Permanently Delete messages in Gmail via Mac Mail?

Discussion in 'Mac Basics and Help' started by blairwillis, Sep 15, 2011.

  1. blairwillis, Sep 15, 2011
    Last edited: Aug 23, 2012

    macrumors regular

    Jul 24, 2005
    UPDATE: SOLVED...See 2nd Post for details!
    UPDATED AGAIN: Added info for iOS 5+

    I want Mac Mail to *permanently* delete messages in Gmail. I don't want them to be "archived" to the All Mail folder or anywhere else for that matter. When I hit Delete, I want the message gone, never to be seen again.

    I'm stumped. :confused: I've googled and searched the MacRumors forums to no avail, so perhaps someone can explain this who's figured it out.

    YES, I understand the Google philosophy of never deleting mail, but I don't care. I want it gone forever, every time I hit Delete.

    YES, I understand I can turn off syncing of the All Mail folder so it doesn't show up in Mac Mail, but the messages are still there. I want them gone. Kaput. Finished.

    YES, I must be the only person in the world that wants to read an email once, and only once, then delete it out of existence, permanently.

    Help, please??? :eek:
  2. blairwillis, Sep 15, 2011
    Last edited: Aug 23, 2012

    thread starter macrumors regular

    Jul 24, 2005

    I've figured it out. I can't say there's really one clear method listed elsewhere, I just kinda pieced it together. Here is the solution, as clearly as I see it. This is how you can permanently delete Gmail messages using Apple Mail. I'm using Mail 5.0 on Lion 10.7, but this probably works for 4.x/10.6.

    You should have already enabled IMAP in Gmail via Mail Settings > Forwarding and POP/IMAP > IMAP Access. Auto-Expunge should be ON by default. Don't forget to "Save Changes" if you've adjusted anything.

    In Apple Mail, under Mail > Preferences > Accounts > Mailbox Behaviors, make sure that both options are checked "On" for Trash. (Move deleted messages to the Trash mailbox; and Store deleted messages on the server.) The option to "Permanently erase deleted messages when:" can be set to whatever duration you wish, but I'm using "One day old" to give me a few hours to change my mind if I need to fetch a message back from the dead.

    Next, in Apple Mail, you will need to "Show" the sidebar that lists accounts and folders if it's not visible already. Find the Gmail account, and look in the [Gmail] folder. Select the Trash folder, then choose in the top menu Mailbox > Use This Mailbox For > Trash. (While doing that, you might also want to choose to map the other folders Drafts -> Drafts, Sent Mail -> Sent, and Spam -> Junk, although none of those really has anything to do with this issue of permanently deleting mail.)

    Now, here's what happens with the above settings:

    When you are viewing an email in the inbox and choose to delete it, hit the delete key, as you would expect. Normally this would result in the message being removed from the Gmail inbox but remaining in the Gmail All Mail folder (aka label). But with the above settings, the message is also removed from All Mail, and goes straight to the Gmail Trash folder. At this point, the message will disappear either automatically (eventually, depending on your duration set above to "permanently erase deleted messages"), or you can immediately *manually* permanently erase the deleted messages, using the menu Mailbox > Erase Deleted Items > In All Accounts... (or use the shortcut key shift+cmd+delete).

    I think everything above is accurate, and I hope I've used enough key words and phrases that someone with the same problem might find this, and save themselves the 2 hours it took me to figure it out!


    Here's another tip for using Gmail via IMAP in Apple Mail:

    Turn off the visibility of the Gmail All Mail folder in Apple Mail.

    Go to Gmail via the browser, and enter Mail Settings > Labels, then UNCHECK "Show in IMAP".

    Not only will this remove the superfluous folder from your Mail app, it will also keep Mail from downloading every single message twice (and those duplicates showing up in Spotlight searches).

    I've done the same with the Spam folder, too.


