How to delete old email accounts (and why you should)

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Almost everyone has an email account they rarely use or maybe an old account they've long forgotten about. But did you know that leaving these accounts inactive can actually lead to security risks?

In this article, we'll show you how to delete old email accounts for good so that you can keep your online presence safe and secure. We'll also provide a few tips to help you keep your emails safe from prying eyes.

We checked official sources of the top email providers and reviewed their process of deleting old email accounts. We also gathered the best tips from online security experts to keep your emails safe.

The last thing you want is to miss out on crucial tips for keeping your information safe online. Keep reading until the end to find out the biggest risk of keeping unused email accounts.

Deleting email accounts on major email service providers

Email providers like Gmail, Yahoo, and Outlook all have different processes for deleting an account. To make things easier, we've compiled instructions on how to delete an old email account on each provider below:

Gmail

  1. Login to your Gmail account by visiting myaccount.google.com.
  2. On the left side, click the “Data and privacy” section of your account.
  3. Scroll down to your “Data from apps and services that you use.” Under this section, click “Delete a Google service.” Google will ask you to enter your login credentials again.
  4. Afterward, you'll see Google services, such as YouTube and Gmail. Next to the Gmail logo, click the trash bin icon to delete your Gmail account.
  5. Enter another email address, then click “Send verification email.” Keep in mind that this email address should not be a Gmail account.
  6. You'll receive a confirmation email in your new email address. Remember that Google won't delete your Gmail account until you confirm your new email address.

Yahoo Mail

  1. Log into your Yahoo mail account.
  2. Ensure that you don't have any active paid subscriptions by going to mysubscriptions.yahoo.com. If you do, cancel them first.
  3. Proceed to the Yahoo account termination page through yahoo.mydashboard.oath.com/delete-my-account.
  4. Click “Continue to delete my account.”
  5. On the next page, type in your email address, then click “Yes, terminate this account.”

Outlook

  1. Sign in to your Outlook account.
  2. Click the gear icon located on the upper right side of the screen.
  3. On the bottom part of the window, click “View all Outlook settings.”
  4. Then, on the left side of the screen, ensure that you're in the “Mail” section. On the next sidebar, click “Sync email.”
  5. Choose “Manage or choose a primary alias.”
  6. Once you're directed to the next page, click “Remove” beside the email address you wish to delete.

A few things to keep in mind before deleting your old email account:

  • Make sure you've transferred any important emails or contacts from the account you're about to delete.
  • If you're deleting a work or school email account, check with your IT department first to see if there are any steps you need to take before deleting the account.
  • Once you've deleted an email account, you won't be able to recover any of the emails or data associated with that account. So be sure you really want to delete it before taking any further action.

Finding your old email accounts

You might have forgotten about your old email addresses. Here are a few different ways to locate old email accounts:

Check your internet browser's history

If you've ever logged into an email account using a web browser, there's a good chance that the account's information is still stored in your history. To access your history, simply open your browser and look for the “history” tab.

Go through your old emails

Check your existing email account, then try searching through its inbox for any references to your other email accounts. This is especially helpful if you can't remember the exact address of an old account but you know who it was with (e.g. Gmail, Yahoo, etc.).

You may also try searching your inbox for words or phrases, like “verify your email address,” “activate your account,” or “confirm your email address.” This is because when you create an email account, you'll typically get a notification email in your other email addresses.

Check your social media accounts

You may also be able to find old email accounts by checking your social media accounts.

Many people use the same email address for both their social media and their email. As such, there's a good chance that if you see an old email address listed on one of your social media accounts, it's an account you haven't used in a while.

Search for your name online

If you're still having trouble locating old email accounts, try searching for your name in different search engines, such as Google, Bing, or Ecosia. This is a long shot, but if you have a unique email address, there's a chance that it might show up in the results.

Deleting old email accounts without a password

If you're trying to delete an old email account and you don't have the password, there are a few things you can try.

