I was using my iPhone to check my email when I deleted a message and got an error message that said “Unable to Move Message. The message could not be moved to the mailbox Trash”.
One of the most annoying things when trying to delete messages in iOS is when a pop-up appears saying it has failed. So I did some research to find out why this happens, and how to fix it. I found that there are 3 main reasons why the messages can’t be removed from your iPhone or iPad:
- The IMAP path is incorrect within the settings of your device
- There is a temporary ‘glitch’ with your WiFi or cellular connection
- The email account settings have become corrupt and you need to delete and re-add them
Of the 3 reasons listed the most common is actually the wrong path, which is why I suggest you try this method first.
Let’s investigate how we can resolve each of these issues with simple step-by-step instructions showing what you need to do.
Table of Contents
Who does this issue apply to?
If you have an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch and you use IMAP to access your email then you can suffer from this bug.
If you use POP3 to access your email server then the issues covered in this article do not apply to you because POP3 connects to your email server in a completely different way.
So if you are using POP3 then this article will not help you with your issue.
But how can you tell if you use IMAP or POP3?
Well, IMAP tends to be used in corporate email accounts and are ran on Microsoft Exchange or Microsoft Office 365.
In addition, you can tell you are using IMAP if you are able to read, reply, or delete messages on your computer and when you look at your phone the same messages are read, replied to, or deleted automatically.
In other words, your phone and computer email accounts are synchronized.
3 ways to try and fix this issue
The same fix will work for all of these iOS based devices so feel free to follow the same procedure if you use:
- iPod Touch
The repair methods:
- Method 1: Change the IMAP Path in iOS email (Try this first)
- Method 2: Change from Wi-Fi to cellular data
- Method 3: Delete email account and add it back again
By default, Apple sets this as a backslash / which means ‘root’. However many email programs do not actually store the messages in the root or don’t have permission to do so which results in the error.
To fix it you need to provide the correct prefix path that allows your email program to move the message from your inbox into the deleted messages folder.
If you always have the error popping up and you can never manage to erase emails from your phone then this is the best fix for you.
This video shows how to change the IMAP path prefix, alternatively, you can use the easy to follow steps which describe the process in more detail underneath.
1. Press the Home button and choose Settings.
2. Scroll down and click Mail, Contacts, Calendars.
3. Tap your email account.
4. Scroll to the bottom and click Advanced.
5. Scroll to the bottom and tap the empty IMAP Path Prefix.
6. Enter INBOX in capitals, then click ‘Accounts’ at the top left and click ‘Done’ at the top right twice to close the settings.
7. Press the Home button and then re-open Mail.
8. You will now be able to delete or move your emails on your iPhone.
Are you a hotmail, live.com or outlook.com user?
This fix does not work for hotmail, live.com, or outlook.com because Microsoft does not use IMAP, it uses Exchange Active Link (EAS).
To fix this error you can use POP3 to access your email account.
It should work if you use Microsoft Exchange services such as Office365.
Another common reason for being unable to delete messages is having a poor quality WiFi or cellular connection to the internet.
You need a good quality connection so your phone can instruct your email server to move the message.
If the connection is dropped whilst attempting to do this then the message won’t delete and you will get an error message.
This solution is more suitable if you have an intermittent problem deleting emails.
If sometimes it works OK, and others it doesn’t then you should type the instructions below:
1. Tap Settings
2. Tap Wi-Fi
3. Turn Wi-Fi off and then back on again using the switch at the top
This will ensure you have a good quality Wi-Fi signal that allows communications with your email.
This fix is a last resort when all else fails. If you have tried the other methods and you are still struggling then it may be that your email account on your phone has become corrupt.
To fix it you need to remove your email account, then add it back again.
Don’t panic you are not going to delete all your email messages. You are simply removing them from your phone.
When you recreate your email account on your phone it will sync all the content from your mailbox giving you access to all your old messages.
To remove your email account from your device do the following:
1. Tap ‘Settings’
2. Tap ‘Passwords and Accounts’
3. Tap the email account that has the issue
4. At the very bottom tap ‘Delete Account’. Don’t worry, deleting your account from your iPhone or iPad does not delete all the email’s within the mailbox.
5. Reboot your iPhone or iPad
6. Add the account back again by clicking ‘Settings’
7. Click Passwords and Accounts’
8. Tap ‘Add Account’
9. Use the on-screen wizard to add your email account to the iPhone or iPad again.
Apple has worked hard on the Mail App on the latest release of iOS, with the method to access the settings changed. It is likely that they have also addressed this issue too as the number of people affected by this seems to have reduced steadily in the recent past.
However, many people are ‘stuck’ on older releases of iOS so it may be a problem for those with older iPhones and iPads.
Oddly, this issue has been around for a long time and it appears that it has taken Apple 5 or 6 years to finally get around to fixing it properly.
If you are using iOS 14 or iPadOS and still receive this error message and you have tried this fix then please get in touch. I’d love to know if it is still broken with the latest version of iOS or the new iPadOS.