Message Expiration

When sending an email from your ProtonMail account, you can set it to expire after a set amount of time. This feature is only available for encrypted messages between:

By default, all emails sent from your ProtonMail account do not expire.

How to set an expiration time for an email

1. Open your email composer by selecting New message in the left sidebar.

New message button

2. Click on on the ellipsis menu [⋯] at the bottom left of the composer and select the hourglass Set expiration time.

Composer showing the set expiration time option

3. Select the amount of time the email will exist before expiring. Click Set.

Dialogue box to set the email expiration time

Note that the timer starts when the email is sent, not when the recipient has read the email. The maximum expiration time is four weeks (28 days). 

What happens to the email after it expires?

ProtonMail to ProtonMail

Sender: The email is deleted from the sent folder.

Recipient: The email is deleted from the inbox (or the folder that holds the email at the time of expiration).

ProtonMail to non-ProtonMail

Sender: The email is deleted from the sent folder.

Recipient: Recipients of encrypted emails from ProtonMail users are sent a link that contains the contents of the email. The contents of the link are immediately deleted once the message expires. 

Note that once the email expires, the encrypted message and attachments within it will be deleted. However, the email containing the link to the encrypted message cannot be deleted as it resides outside of ProtonMail’s infrastructure.

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  1. fra173

    I send encrypted message without expiration to my own non-protonmail mailbox. When i open my message, i see expiration time 28 days. I tried to open this message when i logged in and logged out Protonmail – its no difference, expiration works.

  2. CD

    Can we have back the ability to enter the number of hours as well as using the slider please?

  3. Anonymous

    please fix this back to the older way. there is no reason, except NSA ones to keep the messages by default. and the process itself is unclear. on purpose?

  4. Anonymous

    So, there’s no option to keep the email forever if sent between Proton accounts? Feels like there should be a “never” option in the expiration slider. I also suggest a function where the user can set their own default expiration period in settings. Thanks for a great service!

  5. Nichole

    I need the ability to KEEP an email for an indefinite period of time. (i.e. scanned document). Please tell me there’s an option to do so.

  6. Jimmy

    Even though I have created an encryption password for sending an email to a gmail account with 42 hour expiration, I still get a message saying I need to set up an encryption password.

  7. Unbonded-freeman

    I am new to ProtonMail. I am trying to attach images from my iMac and would like them attached as images WITHIN the Text of a message.
    Can this be done or are they solely as an attachment which sits beneath the email and needs to be ‘clicked on’ separately?
    When attempting to send an attachment, I click on Send and a message Pop Up states that I need an “attachment key”.
    Where is that “Key”organized for or found?


  8. Sylwester

    What happens when i delete the email from my sent folder in a proton -> non proton scenario?
    In other words. I send an email with expiration of 2 days to non-proton account.
    After one day I know that the user read and does not need to access to that email again.
    Can i make the email expire earlier than it was set at sending?

  9. blueglacier

    I too, like 2 comments above, am having this problem with sending an attachment:
    “When attempting to send an attachment, I click on Send and a message Pop Up states that I need an “attachment key”.
    Where is that “Key”organized for or found?”

  10. Introspective

    Under the heading ProtonMail -> Non-ProtonMail above the
    article describes what will happen to a message that is set
    to expire for the Sender and the Recipient.

    I also saw the following note:

    “Please note – Once expired, only the link containing the encrypted message and attachments will be deleted.”

    It seems like this note is saying that the expired encrypted email will continue to exist on
    protonmail’s servers but the sender and recipient of the email will no longer be able to
    access it.

    Is this the correct interpretation of the given statement above or am I not understanding
    the meaning?

  11. ProtonMail Support

    The wording of that statement was poor, so we have revised the article.

  12. Dmitry Bolshakov
    “messages sent encrypted to non-ProtonMail recipients will expire after 28 days by default”

    here is
    “Sender: Message is deleted from the sent folder.”

    but if I did not set expiration time – I don’t want my message to be deleted

  13. ProtonMail Support

    The encrypted messages to outside recipients are stored on our servers, and not in the recipients mailbox. Because of this the maximum limit, even if you don’t set an expiration time, is 28 days.

