Is there a way to bulk erase emails? My wife never seems to erase any of the
many emails she receives. She holds on to them just in case it may lead to a
bargain. Guess who ends up erasing sometimes 1500 or more of them one by one,
twice? AOL used to cut her off at 1000 but doesn’t do that anymore. Oy vey! Our
OS is Windows 7 with AOL.
In this excerpt from Answercast #76, I look at several ways to quickly select
large numbers of emails, in both online email programs, and in desktop
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Bulk erasing emails
The answer is maybe.
It really depends on what email program or what email access method you’re
Desktop email programs
I’ll start with desktop email programs like Outlook or Thunderbird or any of
the others. Typically, you can easily delete multiple messages at once.
It really depends on how you select them. Take a look at your list of
messages. If you click on one message and then CTRL-click on
another (in other words, hold down the Control key while clicking on another
message), you’ll see that both messages get selected.
You can do that for multiple messages; you can select any number of messages
that way. When you have the messages you want selected, hit the Delete key (or
right-click on one of them and select Delete.) All of the messages that have
been selected should be deleted at that point.
Now, CTRL-clicking 1500 times seems like a bit of a pain – and it is. So the
other approach is for when you have a range of messages. In other
words, you know that all of the messages between “this one near the top,” and
“this one near the bottom,” and all the messages in-between, need to be
Click on the first one; then simply scroll down to the last one and hit
Shift while you click the mouse on that last message. The
first message, the last message, and all of the messages in between will be
selected. At that point you can, once again, hit the Delete key (or
right-click on it and select the delete option if the email program makes that
So that’s an approach that works well. It works with most email desktop
programs. Like I said, Thunderbird, Outlook (and even Outlook Express, although
I hope you’re not using that anymore) all those programs work just fine.
Online email programs
When you get to the web, things get more difficult.
When I say “web,” what I mean is the web interfaces that you visit
in your browser for email services like Hotmail or Gmail or Yahoo or
Here’s what you’ll need to do there. In the list of messages in your inbox,
there’s usually a box, an empty box, in front of each message. That’s
a checkbox. If you check the box in front of every email message that you want
to delete, then the “Delete option” (usually up above the message
list) – it will delete all the ones that you’ve checked.
Selecting “all” emails
Similarly, you can select all of the messages that you see on the
screen (in other words, all of the messages that are visible right now) by
clicking the checkbox that’s in the header of the Checkbox column.
Above the list of messages is another line that has an empty checkbox
and then probably the word “Date,” the word “Subject,” the word “From,” those
kinds of things, identifying each column in that list.
That checkbox is a way to automatically check all of the messages that are
being displayed on the screen at that time. Check that and all of the message
on your screen will get deleted.
Now, the problem with web mail is that you’re typically only looking at 25
messages at a time – which means that this Select All option (that’s up there
at the column header) will only select the 25 messages that you’re seeing at a
I don’t know of a good way around this that works across all email services.
On some, you can specify (somewhere else) that each page should show you 25 or
50 or 100 messages at a time. Typically, it maxes out at around 100. Some go
Bottom line, though, is that it’s almost always less than 1500 – which means
you may end up having to repeat this process a few times. The good news,
however, you won’t have to repeat it 1500 times.
(Transcript lightly edited for readability.)
Next from Answercast 76 – How do I
recover my lost files and folders in email?