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Remove old email addresses from Mail’s auto-complete database

Remove old email addresses from Mail\'s auto-complete database

Ever had an old or unwanted email address keep popping up in Mail when you begin typing the name or address of your intended recipient?

Say one of your contacts changes their email address. You update their listing in Address Book to reflect the new information, but Mail still has their old address in its database and the auto-complete feature continues to display it as a suggestion. It’s no big deal, but if you have a lot of contacts this can become one of those things that sticks in your head and makes you crazy trying to figure out how you can clear out the junk.

This tip can also become useful for getting rid of those who you only emailed a handful of times or no longer communicate with. If the person’s name was John Appleseed, for example, and you have another contact with a similar name such as John Moon then the unwanted John might come up first. Again, no big deal but an annoyance nonetheless.

Removing email addresses from the Previous Recipients list in Mac OS X Mail
Removing email addresses from the Previous Recipients list in Mac OS X Mail

To see a list of everyone you’ve ever sent an email to, go to Window > Previous Recipients in Mail. The window that comes up will let you sort by the person’s name (if available), email address, and last date used. There is also an indicator to let you know if each entry is currently in your Address Book, with the option to add them if you choose. For the purpose of this article, however, we’re interested in the Remove From List option on the bottom left. Go through the list one-by-one (which can get tedious) or specifically search out the ones you know are causing an inconvenience. To select a series of addresses at the same time, hold Shift or Cmd on your keyboard as you would for selecting multiple files in Finder.

Removing email addresses from the Previous Recipients list in Mac OS X Mail
Removing email addresses from the Previous Recipients list in Mac OS X Mail

Another way to erase an email address from the Previous Recipients database is to click on the unwanted email address on a message that has been sent, received, or is currently being composed and choose “Remove from Previous Recipients List” on the drop-down menu. Using this option right away when you know you won’t be using a particular email address again will help manage the Previous Recipients list and keep it from growing too large as time goes on.

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17 Comments Have Been Posted (Leave Your Response)

is this info about removing previous recipient email addresses just for Mac users???? i can’t find the ‘window>previous recipient’ tab…help please, if you can


Yes, this article only applies to Mac users who use OS X’s Mail application. Sorry, no information for Windows or other mail programs.

How do you do this for the iphone?

There is no way to remove email addresses from an iPhone’s auto-complete database. The only thing that would do it would be to reset the phone to factory settings, which is obviously not a good solution. Hopefully Apple includes this capability in the 3.0 software update.

After I successfully edit the Previous Recipients list (or delete all recipients), they are removed. HOWEVER, if I quit then relaunch MacMail, all the old, deleted addresses return. It’s like the file without the edits, regenerates itself. What do you suggest?

how does one do this on the new iPhone?
(if possible, could someone email the answer to me? – thx)

I have tried to remove previous recipients countless times, using both methods you describe. They seem to disappear, but they come back!! My sister changed her email address a year ago, and it keeps putting her old one first! Not a huge deal, but it bugs the heck out of me. What can I do to delete them forever??

Make sure the old email address isn’t in your Address Book app. It could still be in there even though you’ve removed it from Mail.

No, they are not in my address book. (The brown book with the @ sign on the cover….) They disappear using the methods you describe but if I quit and restart mail they are back! I have a PowerBookG4, running Mac OS X, version 10.5.8. I use a gmail account, but read and send mail through Mail Version 3.6 (936). I have run system updates but nothing seems to make a difference. Can you help? I mentioned one sister’s address, but I have a bunch of old/incorrect email address I would like to get rid of. Thanks a million!

do you have any other suggestions?

Man, I’ve been trying this for years. Every time I up date the Mac OS I think this time it will clear the email away. Now even after Lion those old email addresses from friends who have changed to another address keep coming back from the dead. I do the “Remove from Previous Recipients.” And everything is AOK until I restart Mail then back from the dead the email address.

I can find the option to delete previous recipients from the window tab on the task bar, however some other people seem to have an option to remove the email address by clicking on the little white arrow in the address field and selecting remove address.

I don;t have this option despite running up to date Lion

Anyone have any suggestions ?

My version of Mail does not have the “Remove from Previous Recipients List” option. When I send an email, my old address shows up in my recipients’ “From” box rather than my new one.

Someone put their and other e-mailADDRESSES IN MY SPACE. hOW DO i GET THEM OFF? tHANKS

removing old e-mail completly from yahoo.

I have been battling for months to try to get rid of this particularly weird email address that keeps popping up as an option when I try to send something to myself from another computer. This is the BEST help ever! Now that aberrant email address is finally gone! Thanks very much!

Sandra M Griswold
April 9th, 2015, 12:04 PM

I FINALLY found out how to get rid of these “bogus” contacts in the drop down menu when sending an e-mail TO someone and then receiving it back only to find the SAME name in the “TO” line. Go into your pull-down menu and find the “bogus” e-mail address. Then find that same contact in your CONTACTS BOOK. When you “click” on “edit” move some of the information you also find in the “bogus” e-mail and change the place of it on your contact card…somewhere where there is NO “minus”(-) indication. Revise the contact card, save it, then go back into your e-mail pull down “TO” list…AND IT WILL BE GONE!!!GONE!!!GONE!!!! TRY THIS…IT REALLY WORKS!!! I EVEN BROKE OPEN A BOTTLE OF CHAMPAGNE AFTER THIS ONE!!! Good Luck!!! Sandi

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