Purge Items When Switching Folders: Meaning?

Here’s what the message “purge items when switching folders” online means:

While there are a few possible reasons you could see this message, the most common is when you are trying to delete emails from an IMAP email account.

The message is saying that any emails you have selected to delete will not be removed from the account until you switch to view another folder.

So if you want to learn what the message “purge items when switching folders” means exactly, then this is the right place for you.

Let’s get started!

Purge Items When Switching Folders: Meaning? (All the Info)

What Does the Message “Purge Items When Switching Folders” Mean?

There are actually a few possibilities when you see this message.

A lot of applications and systems use folders, and any of them could purge, so I’m going to have to walk you through a few different ideas.

All of that said, there’s one instance that pops up a whole lot more than any other.

Most of the time, if you get a message to purge items when switching folders, it’s talking about an IMAP account.

This is a feature that prevents items from fully deleting until you’re done with the folders.

That’s it. We’re all done here. Now you know everything.

Ok, maybe that was a little sarcastic.

For those of you who are familiar with IMAP and everything I just mentioned, that actually is all you need to know.

But, if some of these terms sound like gibberish, then there’s more to cover.

So, let’s break down each piece of that explanation. 

What Is IMAP?

The best place to start is with IMAP.

It stands for Internet Message Access Protocol, and it’s basically the list of rules that online email tools can use for you to browse your emails.

Back when email clients were new and dinosaurs ruled the earth, you had to sign into a specific website in order to check your email.

At some point, people realized that it would be nice if you could have an integrated app that manages multiple email addresses at once.

These days, most of us use such apps without really thinking about it.

But, those apps need a set of rules to follow in order to function, and the most popular set of rules is known as IMAP.

In particular, IMAP makes it really easy to check your email whenever you want from any device with clean synchronization.

Also, IMAP has features that make it harder to accidentally delete messages that you want to keep.

One of those features is related to the message we’re discussing today.

What Is Purging?

When it comes to computer folders, the fact that the message mentions purging tells you a lot.

It tells you that the system you’re using (in this case your email client) is able to view and use specific folders.

And, because the term “purge” is in use, the message is letting you know that the system is ready to delete information.

That’s really the crux of all of this.

When you’re using an IMAP email client, you can mark a bunch of messages for deletion.

When this message pops up, it’s letting you know that the messages aren’t deleted just yet.

As long as you keep that folder open and prominent, the messages won’t go away just yet.

The point of this is that you can open any email in that folder to double-check that it’s one you want to get rid of.

Once you’re satisfied, you can change your folder (more on this in the next section), and then the system will finalize deletion. 

In a way, you can think of this as something similar to an “are you sure” message you get before deleting things.

It’s an intentional delay in the process that is designed to prevent accidental deletion.

What Folders Are Being Purged?

We’re making progress, but I still need to explain the folders.

When you use an email management app, it will typically arrange all of your emails by account.

Within each account, you can have multiple email folders.

Technically, you can set up email websites the same way.

Most email clients have a list of all of the folders on the left of the app, and you can even open up your email manager to see that.

The list on the left should show all available folders.

So, you’ll probably have an inbox folder, trash folder, spam folder, and any folders you make.

When you get the purge message, it’s telling you that the current folder is the one in question.

So, if you were going through your inbox and selected a handful of messages to delete, the process won’t finish until you navigate away from your inbox folder.

You could switch to any other folder in that account or switch to another account.

Whenever you do, that’s when the process finalizes and those emails are deleted.

If you ever manage your spam folder, you’re especially likely to see this message.

Most of us just mark the entire spam folder for deletion in one swoop, and that’s why this message triggers.

Compare that to browsing your inbox.

A lot of people manage emails one at a time in the inbox, and if you’re only deleting one message at a time, then you won’t get this message (under normal circumstances).

The point I want to stress here is that the message applies to the current folder that you are browsing.

What Else Could “Purge Items When Switching Folders” Mean?

Everything I’ve explained so far applies to IMAP email clients, and as I said before, that’s far and away the most likely scenario when you see this message.

But, it’s not the only possibility, so let’s cover the rest.

Anything you do with a computer that manages files could potentially trigger a similar message.

If you’re going through your Documents folder in Windows, you could select things for deletion and potentially see a message that the items won’t purge until you switch folders.

Keep in mind that this is not standard, but with third-party apps and cloud synchronization, such a thing could happen.

You could see the message with any other folder management too, and there’s a specific reason that I haven’t yet covered.

IMAP is a set of rules that controls synchronization.

When it purges items from a folder, it isn’t just deleting them off of your device.

It removes them from the account, and that change will synchronize across all of your devices that can connect to that email account.

So, if you’re using Outlook on your computer and purge items, then those items will also disappear from your phone.

That’s the point.

So, if you have cloud tools that synchronize other things like pictures, documents, videos, etc., then deleting them from one device can trigger a purge that synchronizes that deletion across all devices.

You might not see the same message verbatim, but purging messages are always giving you a chance to make sure you want to go through with the process.


  • Theresa McDonough

    Tech entrepreneur and founder of Tech Medic, who has become a prominent advocate for the Right to Repair movement. She has testified before the US Federal Trade Commission and been featured on CBS Sunday Morning, helping influence change within the tech industry.