First, see if you can find the password in your browser's password manager. If that doesn't work, try resetting the password using the account's recovery process.

If you're still unable to access the account, you'll need to contact the email service provider directly and ask for assistance. Prepare your proof of identity so they can verify that you're the owner of the account.

Once they've verified your identity, they should be able to delete the account for you.

Why your old email accounts need to be deleted

There are a number of reasons why your old email accounts have to be deleted. Some of these include:

1. They might contain sensitive information

If you've ever used your email to register for an online service or make a purchase, chances are that your account contains credit card details, billing addresses, and other personal information.

2. They make you a target of advertising or span

Even if you're not worried about identity theft, other individuals can use your information and target you with advertising or spam. By deleting old accounts, you can help to protect your privacy and keep your inbox clutter-free.

3. They can take up space

Additionally, keeping an unused account open can take up valuable storage space on your computer or mobile device. If you're running out of space, deleting an old email account can free up some much-needed room.

IMPORTANT: The biggest risk in having old and unused email accounts is that they can pose a risk to all of your other online accounts. While your email account itself may not contain sensitive information, hackers may be able to use it to reset your passwords for your other online accounts that are linked to that particular email account. 

This could give them access to a wealth of other information and even to your financial accounts. Gmail, for example, asks most users to set a recovery email address.

If you’ve set your old email account as the recovery email account of your new one, hackers can use it to reset your active email account. This then allows them to access sensitive information and even perhaps all of your other online accounts. 

Alternatives to deleting old email accounts

Ultimately, the decision of what to do with an old email account is up to you. However, there are a few different options available depending on your needs. Here are several alternatives to deletion:

1. Stop using the account

One option is to simply stop using the account and allow it to become inactive over time. Most email providers will automatically delete an inactive account after a certain period, usually around 12 months.

2. Forward messages to your new account

Another option is to forward all new messages from the old account to your new account. This way, you can still keep track of any important messages without having to log in to the old account constantly.

3. Create a filter

You could also create a filter that automatically archives or deletes all messages from the old account. This way, you can still access the account if you need it, but it won't clutter up your inbox.

4. Archive your old email accounts

If you're not ready to delete your old email accounts but want to declutter your inbox, you can archive them instead. This involves moving the account data to a separate location, such as an external hard drive or cloud storage device.

Keeping your email safe

Because email messages are sent over the internet, they can be intercepted by third parties. As a result, it's important to take steps to protect your email messages from being read by unauthorized individuals:

1. Encrypt your messages

This means that you'll convert your message into a code that only the person with the proper key can decode. Most email providers offer some form of encryption, but you can also install third-party encryption software.

2. Use a secure server

This ensures that you're sending messages over a secure connection and that they aren't vulnerable to interception. Look for the https:// in the URL of your email provider's website, and make sure that it appears in your browser's address bar when you're logged in.

3. Choose a strong password

A strong password should be at least eight characters long and includes a mix of letters, numbers, and symbols. Avoid using common words or easily guessed phrases, and avoid using the same password for multiple accounts.

4. Enable two-factor authentication (2FA)

2FA adds an extra layer of security. This means that in addition to your password, you'll need another piece of information – such as a code sent to your phone – to log in to your account.

5. Keep your antivirus software up-to-date

Outdated software can have security vulnerabilities that hackers can exploit. Make sure you're running the latest version of your operating system and all the apps on your computer.

6. Be careful about what you click on in emails

Hackers can use malicious links or attachments to infect your computer with malware or give them access to your account. If you're not expecting an email with a link or attachment, err on the side of caution and don't click it.

Conclusion

Deleting old email accounts can be a great way to declutter your inbox and protect your privacy. However, there are a few different ways to go about it, so you can choose the option that best suits your needs.

Additionally, there are several things you can do to keep your email messages safe from unauthorized access. By following these tips, you can rest assured that your personal information is protected while still being able to communicate with friends and family easily.

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