How to Easily Recover Deleted Emails in Outlook

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recover emails in outlook

Microsoft Outlook is a very popular email client that’s used by millions around the world. As reliable as it is, emails can become lost as a result of accidental deletion. What happens when an important email goes missing from your inbox?

Thankfully, there are a few options available to you for recovering lost emails. In this article, we’ll guide you through what methods you can use for Outlook email recovery. We’ll also show you some ways you can protect your emails from accidental deletion going forward.

How to Undo Delete In Outlook

Pressing CTRL + Z on your keyboard will undo the last action you made. Alternatively, you can click the undo button in the top left of the window. For instance, when you delete an email, it’s automatically sent to your Deleted Items folder. When you press CTRL + Z on your keyboard, that email will be restored to its original location. This function can be used to reverse most actions, like moving an email to another folder or correcting a mistake in an email. It’s one of the easiest ways to recover deleted items in Outlook.

Undo delete in Outlook.

Bear in mind that this will only undo your most recent action. For example, if you were to delete two emails one after the other, pressing CTRL + Z will only restore the most recently deleted email. The first email will still reside in the Deleted Items folder.

How to Restore Deleted Emails in Outlook.com

Outlook.com is the service that most non-commercial users are familiar with. It’s a free-to-use online email service, similar to Gmail. When you delete an email from your Outlook.com inbox, it will be moved to the Deleted Items folder. After 30 days, it will automatically be deleted. Similarly, emails in your Junk folder will reside there for 10 days before being deleted.

You cannot recover emails from children’s accounts. As a security measure, emails from these accounts are permanently deleted. Another important note to remember is that Microsoft automatically closes Outlook.com accounts after a one-year period of inactivity, which includes all of the emails within.

Follow these steps to restore deleted Outlook emails in Outlook.com:

  1. Sign-in to your Outlook account.
  2. Click on the Deleted Items folder.The Deleted Items folder in Outlook.com.
  3. Select the items you want to restore. Right-click them, hover over Move, then select where you want to restore them to retrieve emails in Outlook. Alternatively, you can click Restore to restore them to their original location.Moving items from the Deleted Items folder.

How to Recover Deleted Emails in Outlook for Desktop

Microsoft has given you a range of options to choose from when recovering deleted emails in Outlook. If you can’t use CTRL + Z to undo the deletion, try some of these methods to restore deleted emails Outlook.

Deleted Items or Trash Folder

When an email is deleted in Outlook, it’s first sent to the Deleted Items or Trash folder (depending on your Outlook version). It will remain here until the folder is emptied manually or automatically based on your inbox settings.

Follow these steps to recover deleted emails in Outlook 2010, Outlook 2013, Outlook 2016, and Outlook for Microsoft 365.

  1. Open Outlook on your computer.
  2. Click the Deleted Items folder in the left panel.Opening the Deleted Items folder in Outlook for desktop.
  3. Select what emails you want to restore. To select multiple, hold CTRL and click each email. Right-click, hover over Move, and select where you want to restore the emails.Moving deleted items from the Deleted Items folder.

Recoverable Items Folder

The Recoverable Items folder is a hidden folder that contains emails that have been deleted from the Deleted Items folder, as well as items that were permanently deleted using Shift + Delete. It gives you another chance at recovering your emails if you cleared your Deleted Items folder. This works on Outlook 2007 and above.

If you have a Trash folder instead of a Deleted Items folder, your account type will not support this type of recovery.

  1. Open Outlook on your computer.
  2. Go to the Folder tab and click Recover Deleted Items.Checking the Recover Deleted Items section.
  3. Select the email you want to restore. If you want to select multiple, hold CTRL while you click each one. When ready, make sure the Restore Selected Items radio button is selected and press OK.Restoring the deleted items.
  4. The file will be restored to its original location. However, to be sure, use the search function available in Outlook to confirm. This same search function is useful if trying to find a deleted email in Outlook.Using the Outlook search function.

If the emails you were looking for aren’t appearing in the Recoverable Items list, you can contact your company’s administrator who may be able to recover them through the eDiscovery Center.

Archive Folders

The Office 365 version of Outlook includes the AutoArchive feature. AutoArchive, when enabled, periodically archives the contents of your inbox or folders. It can be configured to send old emails to your default Archive folder, or it can move them to a PST file to clear up some space in your inbox. We’ll show you how to restore emails from a PST file later in the article.

The Archive folder is available on Outlook 2007 and above. Use these steps to retrieve old emails in Outlook from the default Archive folder:

  1. Open Outlook.
  2. In the left panel, click Archive.Opening the default Archive folder.
  3. Select what items you want to recover, then click Move to and select a folder.Moving an email out of Archive.

eDiscovery

This method only works for users on an Office 365 Enterprise subscription. eDiscovery is a Microsoft tool that’s used to find data for legal cases that will be used as evidence. It also doubles as a recovery solution, as it knows how to recover permanently deleted emails in Outlook. Bear in mind that this can only be performed by IT administrators who belong to the eDiscovery Manager role group in the Microsoft 365 compliance center.

See the official Microsoft documentation for running a Content search in Microsoft 365 compliance center and exporting the Content search report.

How to Recover a Deleted Outlook Backup

Outlook allows you to export your emails to an Outlook data file (PST). This allows you to free up space in your inbox without permanently deleting the emails you want to keep a record of. However, in a data loss situation like hardware failure or a virus attack, your PST file may have been lost or deleted.

In such cases, you can use a data recovery tool called Disk Drill to recover the file. Disk Drill is our first choice because of its high recovery rate and easy usability. It’s also favored by many as a data recovery tool for Windows 11, as it can recover more than just emails.

