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Deleted emails are GONE!

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  • 1 has this problem
  • 53 views
  • Last reply by Toad-Hall

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I use Thunderbird. A short time ago a dialog box began to pop up each time I deleted an email, stating in effect, "hey, we can delete this and every other deleted email in your TRASH folder." Claiming to save a whole bunch of disk space. I once responded improperly and POOF! I lost a good deal of the stuff I sometimes refer back to. But it seems to matter naught how I respond, the current deletion is GONE! Please note, it is MY disk space we are discussing. I bought and paid for it and have plenty. I am also capable of periodically deleting those unwanted emails all by myself. Needless to say, my blood pressure goes up each time I hit delete. Please tell me how to stop this non-sense.

Perhaps it is that I do not understand, but now am afraid to do anything with deletions

Modified by Wayne Mery

Chosen solution

re : As far as I know, my folders have never compressed. 'compacting' is not 'compressing'. Sounds similar but are two different things.

'Compressing' is like zipping, no data is changed, it's just the same data is reorganised in a way that reduces the size of file. 'Compacting' as used in Thunderbird, does change the data.

Background stuff to help explain. When you download the emails to the Inbox, those emails are written to an mbox text file called 'Inbox'. Emails are written to that file one after the other in the order downloaded, so the oldest will be at the top.

Imagine it like a long text document, where each email is a new paragraph. So there are a lot of 'paragraphs' and more get added on a regular basis, so that text document is getting quite long. If you move or delete an email, it's like striking through that 'paragraph' with a red marker to 'mark as deleted' and putting a small marker in the margin to show the start and end of that unwanted paragraph. After a while that long text document is starting to look messy and not so easy to read because you have to skip over all those 'marked as deleted' paragraphs. This is the same with the 'Inbox' mbox file, it will contain many emails with those 'marked as deleted' markers.

This is where 'compacting' comes in. A copy of the original file is created and then it is read copying all the good emails over to a nice new file. Everytime it finds a marker saying 'marked as deleted', it is skipped over. Finally, you have a new file and all those 'marked as deleted' emails have been removed. Just like the senario of a long text document, all those red paragraphs have gone. This makes the file neat and tidy and easier to read and a lot smaller, so saving space.

It is a good idea to do this 'compacting' on a regular basis because it helps to keep a healthy Thunderbird. If the file is left alone to get more and more messy, you start to run the risk of getting problems with the file. If it becomes corrupted in some way and those markers cannot be read - (like the red strike through a paragraph senario - if the ink fades it's hard to work out what is good and what is supposed to be edited out) you could lose emails.

When you get that message: "The messages you have deleted can be purged from disk. This operation will save about xxx of disk space." Then this is the automatic compacting asking for attention. When compacting folders, do not close/exit Thunderbird, it must remain running and do not click on anything to open folders etc. Just let Thunderbird jibber jabber to itself for a while. It will not take very long.

The settings for the 'Auto compact' are here:

  • Menu app icon > Options > General
  • scroll down to 'Network & Disc Space' section
  • Under 'Disc Space'
  • There will a checkbox selected for: 'compact all folders when it will save over XX MB in total'

I would advise you keep that XX threshold lowish to force more regular compacting eg: 50 MB

However, you can perform manual compacting on individual folders eg: Inbox, Junk and Drafts

  • Right click on folder and select 'Compact'.

Compacting after performing a lot of deletes or moves on the Inbox or emptying Junk or on 'Drafts' after sending a load of emails may be something you could do, but if you forget then the automatic compact will pop up and ask to compact.

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If you are on version 78, we don't have any dialogs prompts that mention trash folder, except if you right+click the trash folder and pick "empty trash".

There is a dialog which mentions disk space, which reads "The messages you have deleted can be purged from disk. This operation will save about xxx of disk space." It's not specific to trash, and in fact it does not empty trash.

Certainly what you experienced is disturbing. The typical reason messages or folders might disappear in this situation is caused by antivirus software. What AV software do you run?

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Wayne, Thank you for your speedy response. While I don't JUST LOVE Thunderbird it has become fairly comfortable. I would hate to leave it.

I use AVAST Free. I am less and less enamored with it.

I tried to take a 'picture' of the message, but couldn't.  

I just completed a Malwarebytes Free scan which came up clean.

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re : "The messages you have deleted can be purged from disk. This operation will save about xxx of disk space."

