Most users of Microsoft Outlook have lost an important email in the past. Despite their personal experience with data loss, only a few know how to find a deleted email in Outlook and get it back. If you’re among them, then this article is for you because it explains how to recover permanently deleted emails in Outlook using several different techniques.
Pro-tip: You can undelete recently deleted emails in Outlook by pressing CTRL + Z on your keyboard.
How to Find & Recover Deleted Email in Outlook
It’s not difficult to perform Outlook email recovery, but you need to proceed methodically to avoid making the situation even worse, and that’s where our step-by-step instructions come in. To feel more comfortable when retrieving deleted emails in Outlook, you can create a full backup of your inbox first using the built-in export feature.
Step #1: Recover From Deleted Items/Trash Folder
Outlook has our back when it comes to accidental deletions. By default, all deleted messages are moved to the Deleted Items/Trash folder (not to be confused with the Recycle Bin folder in Windows), and they stay there for 30 days. Until the invisible timer reaches zero, you can recover them by moving them back to your inbox:
- Launch Outlook.
- Navigate to the Deleted Items/Trash folder.
- Select the email you want to undelete.
- Click the Move button and select your inbox (or any other folder you want).
- Confirm by clicking OK.
Tip: If you need to retrieve an accidentally deleted folder in Outlook 2013, Outlook 2016, or Outlook for Microsoft 365 (also known as Outlook 365), then the Deleted Items folder is where you should look first.
Step #2: Check Recoverable Items Folder
If your Outlook inbox lives on a Microsoft Exchange Server, then there’s one more place where you can look for deleted messages: the Recoverable Items folder. This folder isn’t visible like the Deleted Items/Trash folder, but it takes only a few clicks to display it:
- Launch Outlook
- Navigate to the Deleted Items/Trash folder.
- Click Recover Deleted Items From Server or Click here to view more on Microsoft Exchange.
- Select the message your want to recover (make sure the Restore Selected Items option is checked when using the Recover Deleted Items From Server option).
- Click OK.
Don’t see the message you want to recover? Then let your Microsoft Exchange server administrator know. They can look for it using the eDiscovery Center.
Step #3: Recover from Existing Backups
Many Outlook users back up their messages and keep their inboxes organized, and such users have a good chance of being able to recover deleted messages from forwarded copies, the archive folder, or local archive files.
Is your Outlook inbox configured to automatically forward certain or all messages to a different email account? If so, then you can recover any deleted message simply by logging in to the second account and forwarding it back to your Outlook account.
Those who practice inbox management approaches like Inbox Zero regularly move old emails to the Archive folder (some do it manually, while others take advantage of the AutoArchive feature). Regardless of how you archive your messages, you should always check the Archive folder to see if the missing messages can be found in it.
Archive Files (PST)
Microsoft Outlook can export messages into an Outlook Data File (PST). If you have a previously created archive file stored someplace safe, then you can retrieve deleted emails from it by following these steps:
- Launch Outlook.
- Open the File menu and click Open & Export > Import/Export.
- Select the Import from another program or file option and click Next.
- Choose Outlook Data File (.pst) and click Next.
- Select your archive file and click Next.
- Select the folder to import from and choose your Outlook account.
- Click Finish to begin the import process.
How to Recover Permanently Deleted Emails in Outlook
Have you failed to recover deleted items in Outlook using the three-step recovery process described in the previous section of this article? Don’t despair! There’s still some chance that you and your lost messages will reunite.
Remember how we explained that you could recover your messages from a PST backup file? Well, there’s actually a way to recover even the backup file itself—useful after accidental formatting or an unfortunate misclick. The secret is a data recovery software application called Disk Drill.
Disk Drill can recognize a permanently deleted PST file (as well as hundreds of other file formats) and instantly recover it back to a safe location, allowing you to import messages from it using the built-in import feature in Outlook. Here’s how PST recovery with Disk Drill works:
- Download the Disk Drill app from its official website and install it on a different storage device than the one where your PST was located.
- Launch Disk Drill and scan the storage device where your PST was located by clicking the Search for lost data button.
- Give Disk Drill the time it needs to scan the storage device. You can preview recoverable files while scanning.
- Use the search feature and scan results filters to find the missing PST file and select it.
- Click the Recover button and undelete the Outlook email archive to a safe location.
Once the PST file has been recovered, you can follow the step-by-step instructions provided in the previous section of this article to import your messages.
Disk Drill can do a lot more besides recovering deleted PST files, and you can read our full review to learn more about it.
Tips to Protect Your Emails in the Future
Your Outlook emails contain a wealth of valuable information, so you should take the following steps to protect them:
- 📩 Use the AutoArchive feature: Outlook can automatically archive old emails to prevent your inbox from becoming cluttered. To turn on the AutoArchive feature, go to File > Options > Advanced > AutoArchive Settings.
- ⏩ Forward emails to a backup account: You can create a free Gmail account and configure Outlook to automatically forward emails to it for backup purposes.
- 📦 Create a PST inbox backup: From time to time, you should manually back up your entire inbox into a PST file using the built-in export feature (File > Open & Export > Import/Export).
- 🗑️ Don’t automatically empty the Deleted Items folder: In the Advanced section of Outlook Options, there’s a checkbox labeled “Empty Deleted Items folders when exiting Outlook.” This checkbox does exactly what it says, so it’s a good idea to uncheck it.
These simple tips can greatly reduce the risk of email loss, and it takes just a few minutes to implement them.
We hope that the instructions provided in this article have helped you recover permanently deleted emails in Outlook. Since other email clients have a lot in common with Outlook, you should have no trouble adapting the methods you’ve just learned to address other data loss situations.
David Morelo is a professional content writer in the technology niche who joined the Handy Recovery team in 2019 and has since made an invaluable contribution to the quantity and quality of our materials. David's main principle is not to start working on a new article until he has studied the subject backwards and forwards.
Andrey Vasilyev is an Editorial Advisor for Handy Recovery. Andrey is a software engineer expert with extensive expertise in data recovery, computer forensics, and data litigation. Andrey brings over 12 years of experience in software development, database administration, and hardware repair to the team.