Outlook: How to delete Headers? (Not as simple as it sounds!)

My Outlook has been playing up lately (thanks, Norton Antivirus :mad: ) and I have lots of downloaded headers (just the headers) in the Inbox, that I need to delete.

However, the actual email messages they refer to no longer exist on the server (deleted via webmail facility in an effort to restore normality).

I cannot find any way to delete the headers from the Outlook Inbox. Can’t move them, can’t delete them, can’t do any damned thing with them :xeye: They’re all marked for deletion, but I just get an error message every time saying:

(Account Name) Receiving’ reported error (0x8004210C) : ‘Some messages you marked for download are no longer available on the server.’

and the headers are still there, but with a duplicate copy in addition. (Even though the header and message have been 100% deleted from the actual email server days ago).

Any suggestions gratefully received - haven’t had much luck doing a web search on this and Outlook Help was no help at all - naturally…

I haven’t encountered this problem myself, but off the top of my head, why not try ticking the box “Leave a copy of messges on the server” under Tools->Email Accounts->[change]->More Settings->[advanced]

This may let you delete them without the delete commend being sent to the server. In theory.


Check the .PST file hasn’t been marked as read only.

what you can do is save the mail you want to keep somewhere else (new folder) and delete the inbox.dbx and reboot… import the mail and save so it creates a new inbox.dbx
it can be wise to do so once in a while because all your mail is stored there even if you deleted it so the .dbx file can be real huge after a while if you send/receive lots of mail.

now i dont have an english outlook but you should find the inbox.dbx in a folder something like this:

C:\Documents and Settings\yourname\Local settings\Programdata\Identities\{C5048B6F-A1BF-4142-855E-FE3CFF50CC75}\Microsoft\Outlook Express

and if you open your .dbx file from dos or something you can read all your mail that you believed you had deleted :wink:

be shure to back up your addressbook before doing this, just to be safe :wink:

hope this can help if everything else fail :slight_smile:

Many thanks for your suggestions - much appreciated.

Mike and NathanAUS, I investigated your suggestions carefully. Thanks!

Crazybanana, Sorry, I should have made it clearer I was using Outlook 2003 rather than Outlook Express. Sorry about that. Unfortunately Outlook doesn’t use the collection of xxx.dbx files like Outlook Express. Instead everything is tightly packaged in a single .pst file. Thanks anyway!

I’m unable to resolve this problem. My conclusions are as follows:

  • If you have orphaned headers (headers only) in the Inbox (i.e. the header ONLY was downloaded but now the message body is missing from the server for some reason, eg deleted via webmail, blip, glitch etc) then it is impossible to get rid of these headers

  • The presence of these orphaned headers results in an error every time you collect email, namely,
    [INDENT]Task 'Account Name - Receiving’ reported error (0x8004210C) : ‘Some messages you marked for download are no longer available on the server.’ [/INDENT]
    This error message occurs even if the orphaned headers are NOT marked for download or deletion.

  • The fact that an ‘error’ has occurred seems to prevent Outlook initiating the deletion on the server of even new emails that have been successfully retrieved during the session. (And that’s with email accounts not set to leave a copy on server). This means that, unless you manually delete your new emails from the server after receiving them (eg by webmail) you will download them again and again throughout the day.

  • Having researched this problem unsuccessfully all over the web for several days, I have discovered that there are eight hundred million things that can and do go wrong with Outlook, many far worse than this, and it is clearly one of the most feeble, badly thought out, inefficient, user-unfriendly pieces of bloatware rubbish yet produced by Microsoft.

