Hands-on with the ‘Recover Deleted Items’ Feature of MS Outlook


Typically, there are two ways of deleting an item in your mailbox stored on Exchange Server, i.e. hard delete and soft delete. A ‘soft delete’ occurs by simply selecting the items and pressing the DELETE key on your keyboard. The ‘hard delete’ type refers to the deletion where the deleted items bypass the ‘Deleted Items’ folder.

This can happen in three situations:

  You delete an item via Outlook client by pressing the ‘SHIFT+ DELETE’ combination. You are using an Internet Message Access Protocol 4 (IMAP4) client or a similar one that does not keep items deleted from your mail folders in the ‘Deleted Items’ folder. You transfer emails to a PST file.

 Exchange Server has a predefined limit on the number of days it will keep all deleted messages. As an Exchange administrator, you can modify this setting based on the requirements. To do so, follow the given steps:

  • Start Exchange System Manager.
  • Next, expand ‘Administrative Groups‘ → Your Administrative Group → ‘Servers‘ → Your Server → Storage Group.
  • Right-click the corresponding mailbox store and select ‘Properties‘. A dialog box will be displayed. In the dialog, select the ‘Limits’ tab. On this tab, you will see two options at the bottom: ‘Keep deleted items for (days):’ and ‘Keep deleted mailboxes for (days):’
  • You can modify these two options depending on your needs.

 These options are configured at the mailbox store level, so the setting is enabled for every user. Hence, you can recover deleted messages within the number of days you specify here.

Recover Deleted Items Feature of MS Outlook

 How to recover deleted messages from MS Outlook

 You can easily recover the messages that have been deleted from the ‘Deleted Items’ folder using the Outlook client. To accomplish this, click ‘Tools’ on the menu bar. On the ‘Tools’ menu, click ‘Recover Deleted Items’. The ‘Recover Deleted Items From – Deleted Items’ dialog shows all your messages deleted from the ‘Deleted Items’ folder through soft delete.

 The dialog provides you with two options. You can either delete these messages permanently or recover them to their original folder. You can use this method only for recovering items deleted via soft delete. In case you have performed a hard delete from another folder, the deleted messages won’t show up when you choose ‘Recover Deleted Items’ from the Deleted Items folder. In such situations, you can make changes to your system registry for enabling this option for all Outlook folders.

 In order to make changes to the registry, follow the given procedure:

  • Select ‘Start’ and click ‘Run’. In the Open box, type ‘regedit’ and click ‘OK’.
  • Navigate to ‘HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Exchange\Client\Options‘.
  • Right-click on the right pane and then select ‘New’.
  • For ‘DWORD Value‘, specify ‘DumpsterAlwaysOn’.
  • Type ‘1’ for the value field.
  • Restart MS Outlook.

After adding the ‘DumpsterAlwaysOn’ entry to the registry, the ‘Recover Deleted Items’ option would work for all the Outlook folders.

 The ‘Recover Deleted Items’ feature is also available in Outlook Web Access (OWA). However, you cannot use this option in OWA for a hard delete situation, i.e. for emails deleted from other folders by pressing SHIFT + DELETE.

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