I'm using Thunderbird v60 and I'm syncing with an IMAP email server. When I delete messages in Thunderbird, even though they appear to be deleted, they don't actually get deleted. When I go to my email via the web, I have to empty the trash to make them disappear.

Here is what I have tried so far:

  • Compact folders.
  • Within "Preferences > Advanced > Config Editor...", change mail.imap.expunge_after_delete to true.
  • Empty the trash folder.

Also, the All-Mail folder is showing more messages than are in all the combined folders and when I delete supposedly deleted messages they increase the All-Mail number.

All Mail Folder?

Why is this happening?

  • 1
    Who is the email service provider? It sounds like you are doing your settings in Thunderbird, which controls Thunderbird behavior. What the email service provider does with those settings depends on them. Moving deleted messages to Trash is typical behavior. Otherwise, the service providers would be dealing with endless requests for help recovering messages that users decide need to be undeleted. – fixer1234 Mar 31 at 19:00
  • Thanks. I am currently using Protonmail. However, I am not sure this helps as I have deleted the email in the trash from the web. – Perry_M Apr 1 at 9:12

Regarding the mismatch of email counts... not having IMAP folders synced will hide their counts from your client but not the mail server, since the All Mail folder is generated by your mail provider it includes the emails in IMAP folders you haven't subscribed to. From the screenshot it appears you also don't have your Trash or Spam folders synced. So that's another possible source of disparity in the counts.

Regarding the failure to delete emails. Well... that's not Thunderbird's fault. Thunderbird sends a message to the IMAP provider to remove the message from the folder... but it's up to the IMAP provider how it does so. In this case it appears that the IMAP provider is simply moving the email to the Trash folder. This is actually really common and is typically seen as a useful feature. Most IMAP providers will also completely delete emails from the Trash folder automatically when they have been in the trash more than a certain amount of time (usually something like 30 days)... meaning that you never have to empty the trash folder yourself. And, because your don't appear to have your Trash folder synced... you only see this on the IMAP provider, not Thunderbird.

The solution to all of this is to simply subscribe to every IMAP folder.

There is, however, one last "gotcha". Thunderbird uses Trash as the folder name for it's trash folder and Spam for the folder name of it's spam folder. If your IMAP provider uses a different name then you will simply have to live with duplicate trash and/or spam folders... one managed by your client and the other managed by your IMAP provider. Many email clients provide a way to change what the default folders are named in the client. Thunderbird, afaik, is not one of those clients. There is a rather hacky way to do so, for the trash folder at least, intended for advanced users. If this turns out to be an issue and it is important to you, you may want to explore other email clients.


I found a simple way to fix this.

IMAP will synchronize and download mail for all subscribed folders on the server. Anything sent to the trash automatically goes to the All Mail folder on the server end, and will consequently be downloaded back into Thunderbird.

By going to the menu, file, Subscribe... Uncheck All-Mail solves the problem. This will stop all download trashed messages to the folder, and it will disappear in the view. Doing this will also prevent TB from storing deleted messages even after trash is emptied.

Every other checked folder you subscribed to will be visible, and less confusing.

By compacting the trash in TB after empty, the server will automatically purge them.

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