    The same ability to delete (not archive) email is also possible using iOS 5+ on iPhone/iPod/iPad:

    After setting up your gmail account on your iPhone, go back into Settings -> Mail, Contacts, Calendars -> ( and change the Archive Messages setting to OFF.

    Now when you delete gmail messages on your iOS device they will be permanently deleted and not archived.
  3. macrumors regular

    Sep 17, 2009
    How do you turn off the visibility of the All Mail folder?
  4. thread starter macrumors regular

    Jul 24, 2005
  5. macrumors member

    Sep 27, 2009
    Brilliant Blairwillis. The Google instructions sure don't say to do this...thanks for figuring it out and posting it up.
  6. macrumors newbie

    Feb 24, 2012

    This works like a charm. When I first set up Gmail in Mail, I didn't realize it was doing this and then it took me a while to find your solution. Google has some articles on how to configure Mail, but they don't offer such a good solution. Still have to figure out a way to correctly archive my mail in Mail using the archive button but this takes care of the real problems. Thank you so much!
  7. macrumors regular

    Jan 3, 2003
    Thanks for this tip!

    I had over 22,000 messages in my Google mailbox on my Mac (one I didn't even realize existed). I was working with Apple support on an unrelated issue the other day and had to completely rebuild my Mac Mail. I was stunned when I saw I had over 50,000 messages. I've slowly been finding out where they were hiding in various mailboxes and came across this one last.
  8. macrumors member

    May 15, 2010

    Thanks for this solution. Worked like a dream for me, on OSX Lion.

    Only just realised that my gmail archive was full of useless messages.
    Now they all go in the bin.

    One day I guess I am going to have to look at the 'archive' and get rid!
  9. macrumors newbie

    Aug 19, 2012
    Thank You

    I just created my account to thank you; this was driving me crazy and you just saved me. Thank You again!
  10. macrumors regular

    Feb 4, 2008
    Forest Grove, OR
    Big time thank you!

    You are NOT the only one who wants email to work this way. Read it and do something with it. If that means delete it, then delete it should mean delete it, not file it away forever. Hence, Delete! Thanks so much for this.

    Now if Gmail would only offer this as a standard option with all IMAP clients as a behavior... I know you can make others do it, but it should be a standard option, to archive or delete.
  11. macrumors newbie

    Aug 23, 2012

    Hi, this indeed sounds useful. Would you have any idea how to achieve the same but not using the Mail on a Mac but using the Mail app on the iPhone?
  12. blairwillis, Aug 23, 2012
    Last edited: Aug 23, 2012

    thread starter macrumors regular

    Jul 24, 2005
    Similar solution for iOS

    Yes, this is also possible on iOS 5+ for iPhone/iPad/iPod. After setting up your gmail account on your iDevice, go back into Settings -> Mail, Contacts, Calendars -> ( and change Archive Messages to OFF.

    Now when you delete gmail messages on your iOS device they will be permanently deleted and not archived.

    Note: The Archive Messages option was added in iOS 5, so earlier versions will not have this ability.
  13. macrumors newbie

    Aug 23, 2012
    Hi, thanks for your reply, I found this solution on many sites as well but unfortunately I do not see this "Archive Messages" option in my iPhone settings. I even tried upgrading the iPhone software just for this so I now have the version 5.1.1 but still nothing.

    Below the Mail, Contacts, Calendars it just displays Mail Days to Sync and Mail Folders to Push options. Any other ideas? I ended up using a workaround somebody suggested in one other thread here and created a label "AA trash" to which I would be moving the stuff I want to delete and then delete it all from this label once when I am on the computer, but this is obviously not a very elegant workaround..
  14. macrumors 68030


    Feb 13, 2011
    Baltimore, Maryland
    The reason you don't see the "Archive Messages" on/off switch is probably because you have the account set up as "Exchange", which is just fine.

    I think the "AA Trash" suggestion was mine from several months ago, before Google added the option to send deleted messages on iPhone to "Trash" instead of "All Mail".

