How to Delete Email using Telnet

This blog is about how to delete email using Telnet.


Removing mail from a server can be an issue sometimes. Perhaps you have an inbox which contains a large email you would rather not have, and is causing a download problem? Sometimes people will try and send large email attachments, rather than using technologies such as dropbox. Other times when using a slow internet connection chunky emails can cause an issue for email client applications. A typically scenario is being on the road using a slow mobile data connection.

Instead of downloading the email via your email client, you can opt to remove the mail from your server via telnet. This is an alternative if you do not have access to webmail, else would rather not give a third-party online service access to your account details. Telnet is essentially a terminal connection, which in current times can be easily accessed via Apple Mac, Windows and Linux computers using a telnet client. This guide on how to permanently delete specific mail from your server is suitable for both linux and Microsoft Windows users. So if you are using a linux distribution such as Fedora, Ubuntu etc or a Microsoft Windows operating system such as 2000, XP, Vista or 7, this support page is perfect for you.

Note: However be warned that the email will be permanently deleted from your email account if you use the method explained below.

Step 1 – Download the Telnet Client

Both Linux and Microsoft Windows users can use the free application called ‘Putty’ to telnet into their mail server. For linux users the Putty application should be in a main repository, so it is incredibly easy to download and install. For Microsoft Windows users please visit here. Once the telnet client application has been installed please proceed to step 2.

Step 2 – Connect to your Mail Server

To enable you to easily connect to your mail server, you need to set Putty to the ‘Telnet’ mode, plus use the port 110 if a standard pop3 connection. Then type in your server and connect. Putty enables you to save configurations, so if this could become a regular, event you might want to save the profile.

telnet mail server

telnet mail server

Once you are connected to your remote pop server, type user yourusername then press enter. You should receive a +OK response, if not try again. Then once accepted, type pass yourpassword then press enter. Again you should receive a +OK response.

Step 3 – The commands

Now it is relatively easy to find that large chunky email and remove. First of all you type 'list‘ and press enter, which will show you a numbered list, with the byte size next to each message.

telnet list email

telnet list email

To view who sent you the message you could for example type top 4 25, which would show you the first 25 lines for message number four.

To remove the chunky message you type dele followed by the number of the message to remove. So for example: dele 4

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