Most of us are pretty good about processing and sorting our email.  We delete, delegate, reply, or keep for future reference.

Instead of deleting an email immediately, what if you want to keep it a few days, and have it automatically delete at some point in the future?  Unfortunately, Outlook 2007 and 2010 do not offer an immediate and clear feature, such as a Delete After Date drop-down box.  (Hint, hint, Microsoft!)  Instead, you can set emails to expire at a future date.  Then, set AutoArchive to delete these expired emails on a regular basis.  This helps keep our Outlook Inboxes organized and below our size limits.

Set Emails To Expire

First you need to set your Inbox emails to expire.  This is done in each message’s Message Options.  To open Message Options, you can:

  1. Right-click on a message listed in your Inbox, and choose Message Options, or
  2. Double-click on the message to open it, and click on the Message Options button on the Message tab.  A screenshot is below.

Screenshot of Outlook's Message Options Button

In the Message Options window, check the box next to Expires after.  Then select a date and time from the drop-down options.  See the screenshot below.  Click Close.  Click Yes when prompted to save the changes.  Continue doing this for each Inbox email item you wish to delete at a future date.

Screenshot of Outlook's Message Options

Set AutoArchive To Delete Expired Items

Set AutoArchive to delete expired emails when it runs.  You only need to do this once.  To get to your AutoArchive settings:

  1. In Outlook, go to the Tools menu
  2. Choose Options
  3. Click on the Other tab
  4. Click the AutoArchive… button

If you already use AutoArchive, just make sure that Delete expired items (e-mail folders only) is checked.  If desired, adjust the frequency that AutoArchive runs.  Then click OK.

If you do not use AutoArchive currently, check the box next to Delete expired items (e-mail folders only).  If desired, adjust the frequency that AutoArchive runs.  Also, check whether you want to be prompted before AutoArchive runs.  See the screenshot below.

It’s important to ensure that the checkbox next to Archive or delete old items is unchecked if you are not currently using AutoArchive.  Otherwise, you will start seeing older email and calendar items disappear.  If you are interested in AutoArchive, read our setup instructions.  McCombs faculty and staff can contact the Training Team to help them with this.

Once you are done, continue clicking OK until you have returned to your Inbox.

Screenshot of Outlook's AutoArchive Options

Emails You Send and Organizational Implementation

In addition to setting expiration dates for your Inbox email, you can also set expiration dates for mail you send to others. This way, those recipients with their AutoArchive configured to delete expired items will have your email deleted after the expiration date.  Even if they do not use AutoArchive, expired emails will be shown with a strikethrough in their Inbox.

This is helpful if you are sending informational email that will be irrelevant in the future.  For example, set an expiration date on an email announcing events occurring next week.  After next week, others do not need it, as all of the events occurred in the past.

To set an expiration date on emails you send:

  1. On the Message tab of the email, click on the Message Options button
  2. Check the checkbox next to the Expires after option
  3. Set the expiration date and time
  4. Click OK

If everyone in your team or organization does the one-time AutoArchive setup, this practice helps them keep their Inboxes under the size limit.  Consider encouraging your team members to send their emails with expiration dates.  And until Microsoft offers a more convenient solution (*cough* Office 2012 *cough*), then setting expiration dates is the easiest method to set emails to automatically delete in the future.