  14. Anonymous

    i sent email with expiratoin to proton user.
    the email is gone from my Sent folder and probably from recipient’s Inbox.

    however he replied to that email and now all the text from the expired email is now forever stored in his outbox and in my inbox under his reply – is it possible to force expiration to all emails when replying to a email with expiration set? otherwise it’s of no effect when the original email expired, as its content in is all replies by default …

  15. banter

    I also have the same problem that when I send encrypted message without expiration to my own non-protonmail mailbox and when I open my message, I see expiration time 28 days. I need to have the option of keeping mail indefinitely. Please advise.

  16. ProtonMail Support

    The encrypted messages that are sent to outside recipients are kept encrypted on our servers and not in the participants inboxes. This is why there is a time limit to how long they are available. When you communicate with other ProtonMail users the messages are kept indefinitely.

  17. Anonymous

    Hi, is possible to stop to expiration an expiration mail when you have send it? Thanks

  18. ProtonMail Support

    Once the message is sent, the expiration time can’t be removed or changed.

  19. Fabian

    having switched expiration time to ZERO the mail will be received with an expiration time of 28 days.
    This is absolutely useless for me,how can I change it to OFF ???

  20. ProtonMail Support

    Sending encrypted messages to outside users has expiration time because they are stored on our servers.

  21. timdj

    I would like expiration time to be longer or able to select a date. I would like to send instructions to someone while I am away but that information is no longer needed when I am back.

  22. Anonymous

    I sent an email with expiration to a proton user.
    The email is gone from my Sent folder and from recipient’s Inbox.

    However, he replied to that email and now all the text from the expired email is now forever stored in his outbox and in my inbox under his reply.

    What can be done on your end about this?

    Thanks in advance

  23. ProtonMail Support

    We will look into adding more options about this in the future, for now if the user replies without adding an expiration time to his message, it will not be deleted.

  24. Anonymous

    I know this is just a repeat of many previous requests, but, increase the time available before message expiration, please!

    Only 28 days is far, far too short. Ideally, we should have a do-not-expire option. But, even something like six months would be very, very useful.

  25. Michael Gibouleau

    If you have a gmail account CC the message you are sending to the gmail account. Use the account as an archive. I know they have a problem with storage and perhaps not willing to spend time or money gmx is a good solution. Or you can cc it and archive it to a gmail account or Thunderbird from Mozilla.

  26. Anonymous

    As a customer (any of us) we are given storage space from you.
    From the comments about the inbox n sent folders having mail deleted by you (protonmail) n I’ve never come across a protonmail address in my life, hence not very popular, then the servers are pretty damn empty!

    The lack of info by you to replies on here doesn’t allow me to ascertain what you mean by your storage space?
    Naturally as always the contract allows you to call the shots, we like it or lump it.
    I would assume that the deleted emails are stored on the space you allocate to the customer n not on additional space. If I was to give space to customers then I would let them choose how to use it. You allegedly can’t read the mail, so what difference is there to protonmail to protonmail over wanting to store an outsiders mail on your servers presumably on the space allocated to the customer?

    Lastly for myself. I have the android app with no built in instructions nor can I easily find if there is an idiots guide here on the website.
    Please enlighten me to what the symbol which looks like an eye with a line through it means please.

  27. ProtonMail Support

    The storage you have is for the messages and attachments you receive. All messages use up that storage. No matter where the message is, it takes up storage until you permanently delete it. The only messages that are automatically deleted are the ones sent with an expiration time, or encrypted messages to outside, which have a maximum expiration time of 28 days.

    The eye you see on the password field is a toggle allowing you to see or not see the password you are typing.

  28. Kyab

    I’ve only used 43mb of my storage space – yet my inbox emails prior to May 2016 are missing. This has happened in my other protonmail account too. All emails – both sent and received are missing; and I haven’t reached my storage limit nor have I doeoeted all of these emails.

  29. ProtonMail Support

    Please contact us on or via the Report bug button for assistance.

  30. Paul Janzen

    I have the same problem, except I can’t see any of my emails older than 2 weeks.

  31. ProtonMail Support

    Please check if there is more than one page of emails in your Inbox. You can find the page selector in the upper right corner beneath your username.

