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Fix “Message Could Not Be Moved To Mailbox Trash” Email Error (On iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch)

When using iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch to delete a message you can get an error message that says:

“Unable to Move Message. The message could not be moved to the mailbox Trash”.

There are 3 main reasons why the messages can’t be deleted from your device:

  • 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.

This guide explains how to find out the exact issue on your device, and how to fix it.

With simple step-by-step instructions this article shows you exactly what to do so you can delete emails on your iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch properly.

Tip: Of the 3 reasons listed the most common is the wrong IMAP path, so you should try this fix first.

Message Could Not Be Moved To Mailbox Trash

Who is affected by this email trash error?

According to the Apple Support Communities, this is a common issue with over 350 people saying they have this issue on their iPhone 6 in 2017. The actual number of people affected is likely to be far higher when you factor in other iPhone models, iPads, and iPod Touch devices too.

So, 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.

But how can you tell if you use IMAP or POP3?

Well, IMAP tends to be used in corporate email accounts and is run 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.

To find out more, see What are IMAP and POP?

For more help with Apple Mail setup, see our lists of iPhone ISP email settings to manually configure your email account for any major iSP.

Symptoms of being unable to move messages

These alerts appear when trying to delete a message from the Mail app on iOS and iPadOS devices.

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Often the alert is intermittent and may disappear temporarily, only to reappear later.

It is common for the error to only appear on specific messages, with others being moved to the trash without a problem.

Sometimes the error may only occur on one mailbox, with other mailboxes on the same device working without a hitch.

iphone unable to move message to trash

3 ways to fix this issue and move emails to trash

The same fix will work for all of these iOS-based devices so feel free to follow the same procedure if you use:

  • iPhone
  • iPad
  • iPod Touch

The fix:

If you are worried you may lose the email message and you’d like to keep a copy, just in case, then find out how to save email messages.

Method 1: Change the IMAP Path

The IMAP Path prefix instructs your email program where to put deleted messages.

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 solution for you.

This video shows how to change the IMAP path prefix, alternatively, you can use the easy-to-follow steps that describe the process in more detail underneath.

  1. Press the Home button and choose Settings.
    iphone settings
  2. Scroll down and click Mail, Contacts, Calendars.
  3. Tap your email account.
  4. Scroll to the bottom and click Advanced.
    iphone mail advanced
  5. Scroll to the bottom and tap the empty IMAP Path Prefix.
    iphone imap 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.
    iphone imap prefix fixed
  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 Microsoft email user?

This fix does not work for Hotmail, live.com, or outlook.com because Microsoft does not use IMAP for these products, it uses Exchange Active Link (EAS).

To fix this error when you have the above products, you can use POP3 to access your email account.

The fix will work if you use Microsoft Exchange services such as Office365 as this does use IMAP.

Method 2: Toggle from Wi-Fi to cellular data (or vice versa)

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
    iOS9 upgrade - settings
  2. Tap Wi-Fi
    icloud settings
  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.

Method 3: Delete email account and add it again

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’
    iOS9 upgrade - 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.

Closing thoughts

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.

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 the latest version of iOS 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.

Other useful fixes

We have worked hard to create useful guides to help resolve common issues with Apple devices such as how to iCloud unlock and remove Activation Lock.

Other helpful information includes:

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