Assuming that was the message. When you move or delete an email it is marked as deleted and hidden. Email will appear in designated folder, but the original is still in original folder. Your folders were compacted to remove all hidden and marked as deleted emails.

Why did trash get emptied ? I can only think of this: You have an imap mail account and the server periodically auto empties the Trash. As you had not selected the Trash folder, it had not synchronised with server, so still showed emails. When compacting of all folders occured, it forced a synch with server, so now the Trash folder showed the same as server which was empty.

Many servers auto empty the Trash. Examples: Gmail does it every 30 days. Yahoo does it every 7 days. Spectrum does it every 3 days.

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Toad-Hall, thank you for your response. I am considerably wiser now, but I think I have more to learn. I memory is going, so I find it difficult to follow all of the suggestions on the website.

Yes, that is the message. I use POP; I like having my mails 'at home'. I think I am at current level of Tbird. As far as I know, my folders have never compressed. At least not at my direction. I am a user since '16 or '17, BTW. Do you suppose my problem will disappear if I compress inbox and the other folders? Is that the proper approach? Thank you for your patience.

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re : As far as I know, my folders have never compressed. 'compacting' is not 'compressing'. Sounds similar but are two different things.

'Compressing' is like zipping, no data is changed, it's just the same data is reorganised in a way that reduces the size of file. 'Compacting' as used in Thunderbird, does change the data.

Background stuff to help explain. When you download the emails to the Inbox, those emails are written to an mbox text file called 'Inbox'. Emails are written to that file one after the other in the order downloaded, so the oldest will be at the top.

Imagine it like a long text document, where each email is a new paragraph. So there are a lot of 'paragraphs' and more get added on a regular basis, so that text document is getting quite long. If you move or delete an email, it's like striking through that 'paragraph' with a red marker to 'mark as deleted' and putting a small marker in the margin to show the start and end of that unwanted paragraph. After a while that long text document is starting to look messy and not so easy to read because you have to skip over all those 'marked as deleted' paragraphs. This is the same with the 'Inbox' mbox file, it will contain many emails with those 'marked as deleted' markers.

This is where 'compacting' comes in. A copy of the original file is created and then it is read copying all the good emails over to a nice new file. Everytime it finds a marker saying 'marked as deleted', it is skipped over. Finally, you have a new file and all those 'marked as deleted' emails have been removed. Just like the senario of a long text document, all those red paragraphs have gone. This makes the file neat and tidy and easier to read and a lot smaller, so saving space.

It is a good idea to do this 'compacting' on a regular basis because it helps to keep a healthy Thunderbird. If the file is left alone to get more and more messy, you start to run the risk of getting problems with the file. If it becomes corrupted in some way and those markers cannot be read - (like the red strike through a paragraph senario - if the ink fades it's hard to work out what is good and what is supposed to be edited out) you could lose emails.

When you get that message: "The messages you have deleted can be purged from disk. This operation will save about xxx of disk space." Then this is the automatic compacting asking for attention. When compacting folders, do not close/exit Thunderbird, it must remain running and do not click on anything to open folders etc. Just let Thunderbird jibber jabber to itself for a while. It will not take very long.

The settings for the 'Auto compact' are here:

  • Menu app icon > Options > General
  • scroll down to 'Network & Disc Space' section
  • Under 'Disc Space'
  • There will a checkbox selected for: 'compact all folders when it will save over XX MB in total'

I would advise you keep that XX threshold lowish to force more regular compacting eg: 50 MB

However, you can perform manual compacting on individual folders eg: Inbox, Junk and Drafts

  • Right click on folder and select 'Compact'.

Compacting after performing a lot of deletes or moves on the Inbox or emptying Junk or on 'Drafts' after sending a load of emails may be something you could do, but if you forget then the automatic compact will pop up and ask to compact.

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Did the pop Trash only get emptied once - a one off incident - or does it occur every time you get that message and click on 'Proceed' ? How many times have you got that pop up message, clicked on 'Proceed' and it emptied the pop account 'Trash' folder ?

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Toad-Hall, Thank you so much for holding my hand through a very trying ordeal. It is no fun dealing with old guys, I know.

The message popped up several times as I deleted from my inbox.

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Right click on 'Inbox' folder and select 'Compact' Right click on 'Drafts' folder and select 'Compact'

Right click on 'Junk' folder and select 'Empty Junk' Right click on 'Junk' folder and select 'Compact'

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