Can you safely delete your email account?

safely delete emailWhen you have inactive email accounts that you longer use, deleting them seems like the obvious thing to do. But what happens afterwards? Will someone else be able to take over your email address and potentially gain access to your address book, emails and other sensitive data? Have you ever properly read the terms and conditions of your email host or provider and know the procedures of deleting your email accounts permanently without risking a future data breach?

Dormant accounts

Letting your account become dormant is probably the worst-case scenario. Every email provider has a specified period of dormancy after which an account is automatically deleted or deactivated. Backing up your data or making it unavailable for future use can be impossible after this time. If you have an account that you know is no longer being used, you best take care of it before it becomes dormant.

Backup plan

Any emails, contacts, files, calendar entries, pictures or other data stored in your account should be downloaded before you close it in case you need to access them again at a later time. Once you’ve completed the backup, manually delete all emails including folders and sub-folders as well as contacts to avoid potential data breaches. Ensure that you update any other account that is linked to your email address such as banking or social media accounts. If the email you are about to delete is being used to retrieve lost passwords, you are heading for a nightmare scenario.

Service unavailable

When you delete your Gmail account, you still get to keep your Google account and other services associated with it, such as YouTube as well as search history or bookmarks. Upon deleting you will be prompted to provide a new email address to continue using those services.

However, to close an Outlook or former Hotmail account you need to delete your entire Microsoft account. This will also permanently delete any other services associated with it such as OneDrive and Skype. Yahoo will do the same for all its services but gives you the option to re-activate your account within a given time frame simply by logging in again.

What happens next?

After a holding period which is different for every email provider and depends on the country you signed up in, your account and any associated data will be permanently deleted. If anyone tries to email you after your account has been closed, the email will simply bounce back with an error message. What happens to your username depends entirely on your service provider.

Email address recycling

Google will never free up any username that has previously been issued, so your old email address will never be recreated. Unfortunately, this is not the case for all providers. To give users the chance for a more attractive username and ID, so-called email recycling is popular among most email services. Yahoo and Microsoft are among those that will eventually reassign your username to someone else, meaning strangers could potentially receive emails that were meant to be for you. It’s therefore important that you notify your contacts and any businesses you deal with of your change of email address as soon as possible.

If you accidentally deleted an email account or have changed your mind, you will need to act fast. Most providers allow a grace period before completely shutting down your account, while others will not let you retrieve an account that you have already deleted. Note though, that even if you re-activate an account, you will not be able to see any emails you may have received during the time the account was closed.

If you have any questions regarding email hosting or domain names, contact the friendly team at Energise today.


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