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Can’t delete messages in Thunderbird? Here’s what to do

Can’t delete messages in Thunderbird? Here’s what to do

“My Thunderbird is broken”, with a tone of desperation in her voice says my friend. “It doesn’t allow me to delete messages!” As an IT expert, I volunteered to help my friend. Turned out the problem is very common, so I decided to write an article for all those users who faced the same issue with Thunderbird.

The problem

Indeed, Thunderbird sometimes goes crazy and does not allow you to delete messages anymore, be that just one message or multiple. Neither with keyboard shortcuts, nor using the menu. The problem is far from critical, of course: after all, your work hardly depends on whether you have deleted certain messages or not (but who knows). Anyways, the problem is here, and you want a solution. So let’s take a closer look at the problem.


When you press Del or click the “Delete this message” button on the toolbar in Thunderbird, the selected message does not delete. However, you still can delete a message by right-clicking it, selecting “Move to -> Local Folders -> Trash”.

Move to Trash menu

Sometimes you may also see the error message “Mozilla Thunderbird cannot delete messages” when you attempt to delete an email message.


As I researched sources of the problem, I discovered several most common reasons why Thunderbird does not allow to delete messages.

  • Corrupted MBOX files. In order to delete a message, Thunderbird must make changes into the MBOX file where this message is stored. And if that file is damaged or corrupted, Thunderbird fails to make these changes and therefore fails to delete a message.
  • Older version of Thunderbird. Sometimes the same problem occurs when a mailbox is imported into an older version of Thunderbird, or if Thunderbird was not updated for a long period.
  • Corrupted Trash folder. If the Trash folder gets corrupted for some reason, this may also prevent Thunderbird from being able to delete messages. Indeed, the Trash is not available, how can Thunderbird put messages to it?

Solution. How to fix Thunderbird “Cannot delete messages” problem

The solution is rather simple if you know what to do. Here is a step by step:

  1. Click the Menu button and select “Help”.
    Menu Help
  2. Select “Troubleshooting Information”.
    Troubleshooting Information
  3. Under the “Application Basics” section, find the “Profile Folder” option. Click the Open button. This will open the folder where you Thunderbird profile data are stored.
    Thunderbird Profile Folder location
  4. Close Thunderbird. This is required, because you are going to modify files that Thunderbird is currently using.
  5. In your profile folder, open the Mail folder (if you use POP3 email account) or the ImapMail folder (if you use IMAP).
    IMAP folder
  6. Open the folder of your mailbox where you cannot delete messages. Typically, the name is like or
  7. Now, locate two files in this folder: Trash and Trash.msf.
    If you don’t see such files, try looking for Bin or Deleted.
    Trash folder
  8. Delete these two files.
  9. Restart Thunderbird.
    Now, if you are using IMAP, the trash folder will be recreated automatically. And if you use POP3, do the following to create the Trash folder manually:
  10. Right-click the mailbox account in the folder list and select “New Folder…”.
    New folder
  11. Enter “Trash” as the name of a new folder and click “Create Folder”.
    Create new folder

In the situation of my friend, this sequence helped to resolve the problem. But sometimes the process does not run as smoothly as it described here. For one, there could be problems deleting Trash and Trash.msf files. In this case, you could try to restart Thunderbird again, or even reboot your computer.

Read also:


Overall, being unable to delete messages in Thunderbird is an annoying issue that luckily has a relatively simple solution. But what if the problem persists? What if you have to repeat the above procedure over and over, every week?

Some users decide to call it quits, and migrate from Thunderbird to Outlook or other email client. If you too had enough of Thunderbird’s shenanigans, you can consider this option too as a way to resolve the “can’t delete messages in Thunderbird” problem completely and forever. And if you do, we encourage you to try our Thunderbird to Outlook Transfer software. It helps you to effortlessly and painlessly move your emails from Thunderbird to Outlook, automatically.

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Guys, you have saved my life with this instruction! Very helpful, thank you!

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Can’t delete messages in Thunderbird? Here’s what to do

time to read: 3 min