  32. Kyab

    I’ve only used 43mb of my storage space – yet in this and my other protonmail account all older emails (in this instance, prior to May 2016) are gone. They are gone from both my sent and received boxes, but there were still older emails in the draft box. I haven’t archived the emails, so that is not an option.

  33. ProtonMail Support

    Please contact us on or via the report bug button for assistance.

  34. proton user

    By default and for security reasons I believe that it is good for all messages to be deleted after a period of time. If some-one wants to hold onto the message maybe it should be copied and saved somewhere else. Also how does anyone know who is making some of these non secure comments. It could be some one trying to destroy the secure privacy structure.

  35. Victor Rodriguez

    Why would you need to encrypt an email message sent to another ProtonMail user? Isn’t all ProtonMail email encrypted? Then why the need to add additional encryption for messages between ProtonMail users?

  36. Matt S

    I would like to see an option to delete a message immediately after being read. If a message is not read prior to the expiration time it would be deleted. NoteShred does this and it’s perfect. Simple check box on the expiration options would do it. Greatly reduces risk and you don’t have to try to get your expiration time just right..

  37. I L Milne

    I am no longer “able to find” many emails that I received in my INBOX during March to April 2018. Some even had attachments!
    Also, during this same period “The Replies” I sent to many of these same emails are longer in the “Sentbox”.


    Unable to find any on the Advanced Search either!

    Can you advise?


  38. ProtonMail Support

    Please contact our support team using the support form at, or send a message to or

  39. LammTech

    Protonmail is really very secure as it is an encrypted email service that uses a different approach to email security. Thank you

  40. Michal

    Please, make it possible to set expiration of the emails sent to non-protonmail emails to “never” at least for paying customers. I see your replies above that the reason why there is the maximum of 28 days is because the messages are stored on your servers. But that can’t be the reason – you store the incoming and outgoing non-encrypted emails on your servers too, and they just increase the used storage but stay there without expiration. I understand that the encrypted emails require more storage – I’m ok with the encrypted emails eating much more storage space of my limit. I’m considering paying for the Plus, but this holds me back.

  41. Daniele Bizzini

    how can I restore the e-mails I have mistakenly deleted ????

  42. ProtonMail Support

    Go to the Trash folder and move the messages back to the inbox. If you have deleted them from Trash as well, they are permanently deleted and cannot be recovered.

  43. Strawman

    Please implement an option to set a default expiration time for each individual addressee in Contacts.

  44. User

    When an email is deleted because of the expiration date (or deleted in general), are the metadata deleted from your server as well ?

  45. ProtonMail Support

    Yes, everything is deleted once a message is deleted from the server.

  46. Anonymous

    If an email has been set to expire, does the entire thread of emails linked to that original email also disappear?

  47. ProtonMail Support

    No, only the message that has expiration time set will disappear.

  48. AgreesWithMichal

    It seems that if I a (paying) user sends a ‘secure’ /encrypted email to a non Proton Mail user that the email will disappear from my sent folder after 28 days (or other expiration time if I explicitly set one). Is this correct?

    If I send an unencrypted email to an outside user then it will stay indefinitely in my sent folder. Is this also correct?

    If the answer is yes to both it seems odd and counterintuitive.

  49. ProtonMail Support

    If you send a message with a password to a non-ProtonMail user without changing the expiration time, the message in your Sent folder does not expire. The link that the recipient gets will become invalid after 28 days.
    If you do change the expiration time, the message will expire for both the sender and recipient after the set period of time.

    For unencrypted emails, yes, those do not expire.

  50. Anonymous

    Want a default expiration time option.

  51. userproton

    When the expiration time ends in a proton to proton senaria, are the message fully wiped from your servers in the same time? Or do your servers store the encrypted message in an amount of time? How long? Or its only deletes in the users inboxes so it get invisible?

  52. ProtonMail Support

    When sending messages with expiration time from ProtonMail to ProtonMail, the message is permanently deleted from both mailboxes once the time is up.

  53. Hamza

    How do I know the addressee
    Read my message
    Please I need an answer
    Urgent and necessary

  54. ProtonMail Support

    If the recipient’s email provider supports it, you can request a read receipt.

  55. Antwan

    I accidentally sent an email withou blind CC. I’m guessing there is nothing I can do about it, right?

  56. ProtonMail Support

    Unfortunately, sent emails cannot be recalled.

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