Can't Delete Email in Outlook Express

Category: Email

I received an email recently, with no attachment, and when I tried to open it, my computer froze. Even a ctrl-alt-del wouldn't help. Every time I try to open, or just click on and delete this message my computer freezes. I didn't think it was possible for an email to cause this kind of problem, if there was no attachment. I'm using Outlook Express, and running Windows XP Professional Version, Service Pack 2. I just want to delete this message from my inbox -- I have no idea what is in it and I don't care at this point!

Stranger things have been known to happen to folks using Outlook Express, but I'm sure that's little comfort to you now. Here are some things you can try to remove the offending item from your inbox.

  • First, have you made sure that you are current with Windows Update patches and fixes? There are a bunch of nasty bugs in Outlook Express that can leave you open to attacks from specially formatted emails -- with or without attachments. Some viruses can be activated and spread to others just by viewing a message in the preview pane, but ONLY if you are using an old, unpatched version of Outlook.

  • Next, is your anti-virus protection up to date? If your service has expired, renew it ASAP. Or check with your ISP to see if they offer any free anti-virus software.

  • Try turning off the preview pane in Outlook (use View / Layout and UNcheck Show Preview Pane). Then right-click the offending message and select Delete.

  • Some users report success with pressing the Shift and Delete keys after highlighting the message. Note: This technique will delete the message without sending it to the Deleted Items folder.

  • Finally, it's possible that the undelete-able email does not contain any harmful content, but attempting to open it triggers a flaw in your anti-virus scanner. If you are certain that the email is a harmless message from a known person (and they are using anti-virus software), you could try suspending your anti-virus program, then attempt to delete the message.

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    Most recent comments on "Can't Delete Email in Outlook Express"

    (See all 81 comments for this article.)

    Posted by:

    02 Nov 2008

    I had an email with an attachment that I could not open, move or delete - it would just freeze my PC and my cursor would be inhibited until I stopped OE in the task manager window.

    I put 2 of your suggestions together and it worked! The email message has been deleted. I disabled my anti-virus auto protect for a few moments, then went into my INBOX and highlighted the message, then did the SHIFT/DELETE and that did the trick! Thanks for your expertise!

    Posted by:

    Donald Cline
    06 Nov 2008

    A friend of mine is using Outlook Exprss 6.0. He has an older machine. When he deletes messages from his inbox and closes down Outlook the messages come back when he restarts Outlook. How do I get this to stop? He has message that are a couple of month old that keep coming back.


    Posted by:

    Peter wright
    14 Nov 2008

    Thanks for the advice - I got sorted by the deleting dbx files. Just a note - AutoCad uses this extension so at first it confused me but when I looked at the dates I soon found the correct folder

    Posted by:

    T J Edler
    15 Nov 2008

    Can't delete file addresses.

    I downloaded a large file(7,000 email addresses)

    in Outlook which already had 100 files with 50 email addresses ea. Now I cannot delete anything. It allows me to delete names or files, but the name or file pops back up.How do I fix the delete function?

    EDITOR'S NOTE: I'm a bit confused when you say you're trying to delete "files" while in Outlook. Do you mean individual emails, address book contacts, or something else?

    Posted by:

    curt line
    19 Dec 2008

    i can not delete emails without opening it up and then delete.

    Posted by:

    09 Jan 2009

    This operation can do with help-dbx convert,tool helped me not once,as far as i know software is free,it good solution against email failures regardless of the reasons of email corruption,program features easy system requirements, it can work on all PC’s, CPU performance may be very low, it influences the speed of email recovery only,utility works under Windows 2003, Windows Vista, Windows XP, Windows 2000, Windows NT 4.0, Windows Me and even Windows 98, the last one is not supported any more.

    Posted by:

    John J. Wall
    09 Jan 2009

    THANK YOU-THANK Y0U-THANK YOU. I had a problem with deleting attachments in the e-mail section and i read your articales and low and behold there was an answer that did work, God i love this site. one again Thank you. Shift/delete and they are gone.

    Posted by:

    kim savvas
    14 Jan 2009

    I have mail in my inbox, when I try to delete it I end up with a line through it but it won't delete. Please advise. Thanks

    Posted by:

    23 Jan 2009

    For work with outlook express files advise use-outlook express will not open,because tool helped me many times and as far as i know it is free,program helps to stand against email issues and it does not matter, why your mailbox has become corrupted,can read online user’s guide for this program, where all steps of email recovery process are clearly described,keeps your mailbox in several source files, such as Inbox.dbx, Outbox.dbx, Sent Items.dbx and Deleted Items.dbx, all of these files should be located in the same folder,program can save separate files with eml extension, please create a separate folder for this purpose to avoid confusion,works with Windows 98, Windows Me, Windows NT 4.0, Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows 2003, Windows XP SP2 and Windows Vista.

    Posted by:

    12 Feb 2009

    In this situation advise use-fix dbx files,yet as far as i know program is free,it recovering corrupted Outlook Express folders,extract all messages that should be recovered from the dbx repair file,save all extracted messages to the hard drive as message files in the eml format before a repairing Outlook Express,tool repairing corrupted Outlook Express folders comes down to the process of repairing the corresponding *.dbx files (dbx repair, repairing Outlook Express),recover on the hard drive, on a CD or a DVD or on a flash drive,supports files of the .dbx format for Outlook Express versions 5, 5.5 and 6,repair dbx files of Outlook Express in the batch mode,recovers information from *.dbx files up to 4GB in size.