  1. Download and install Disk Drill. Open it.
  2. Select the disk that contained the Outlook file (this is typically your C: drive) and click Search for lost data. The scan will begin.Using Disk Drill to search for lost data.
  3. When the scan has finished, click Review found items.Looking at what Disk Drill discovered.
  4. Locate and mark your PST file. By default, it’s located at C:\Users\USERNAME\Documents\Outlook Files. Take note of the recovery chances column to see how recoverable the file is. Click Recover when ready.Recovering the marked PST file.
  5. Select a separate physical partition for recovery and click OK.Completing the recovery process.

Once the PST file is recovered, you can use it to restore the emails inside to your inbox. In the next section, we go over how you can restore Outlook emails from your PST backup.

How to Restore Outlook Emails from a Backup

Perhaps you’re moving your emails from one account to another. Or, perhaps you’ve simply deleted the wrong email and need to get it back. Once you have a backup, you can restore emails in Outlook with ease. Below, we’ll show you how to restore an entire backup, as well as restoring select files from the backup.

Restoring the Entire Backup

Follow these steps to retrieve deleted emails from an Outlook backup.

  1. Click the File tab.Opening the File tab.
  2. Click Open & Export.Accessing Open & Export.
  3. Click Import/Export.Opening the Import/Export section.
  4. Leave the option Import from another program or file option selected and click Next.
    Choosing to import from a file.
  5. Select Outlook Data File (.pst) and click Next.Selecting the file type.
  6. Click Browse and select your PST backup file. Under Options, choose how you want to treat duplicates (if any). Click Next.Selecting the backup file.
  7. Input your password and click OK.Entering the PST password.
  8. Choose where you want the imported files to go, then click Finish.Completing the Outlook restore.

Restoring Specific Emails from the Backup

Restoring the entire backup can be bothersome if you only need to recover a few emails. Follow these steps to restore only marked emails:

  1. Click File, then Open & Export.Accessing Open & Export.
  2. Click Open Outlook Data File. Select what backup file you want to restore emails from.Opening the Outlook Data File.
  3. Expand the Outlook Data File section in the left panel. Here you will find all of the files in your backup. Simply drag and drop them to your inbox folders to restore an item.

How to Protect Outlook Emails from Deletion

Without a doubt, the best way to protect your Outlook emails is by backing them up. Having a copy you can restore makes recovery easy and guaranteed. Let’s look at a few effective methods for backing up your emails.

Auto-Forwarding

Auto-forwarding involves setting up a secondary email address that you have all incoming mail forwarded to. It’s available in all versions of Outlook. When the email comes into your main inbox, a copy is immediately sent to another email address as a backup. If the email is deleted, you can simply restore a backup copy from the second email address.

This will require a secondary email address. Additionally, your company must allow auto-forwarding in their anti-spam policies, otherwise forwarded emails will be rejected by the receiving server.

To set up auto-forwarding of all emails to your other email address, follow these steps.

  1. Click File.Opening the File tab.
  2. Click Manage Rules & Alerts.Clicking Manage Rules & Alerts.
  3. Click New Rule.Creating a new inbox rule.
  4. Select Apply rule on messages I receive. Click Next.Defining a condition for received emails.
  5. Click Next.
    Selecting inbox conditions.
  6. Select forward it to people or public group. In the Step 2 box at the bottom of the window, specify the account that will receive the forwarded messages. Click Next.
    Defining an inbox action.
  7. Click Next unless you want to specify exceptions.
  8. Give the rule a name and click Finish.

If your company doesn’t allow auto-forwarding, you can try applying a condition on step five. Select the through the specified account condition and select your account in the box at the bottom of the window. However, emails will only be forwarded once they’re received by the desktop client, meaning your computer must be on and Outlook must be open in order for forwarding to work.

AutoArchive to PST

Outlook uses the PST file extension for backups. AutoArchive is a feature that can run periodically and move older emails to a PST backup, freeing up space in your inbox without permanently deleting its contents. It can be applied to your entire inbox or specific folders if you only want to back up some items.

While your emails are backed up in the PST file, you should also consider backing up the actual PST file so it’s protected in the event of data loss.

Follow these steps to set up AutoArchive in Outlook 365:

  1. Click File, then Options.Accessing Outlook options.
  2. Click Advanced, then AutoArchive Settings.Modifying the AutoArchive settings.
  3. Tick the Run AutoArchive every option. Specify how often you want AutoArchive to run.
    Defining how often AutoArchive runs.
  4. Ensure the Move old items to option is selected and click Browse to specify the PST file you’ll be using. You can also specify how old items must be before they’re archived.
    Specifying the PST file.
  5. Click Apply these settings to all folders now if you want all folders to adhere to these settings.
  6. Click OK.

Export/Import Backups

Manually performing an export of your inbox will copy its contents to a file rather than move them like AutoArchive would. This allows you to keep the original in your inbox while also retaining a copy in a PST file.

The below instructions will guide you through exporting to a PST file:

  1. Click File.Opening the File tab.
  2. Click Open & Export, then Import/Export.Accessing the Import/Export settings.
  3. Select Export to a file and click Next.Choosing to export to file.
  4. Select Outlook Data File (.pst) and click Next.Choosing the export file type.
  5. Select the folder you want to export. Click Next.Selecting the inbox folder to backup.
  6. Choose where you want to save the file and click Finish.Finalizing the export.

Disable Auto-Deletion

Auto-deletion, when enabled, will automatically delete items from your Deleted Items folder upon exiting Outlook. This can be troublesome if you need to recover something from the Deleted Items folder after you’ve already closed the program.

To avoid this, you can disable auto-deletion entirely. Follow these steps:

  1. Go to File, then Options.Accessing Outlook options.
  2. Click Advanced and ensure Empty Deleted Items from folders when exiting Outlook is unticked. Click OK.Ensuring deleted items aren't cleared with each exit.

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