Summary: If you have deleted an Outlook email, you could lose a vital message forever, which you might need later. The deleted emails in Outlook could also mean lost email attachments, including an invoice, business plan, or other important information. This blog post shares methods to recover deleted Outlook emails in vast scenarios for different Outlook versions. Before you read further, download the Free Trial of Stellar Repair for Outlook— a software that recovers deleted Outlook emails. We discuss the software-based method as well in the blog.
When you delete an Outlook email or another item such as a calendar invite, contact, task, or folder by pressing the delete key or using Right-Click and selecting the Delete option, the email goes to the Deleted Items folder.
Whether you delete the email from Inbox, Sent Items, Drafts, or any other folder, the deleted email always goes to the Deleted Items folder. This rule generally applies to all Outlook versions, including Outlook 2019, 2016, 2013, 2010, and older. You can recover such deleted Outlook emails by restoring them from the Deleted Items folders using the steps we in the Methods section. Before that let’s go through the deletion scenarios:
Outlook Email Deletion Scenarios
Scenario 1 – Deleted Emails Using the Delete Key (Soft Deletion)
Scenario 2 – Deleted Emails Using Shift + Del (Hard Deletion)
Scenario 3 – Purged Emails via “Recover Deleted Items” (Permanent Deletion)
Methods to Recover Deleted Emails
Outlook Email Deletion Scenarios
Be aware that there are a few more scenarios involving deleted Outlook emails based on factors like—
- The specific command used for deleting Outlook emails
- How your email domain is configured with Outlook
- Availability of email backup (such as a PST) and its state
Knowing these particular circumstances in advance can help you follow the applicable method and recover the deleted Outlook emails in the best possible way. So, let’s glance through the different scenarios you may come across with the deletion of Outlook emails, contacts, folders, etc.
Scenario 1 – Deleted an Outlook Email by Pressing the Delete Key (Soft Deletion)
This scenario is the most typical way you may have deleted an email, calendar entry, folder, etc. As mentioned earlier, the deleted items straightaway goes to the Deleted Items folder, and you can restore them from there. Refer to Method 1 for the recovery steps for this scenario.
Scenario 2 – Deleted an Outlook Email by Pressing <Shift +Delete> (Hard Deletion)
When you delete an Outlook email or another item by pressing the Shift + Del keys, the email skips the Deleted Items folder in Outlook.
Also, the normally deleted emails, earlier available in the Deleted Items folder, are automatically deleted from the Deleted Items folder after 30 days or based on the organization’s email retention policy.
The Outlook deleted email recovery methods in this scenario vary based on “how your Outlook is configured”, as follows:
Case 1: Outlook Configured Using IMAP
Internet Message Access Protocol (IMAP) is a messaging protocol for receiving emails via a mail server. Email accounts configured using IMAP protocol store a copy of the emails on the server, allowing access to emails, calendar, contacts, and other mail items across different devices.
If you can access messages via webmail and see them on multiple devices like computer, mobile, etc., you are using an IMAP email. Alternatively, you can check Outlook email account settings to find out the configuration.
So, if you use Outlook with IMAP, you can recover the permanently deleted Outlook emails from the mail server using the “Recover Deleted Items” option described in Method 2.
Case 2: Outlook Configured Using POP
Post Office Protocol or POP (aka POP3) is older than IMAP. For email accounts configured using POP, the mail server downloads the incoming messages to the user’s local system. These messages are then removed or cleared from the mail server. So, there is only one copy of these messages, i.e., on the user’s computer.
If you can access the messages only on the particular system where your email client is installed, you are using POP email. Else, you can check the email account settings or inquire the email administrator in your organization to know the configuration type.
An Outlook client configured with POP stores emails, attachments, and other items locally in the PST file. The deleted emails, including those emptied from the Deleted Items folder, remain inside the PST file, but generally very difficult to recover. Method 3 and Method 4 provide the steps to recover permanently deleted Outlook emails configured using POP.
Scenario 3 – Outlook Emails Purged using “Recover Deleted Items” (Permanent Deletion)
Aside from normal deletion and using the Shift + Del command, you may have purged Outlook emails using the Recover Deleted Items feature, available with Outlook accounts configured with Exchange Server using IMAP or MAPI.
Only an administrator can recover such purged emails from the server using eDiscovery features, provided the emails are not purged from the server.
As an individual Outlook user, you can recover the purged (or permanently deleted) Outlook emails if you have an email backup in the form of a PST file. In that case, you can use Method 4 to recover your permanently deleted Outlook emails.
Methods to Recover Deleted Outlook Emails
These are different methods to restore deleted emails in Outlook based on the scenarios described in the preceding section. These methods are as follows:
Method 1 – Restore Emails from the Deleted Items Folder
This method applies to the recovery of emails, calendar entries, and other items in Outlook 2019, 2016, 2013, 2010, and older versions deleted using the Delete key.