    What you need to do is, on your iPhone in mobile Safari, go to and login to that Gmail account. Then you'll see the option to check Enable "Delete Email as Trash" for this device.
  15. macrumors newbie

    Aug 23, 2012
    Oh you made day! This finally works, magic.. Thanks so much
  16. thread starter macrumors regular

    Jul 24, 2005
    As Brian mentioned, and just to clarify for everyone, the reason you aren't seeing the Archive Messages option is that your account isn't setup as a "gmail" type account, but rather an "Exchange" account. Yes, both are using your address/account, but they are different protocols for accessing the account and have different features on iOS. (Another difference is that the Exchange method gives you Push email ability.)
  17. macrumors newbie

    Aug 29, 2012
    need to change gmail imap settings?

    Thanks for posting, this has been killing me. Do I also need to do anything with these gmail settings?:

    When I mark a message in IMAP as deleted:
    Auto-Expunge on
    Auto-Expunge off

    When a message is marked as deleted and expunged from the last visible IMAP folder:
    Archive the message
    Move the message to the Trash
    Immediately delete the message forever.

    Thanks again!
  18. macrumors newbie

    Aug 23, 2012
    Hi, I played around with these settings but however I set them up, it made no difference for me. Before I enabled the "Delete Email as Trash" for this device using Safari on my iPhone everything went to All Mail. Now, after enabling the above option, everything goes to Trash, that is if you swipe the message and hit Delete or you tap on the trash bin icon or select Move to Trash. The only way to archive now is to select Move to All Mail.
  19. macrumors newbie

    Sep 9, 2012
    question about your post

    Dear Blair
    I searched all over for a solution like this and I tried it but it didn't work. I deleted messages in my Mac Mail (from the gmail account) and lo and behold, they came back like phantoms!! SO FRUSTRATING. I have Mountain Lion on my mac - do you think the directions are different for ML? I am going to go back and re-try every step and we will see. I hate the idea that I have to delete twice. Trying to simplify my life. HA. Thanks.

  20. macrumors 6502a

    Big Stevie

    Jun 20, 2012
    Excellent guide Blair thank you. Seems to work fine with my ML.
  21. macrumors 68030

    Nov 18, 2006
    Hi. I'm having horrific mail issues (gmail). Out of the blue, it's loading deleted messages back starting from 2007. I have over 130,000 mails in mac mail and 50,000 in I should only have 5,000 in because thats what I 'had' in my gmail on mac before it went wonky. :(

    1. When I delete mail on, it's finally showing in mac mail in the trash can. BUT not under mac mail in regular section. It's showing in the bottom gmail section only.

    2. When I delete mail from mac mail, it immediately reappears!

    this happen in both my regular admin account and a 'test' account/login to my mac. Apple's tried to work with me for 3 days on this to no avail so far.

    BTW - Why would I want to check 'keep deleted mail on server'? Isn't that exactly what we 'don't' want to do?
  22. meagain, Sep 26, 2012
    Last edited: Sep 26, 2012

    macrumors 68030

    Nov 18, 2006
    OK, in testing.... Auto-Expunge OFF... is the way to go! I can now delete from my mac's inbox. It even shows up in the Trash. It's simultaneously deleting it out of my inbox and putting it in it's trash. :eek: When I go to mac mail trash and delete an already deleted email, it deletes it out of's trash.

    Oh my god! LOL

    Auto-expunge OFF !!!!

    EDIT: I have Mountain Lion
  23. macrumors newbie

    Jan 2, 2013
    Still can't permanently delete

    My system won't enable me to select "Trash" when I try to "Use this Mailbox for" with the Trash Mailbox. Is there something else I'm not doing correctly? I've turned the Auto Expunge Off as well.

    How is it that something that should be so simple is so complicated?!
  24. macrumors regular


    Oct 23, 2012
    Southampton, UK
    Thanks, I will be changing my settings in the morning.
  25. macrumors newbie

    Jul 23, 2012
    just wanted to say a big thank-you for worked and was really appreciated

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