Shami's Blog

Sysadmin, Because Even Developers Need Heroes

Delete All Messages From A POP3 Account

2010-04-21 by Mohammad H. Al-Shami

Here at the office, we host a few domains with Verio. Not my choice, and I’m not happy with it. We also host some mailboxes for one of those domains with Verio. I got a message from Verio support saying the mailboxes for that domain are occupying around 1GB of space, and that we need to delete some of them.

Turns out the mailboxes were neglected for months, and one of those mailboxes got around 55,000 messages.

Simple enough, I said, let’s log in to web mail, keep recent relevant messages and delete the rest. But the web mail interface kept timing out, and I couldn’t access any of the accounts. Seems they built their own web mail interface, which tries to load everything in your mailbox. This makes it time out when a mailbox has this huge number of messages.

After contacting Verio’s support they gave me an IP address to use as an IMAP server, which, surprisingly (well, not really, I expected it) wouldn’t connect. After a few days of deliberation the department in charge of the accounts decided to delete all messages in all accounts.

At first I configured Evolution to download all messages from POP3, which thankfully worked (Thanks Dovecot), but that took too long, and downloading 50K messages would overload our uplink. A simple solution would be as follows:


import poplib

server = 'server'
user = 'user'
password = 'password'

whenToQuit = 500
loop = 0
totalMessages = 0

while 1:
        M = poplib.POP3(server)
        numMessages = len(M.list()[1])
        if totalMessages == 0: totalMessages = numMessages
        i = 0
        for i in range(numMessages):
                print 'Deleted %d out of %d messages' % (loop * whenToQuit + i + 1, totalMessages)
                if i == whenToQuit - 1:
                        loop = loop + 1

        if i != whenToQuit - 1:

Since the actual deletion of messages happens when a client “quit”s, I wrote this to do a quit after 500 message, this will enable you to quit the script after some time without having to lose all the progress.

Hope this helps.