Similarly, when you empty the Trash or Deleted Items folder, the program does not really erase them. It just marks the corresponding entry in the file to indicate that it has been deleted. When you compact the folder later, the email program will actually rewrite the file — taking out all the deleted messages.
But, what happens if you never compact the folders? They just get bigger and bigger!
Outlook Express has an issue when the Deleted Items folder gets too big — it won’t let you delete emails!
So, what’s the fix.
First, you can compact the email folders, which is the way to prevent the problem from occurring. You might do this once a month or once a year, but you need to do it.
- In Outlook Express, the process is similarly easy — File, Folder, Compact All Folders.
- In Eudora, it is under Special / Compact Mailboxes. In Outlook Express, it’s found at File / Folder / Compact All Folders.
- In Outlook, the process is much more complicated to compact one of its .pst files. The process is: File / Data File Management, select a file, click Settings, then click Compact Now.
The quick fix is to delete the "Deleted Items.dbx" file. After that, the next time you’re in OE and hit the delete key on an email, OE will create a new copy of the Deleted Items file (which is represented in OE as the Deleted Items folder).. so that you can you can delete it. My article Backing Up Outlook Express Email Folders will help you find the Deleted Items.dbx file.