Ten years after email became mainstream and it is still not possible to reliably receive a simple email without a Masters in Software Engineering? Great work, Bill, great work. You must be so proud… :confused:

If anyone knows how to remove these orphan headers (how to open and dig around inside .pst files, perhaps?) I’d be very grateful to know. I can’t be the only one who has come across this problem! :xeye:

outlook 2003
well, try this then :wink:
1.Create a new data file with a different name than that of the old
one (Properties of Outlook-Link in Start-menu)
2. Keep the old data file
3. Assign your e-mail-accounts to the new data file (so that mail
folders in the new data file are created by Outlook automatically)
4. Open Outlook and make sure that both data files are opened
5. Move all the e-mails except those “orphaned” headers to the new
inbox etc. folders
6. If you have calendar events and other items go the the list mode in
each view (because 5-day mode etc. is unhandy) and move them to the
new data file
7. Close and delete the old data file
8. You got rid of those annoying headers

Thanks Crazybanana, I’ll cross my fingers and try that over the weekend!

well, if that dont work then the only advice i have left is:


  1. remove the email account from outlook completely, just the account with the problem.
  2. then logg in to the web interface of your email provider for that account, so you could
    clear the mailbox of all emails… inbox and junk folders. forward all unrecevied emails to
    another account and then deleted then and cleared the trash (the recycle bin for your isps mail)
  3. then highlighte the undeleteable headers in outlook (the ones that keep downloading) and
    hit shift+delete.
    outlook prompted you to delete all emails from the account that no longer existed – confirm
    with yes and bang problem solved… hopefully. This worked for others and I have seen no negative
    effects…hope this holds true for you too.but make sure you follow step -1.

Yes, Yes Yes - problem solved 100% - Many, many thanks for your help!

This (above) is the advice I followed first (I chickened out of trying the previous method over the weekend! Thought I’d ‘think about it’ first - glad I did, as this method is simpler) and it worked like a charm with no nasty surprises.

Even with the benefit of hindsight I still can’t locate any ‘Help’ in the ‘Help File’ for Outlook 2003 (hard disk or online) that explains any of this. Amazing…

For anyone who has a similar problem and follows this procedure in Outlook 2003, here is what happens:

  • Follow above procedure and select one orphan header, click Shift Delete. Dialogue box opens saying :

[INDENT][COLOR=Red]Remove Header(s)?

Some of the selected headers were downloaded from an E-mail Account that doesn’t exist on this computer. These headers might have been downloaded using a different computer, or from an E-mail account that has since been deleted.

To remove all headers associated with this account, click ‘Yes’
To keep these headers, click ‘No’[/COLOR][/INDENT]

When you click Yes all the orphan headers are immediately deleted (even if you only select one) and the following slightly misleading message appears:

The item could not be deleted. It was either moved or already deleted, or access was denied

However, the orphan headers are history, and now that their presence does not cause an error during every download, Outlook is not prevented (as it was) from sending the signal to the server to delete the recently downloaded messages from the server.

I guess I should forward this thread to Microsoft so they can use it to improve their Help file. Who knows, it might happen… :smiley:

Once again, many thanks to everyone who responded to my original post, and especially Crazybanana who definitely deserves An Exceptionally Happy and Prosperous New Year!!

nice nice :tup:

Happy New Year Paul :santa: :Partier: :Partydude:

thank you so much guys, i signed up just for this!
its 6 months i am looking for this information :o

now im going to microsoft newsgroup where nobody is aware of that :rolleyes: and make myself usefull too :stuck_out_tongue:

Trust me when I say ditch outlook. It is a very unsecure crappy piece of software. Try an email client like “The Bat” by RIT Labs. You will forever be happy.

Figured I couldn’t be the only one!

I sent some detailed feedback and a link for this thread to Microsoft a few weeks ago - trying to be helpful, doing the right thing, etc. - but of course you never get a reply from those arrogant b******s, and it was probably ignored anyway. Such is life… :mad:

Thanks guys!
It never ceases to amaze me how useless Microsoft’s help systems are - they might as well call themselves IBM!! Your thread has solved my problem too - without having to try hacking into my .pst file, which in any case is such an obscure database format that I don’t want to even think about that. One more step towards Open Source for me!!



  1. SORT by HEADER STATUS. If HEADER STATUS is not available on the fields shown, add it.

  2. Find the messages that have not been downloaded but are marked for download.

  3. Decide whether you want to delete those messages permanently OR unmark for download (whatever you decide, remember that they are probably gone from the server, so the former option is more likely to be the best)

  4. Do a SEND/RECEIVE. You won’t have any problems this time.