- Open Outlook application
- Click the Deleted Items folder
- Right-Click the email or other item like calendar invite
- Select the location where you want to restore the email
Method 2 – Use the “Recover Deleted Items” Feature in Outlook
This method recovers Outlook emails and other mail items deleted using the Shift + Del command. It also recovers the emails automatically deleted (or removed) from the Deleted Items folder after the 30-days retention period is over.
Note: The Recover Deleted Items feature is available for the following Outlook configurations:
- Outlook configured with Exchange Server, Outlook.com, or Microsoft 365 using IMAP.
- Outlook configured with Exchange Server and Messaging Application Programming Interface (MAPI) is enabled.
Note: The MAPI option is available with Outlook 2013 and Outlook 2016.
- Open Outlook app
- Click the Folder tab in the top ribbon
- Click Recover Deleted Items
- Select the email(s) you want to restore and ensure that the “Restore Selected Items” option is selected. Click OK to restore the emails to their original location.
Method 3 – Use a Hex Editor and Scanpst.exe (Inbox Repair Tool)
This method helps recover deleted Outlook emails configured with POP, i.e., there is no server copy of emails, and the entire mailbox data, including emails, attachments, etc., is stored in a PST file on the user’s computer.
Aside from Outlook POP accounts, Outlook 2013 and older versions, configured with IMAP, also store mail data in a PST file. So, this method applies to the recovery of deleted emails for IMAP-configured accounts of Outlook 2013 and older version users.
This method is based on deliberately corrupting the PST file using a hex editor — an application for manipulating binary data (numerical data) stored in a computer file such as PST— and then using the Scanpst.exe tool to rebuild the index. The process can recover the deleted emails, which may show up in Outlook after you reload the repaired PST file. However, there is no guarantee that this method will work because Scanpst.exe is not built for deleted email recovery. Its efficacy depends on the extent of PST corruption and the actual state of data inside the PST file.
Behind the scenes, this is a complex process, but to explain simply, — the deleted emails remain inside the PST file even after you remove them from the Deleted Items folder. They are only removed or delisted from the index of the email database file (PST) and turn into a “whitespace” — invisible to Outlook. These deleted emails are recoverable until Outlook compacts the whitespaces after they reach a threshold value of 20%. You cannot recover deleted emails after the PST file compaction happens, so you need to act swiftly, once you realize the need to restore an Outlook email or another item.
The hex editor method requires technical proficiency, and it can result in loss of mailbox data if executed incorrectly. So, apply this method on a copy of the PST file (and not the original PST) and only if you feel comfortable running the steps.
- Download a freeware hex editor application like HxD.
- Install the HxD application and launch it.
- Open a copy of the Outlook PST file in the app
- Delete the 7th till 13th hexadecimal positions using the space bar
- This step will damage the PST without causing any data loss
- Save the PST file and close the hex editor.
The following steps involve using scanpst.exe (Inbox Repair Tool) to repair the corrupted PST file, as follows:
- Locate scanpst.exe on your system based on the Outlook version you are using.
Refer to this blog post to find the location of scanpst.exe
- Press Ctrl + R and enter the path to navigate to the Scanpst.exe file location.
- Double-click SCANPST and browse the corrupted PST file. Close Outlook and all mail-enabled applications. Next, click Start to start scanning the selected PST file.
The tool interface shows the scan results. It creates a backup of the PST file before repairing it.
- Click Repair to start repairing the PST file.
- After the repair process is complete, create a new PST file in your Outlook profile by navigating to New Items > More Items > Outlook Data File.
- Import the mailbox items from the repaired PST file in the newly created PST file.
Now check whether you find the deleted Outlook emails.
Method 4 – Use Outlook Deleted Email Recovery Tool
This method recovers deleted emails from PST files of any Outlook version, including Outlook 2019, 2016, 2013, and older. It use Stellar Repair for Outlook — a professional PST file recovery tool to recover deleted emails from PST files of any size. For Outlook IMAP accounts with purged emails, the software can recover the deleted emails by scanning the backup PST, if available. Notably, the tool also works on corrupted PST files.
Unlike Method 3, which requires manual efforts and has risks of data loss, the software-based method is safe and fast. Also, it can effectively recover the deleted emails in vast scenarios.
Here are the steps to use the software:
- Download the Free Trial of the software
- Install and launch the software. The software automatically detects and lists the PST files from the default location.
- Alternatively, you can use the Choose Location tab to Browse or Find the PST file.
- Click Repair to start scanning the PST for deleted emails and other mail items.
- Select the deleted Outlook emails shown in Red color on the Preview screen and click Save Repaired File.
- Choose PST as the file format to export the deleted emails and click OK.
The software will recover the deleted emails in a PST file, allowing you to access them via Outlook.
This blog shared the methods to recover deleted Outlook emails, including those purged using the “Recover Deleted Items” feature. The best practice is to identify the specific scenario and then act swiftly to maximize the chances of email recovery from Outlook. The scenarios–to–methods mapping presented in this blog can help you take a targeted course of action. Do let us know your thoughts in the comments section.