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Different ISPs keep your email for different lengths of time... but you really needn't worry about it!

My ISP just informed me that my inbox was full. After much chat with the ISP, I learned that the ISP was referring to its inbox not my Windows Live mail inbox. So, my ISP deleted about 5000 old emails, which cleared my ISP's inbox. I was now back in operation. My question is how long does an ISP keep emails on its server?

In this excerpt from Answercast #54, I look at the type of email accounts provided by Internet Service Providers and why they fill up.

ISP based email

Well, that's actually a question for your ISP because they set the rules. Different ISPs keep a different amount of email, have different quotas and keep your email for different lengths of time. So that's really a question that only your ISP can answer.

I really want to address this question though, primarily because I'm not sure that really there's an issue for you at this point.

Automatically assigned main account

Most people don't realize that when they sign up with their ISP, they usually get an email account with that ISP. There will usually be an email address "@" the domain name of that specific ISP.

You don't have to use it. Right? It sounds like you didn't even know this existed - because you're using your Windows Live Mail account and that's great.

As long as you're not using your ISP's mail account, it doesn't matter if the inbox fills up and it doesn't matter how long the ISPs keep things. If you don't use it; if you don't try and sign into it; if you don't try and download it; if you don't send using that email account, there's really no point in doing anything to maintain it.

Full of email

"Why does it fill up?" you might be asking.

Well, in a word: spam. Any email address that kind-of sort-of shows up... eventually is going to get spam. Especially email addresses, that are automatically created by ISPs.

So, in this particular case, unless you're actively using that email account for something, then I would just ignore it completely. I'd let it fill up. I'd let the ISP start bouncing mail that gets sent to it because your mailbox is full.

I mean, I just wouldn't worry about it at all. Again, assuming you are not using that account.

Maintain the accounts you use

If you are using that account... Well then, yea, you need to maintain it. You need to download your mail, you need to delete your mail, you need to manage the mail that you're using on that account.

But that's really all it boils down to. This account (that you probably didn't realize you even had) has email arriving in it and is slowly filling up. But if you're not using it, who cares!

Article C5829 - September 19, 2012 « »

Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

Not what you needed?

Allan Poe
September 19, 2012 3:09 PM

Thank you for your answer. However, I think I should claify and add to my original question. "After much chat with the ISP I learned that the ISP was referring to its inbox not my Windows Live Mail inbox." The message I got from my ISP (Charter) also said that I had used my 1GB of e-mail storage and until I deleted some from the ISP storage, I will not be allowed to send/receive any e-mails. I do not use my ISP's e-mial account, yet there were some of my e-mails from years ago. My point is, that apparently my ISP (Charter) keeps all of my e-mails until I delete them from my Charter e-mail account. A real nusiance!

September 21, 2012 9:11 AM

There should be a setting in Windows Live Mail to delete the email from Charter once it's downloaded into Windows Live Mail.

The setting is most likely found in the Advanced Settings for your Charter account in Windows Live Mail. Uncheck the box that says "Leave a copy of messages on server" and email will be deleted from Charter when it's downloaded into Windows Live Mail.

He indicated he wasn't even using that account, so there's no reason that he would have had it configured at all in any email program. This is just an unused account filling up with spam.

Egbert Zijlema
September 21, 2012 12:17 PM

Why should one not use his/hers ISP-given e-mail account? This is completely new to me, omitting a service you pay for! The alternate way is using webmail, either for an hotmail (WinLive) or gmail account, or to maintain your ISP-given account. Okay, when I'm on the move, the latter is my only choice but at home I prefer to use an e-mail client and download my mails from both, my ISP's and my hosting provider's mail servers.
Egbert Zijlema

Mark J
September 21, 2012 12:50 PM

One reason for not using your ISP supplied email address is continuity. If, for example, you change your ISP, you would lose all your emails sent to that address. I have a Yahoo email address that I've used since 1997. I've had several ISPs since then and although I no longer use my Yahoo address as my main email, I still occasionally get an email sent to that address from people I haven't contacted in years.

Egbert Zijlema
September 21, 2012 1:14 PM

I work this way: I download all my mail from my 2 providers' servers and do not leave copies over there. So, actually, I'm moving all my e-mail to my computer. In other words: a new provider would not be a problem, although I do not consider to change. As they say: Never change a winning team, being my both providers' mail servers and Outlook Express on my box.

Peter B
September 21, 2012 2:29 PM

Some ISPs will use the e-mail address they have provided you with to send you e-mails (annual renewals, price increases, etc). so you may want to at least monitor the contents.

That's actually a very good observation I hadn't considered...

Mark J
September 21, 2012 3:09 PM

I wasn't referring to emails which are on the provider's server, I'm referring to any people who send you emails after you've changed your ISP. In your case, that might not be a problem, but it's a common scenario for many people.

September 22, 2012 6:20 PM

@Egbert Zijlema
Your ISP-given e-mail account isn't the service you're paying for. ISP means Internet service Provider and you're paying for the internet service. The email account is free while you remain on their customer list. You lose it if you change your service provider.

Strange enough my ISP never even mentioned a free address was available, although I am actually aware of it. I use Gmail as my main account, and Yahoo and Hotmail just for fun and some unimportant subscriptions.

My present employer also uses the same ISP and our business accounts are provided by them. There's limits on Inbox size and this is very frustrating especially if we receive messages with big attachments. Yes we download into Outlook but don't set it to delete from the server immediately because some of us have Blackberrys or use more than one computer. Whenever the account is stuck, we have to log on to the web version and delete the oldest or largest emails to clear space.

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