    Posted by:

    15 Feb 2009

    I don't know what html tags mean. I'm having a problem in deleteing my old email address all together.Everytime i go to send a email my old email address pops up to send it.I've tried everything to get it completely removed.I went to my old server con.and they said they completely removed it all.Well i just found out that peoplepc is automatically created in outlook express also,but i can't find out how to delete it from there,and sometimes i don't receive my email right.

    Posted by:

    06 Mar 2009

    When highlighting an email, then selecting to delete, it also deletes the one below it. Even though the email below wasn't highlighted.

    Posted by:

    05 Jun 2009

    After trying lots of other "fixes" I simply disabled the preview pane and hit Shift Delete and all was well again. THANKS SO MUCH.

    Posted by:

    25 Jul 2009

    Question about: Deleting Outlook Express dbx files.

    I am not computer savvy and I have a small computer hard drive (13.9 GB).

    Over a year ago I had a situation where my 13.9 GB was getting used up and less than 25% of free space available. I didn't understand what was taking up the free space. I don't store music, play games, store many videos or use the pc for business.etc. I mostly use my computer to read things on the internet, communicate via e-mail, write some eBay auctions, and store jpg of family photos. Sometimes I do some photoshop activities.

    So I wondered where the Free Space was going.

    It seemed like it was used up by e-mail dbx files.

    This is how I get my e-mail:

    It first goes to my Yahoo DSL server which downloads it to my Outlook Express (rather than me having to go to Yahoo to read mail). One night while trying to figure out how to get more space by getting rid of stuff I discovered a folder called Identities in the Application Data file. I opened that and kept opening the next file and the next until I came to a bunch of DBX file folders named Inbox, Outbox, delete, sent, drafts as well as pop3 folders. These contained a huge amount of material. I figured it was all the e-mail that were sent from Yahoo to my outlook express. I couldn't actually open and read these e-mails but they were pretty large according to properties.

    So I deleted the complete Identities folder and BANG! ...I recovered about half my hard drive's free space. And my computer started running much quicker.

    A few minutes after I deleted Identities they reappeared in my Outlook Express boxes because Yahoo DSL re-sent them from my server. So I went to Yahoo and deleted them from Yahoo. Then re-deleted Outlook Express's folders. I was so glad to get the Free Space back and speed up my computer.

    I'm wondering what would be the purpose of keeping all that old stuff on my small hard drive? Are there some settings I should correct on my computer? Do most people save everything that they receive, send and delete? I save e-mail at Yahoo for a few weeks.

    But why have it in dbx files which it can't be read anyway?

    Now that I've found this website and have read something about Outlook Express dbx files...I'm wondering if there is something else I should be doing instead of this to prevent using up Free Space on the disk? It's seems ridiculous to save every e-mail that comes in or goes out. Eventually most of my hard disk would be full of unreadable e--mail in dbx folders. Am I correct?

    EDITOR'S NOTE: You're correct that the DBX files are the place that Outlook stores all your email. They are unreadable only in the sense that they're not plain text, so you can't open them with a text editor or word processor. Outlook (which understands the format of the DBX file) can read them just fine. The problem seems to be that you're storing your email in two places. I recommend that when you download your email, you tell Outlook to delete it from the Yahoo server right away. Then you can manage your Outlook inbox and sent folders as needed, deleting any old or unwanted items.

    Posted by:

    Susie McAlinden
    06 Jan 2010

    Hello...I need help please. It seems that the delete button just doesn't work. The emails I click onto will highlight in blue but when I click to delete nothing happens. I am just about computer illiterate so I need to know word for word and which button to press etc if you could help me.
    Thank you

    Posted by:

    Kevin Gregory
    23 Feb 2010

    Just this afternoon, all of a sudden I cannot delete emails. I am told to use scanpst.exe to clean files, but this is not work. Cannot delete.
    Please help.

    Posted by:

    Ron Beaman
    08 Mar 2010

    Tried the "pressing the Shift and Delete keys after highlighting the message" and it worked. Thanx so much !!!!!!!

    Posted by:

    11 Oct 2010

    I had the same problem, I created another FOLDER called "Hard to DELETE" under "Local Folders" and then deleted that and it shows up under "DELETED", then I just drag my emails that I want to delete to the "Hard to DELETE" folder, and after a month or so delete it and start all over again.

    Posted by:

    26 Dec 2010

    I have I'm using Windows 2000, Outlook Express 6.

    On Dec. 19, I received an email from a fellow volunteer.

    As soon as I click on it, everything freezes up. I ahe to either shut down, or sometimes I get a message "This program is not responding" and then I choose "close" and I can get back to my other emails without shutting down. I'm not having a problem sending or receiving emails.

    I cannot delete or move this email.
    I had my service provider (Rogers) delete it from their files, but that doesn't help.

    I also tried going to view/Layout, and UNchecking Show Previous Pane, then right cicking this email, but doesn't work.

    Any suggestions? I do not want to empty my inbox if I can avoid it.

    Posted by:

    David Nix
    23 Sep 2011

    I cannot delete any email from outlok express.

    There's more reader feedback... See all 81 comments for this article.

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