How to stop old email addresses appearing automatically in the ‘To’ field in mail app

Have you ever gone to send an email in OS X, and when you start to type the person’s name all their past 5 email addresses come up, even though you have deleted them from Address Book (Contacts App)? Where are the addresses coming from and how do you get rid of them?

Apple mail on the mac keeps track of every person you have received an email from. This makes it easy to send them an email even if they are not in your address book. But this feature becomes a pain when people change their email address and Apple mail remembers the old one. It’s simple to fix though.

To delete a person’s old email address, in Mail  go to ‘Window’ menu and ‘Previous Recipients’.

Then click on the old email address and press the ‘Remove from List’ button.

You should do this anytime someone sends you a ‘my email address has changed’ email.

If this doesn’t work,  there are some good tips in the comments below!


97 responses to “How to stop old email addresses appearing automatically in the ‘To’ field in mail app”

  1. Adam

    How do this on the iphone? I get mail suggestions from very old people that I dont email anymore and I would not like to accidentaly email them. thanks

  2. rose

    Sorry, but this did not work. i have deleted the old addresses from the previous recipients list and also from the address book. The old addresses do not show up in the address book anymore, but they still come up when i start a new mail message.
    Any other suggestions?

    1. Hmmm. You are using the Apple mail app?

    2. Strange.I’m thinking maybe you just missed that particular address. Try this…

      Open a new email, and enter the address.
      Press Return to finish the address so it turns blue.
      Click the small down arrow on the right of their name.
      From the dropdown menu choose ‘Remove from Previous Recipients List’
      See if that works.

      1. Wade Hendrix

        Nope..It doesn’t work.

  3. Mike

    I have a similar issue that I think is more suspicious. I was forwarding a message to myself from a secondary email account. One of the auto suggested options for me was with my name in ( ). Is it possible this is evidence of someone getting into my contacts list? Do the steps you suggest remove this from everything? Thanks.

    1. My guess is that Apple mail picked up that address from a spam email that you received. Yes it should be removed – give it a go and see if it re-appears!

  4. Wendi James

    I have a similar issues. I changed my name – marriage, but I’ve kept my old email address. I have changed my name everywhere on my computer, iCloud, yahoo mail, etc and it keeps revering back to displaying my old name in my yahoo mail. I keep deleting it when it auto fills, but then a day or so later the old name shows back up. I cannot figure out where it is coming from. Any ideas? I don’t want to delete all emails in my yahoo account with my old name on it.

    1. Under ‘System Preferences’ then ‘Internet Accounts’ you can see all the places that OSX is syncing to get information. (e.g. Yahoo, Google, Facebook etc.) You may need to go into each of those areas and delete email addresses. e.g. If you have an old email address in facebook, OSX will see that, so delete or change the email address in facebook. etc.

  5. Humph

    I found that some of the names were from other email accounts that I access via the apple mail on my mac (I have Gmail, BTmail, iCloud all ‘forwarded’ to my apple mail, so I only look in one email app)
    I went back to each individual email client, (e.g. Gmail) and looked in the (Google) address book in this case, found the errant addresses, and deleted them there. Did the same with BT, iCloud etc
    Fixed the issue for me… hope it helps

    1. Good tip – thanks Humph!

  6. Carol Jones

    How do you do this on an iPad or iPhone? Do you need to do it on the Mac and then it will synch? I really need to sort this as it is causing a lot of problems for me.

  7. Jim Thompson

    None of these suggestions work on my iPhone6

  8. Lala

    I was sending an email and my friend’s contacts appeared as “recent”. And we haven’t ever shared our apple ids . Help!

    1. Hanne

      Have you exchanged iMessages? A lot of people use their Apple ID for iMessage.

  9. sandy

    Is there a way to turn off the sent emails from being stored in memory?

    1. Google search “os x disable previous recipients” and it will lead you here.

      Apparently you can type this in Terminal and it will turn it off…

      defaults write SuppressAddressHistory -bool true

      1. Bas Meijer

        Very old tip, at least not working with me any more (OS X Mojave)

  10. Chris

    None of the above work – the only way to remove old addresses from appearing in an email address dropdown is to remove them from within your contacts app [book] – then go through it and ensure its up to date to resolve any other addressing issues in the future.
    hope this helps

    1. Yes they need to be removed from the contacts app first. This tip is for if they still appear AFTER you have removed them from contacts. I think the article says that.

  11. Keith Wolfe

    My cousin changed her email address. The old one still appears in my email lineup. How do I delete the old one?

  12. How to get rid of all old email address:
    When they all showed up in a drop-down table (old ones, wrong ones, unknown ones; you need to delete them one by one (down arrow; & pick the “X” to delete the damn thing) !
    Good Luck.

  13. Floretta

    1. On iPad – make sure the unwanted address is not in your address book. If it is remove it.
    2. Go to mail , inbox and new message. When you type in the address you want to send a message to, all the available email addresses will show up for you to choose from.
    3. Go to the address you want to remove. There should be an i beside the address. Hold down the i until a drop down menu appears. Go to the bottom of the drop down and press “delete from recent”. This is what works on my iPad 3

    1. That’s great Floretta – thanks.

      1. This is such a good tip I’ve written a seperate article on it – thanks Floretta!

    2. thomas

      That used to work well. now thoug, the remove/delete from recent does not appear as an option.

  14. JTFloore

    my address book recently had numerous addresses — hundreds of them — dumped into it from somewhere else. many of them look valid since they have university or govt addresses, but virtually all of them are people/institutions I have had no contact with. how could this happen? and how can I stop it from happening again?

  15. DC

    Your suggestions worked beautifully. I did get stuck with one address, but when l reread one of your responses to a comment about removing addresses from my contact list first, it then worked. I realise that you mentioned it in your article, but l think l glossed over that section.

    1. Great – thanks for the feedback. Wayne.

  16. Jorge

    I tried all of the above, but it will not work! I have an iPhone 6s Plus and since the new software upgrade, I no longer have the option of deleting the damn wrong email address?! I press the i but it won’t give me the option to delete it??? Please help!

  17. Mrs Page

    Made sure contact was deleted from both my gmail and mail contact books, then followed above instructions, then quit mail. Reopened, that annoying old address was gone. Brilliant instructions. Just 1, 2, 3. Thank you so much for your time and effort.

  18. Kim shannon

    As stated above, on the iPhone 6 the delete contact option is NOT available anymore. It IS available if you are doing this process for text messages but NOT for email addresses. Please advise.

  19. Wendy

    I have all these emails that keep popping up every time I go to send an email.
    They are not in my contacts…and pressing the “i” does not give me the option to “delete/remove”.
    I have an iPhone 5c
    Please Help!

  20. Keith

    This problem has only happened since apple introduced ios9 and the fix is this :open settings-mail,contacts,calenders and scroll down to contacts found in mail and turn off the green switch then power off the phone and re-boot . problem gone!

    1. thomas

      Thanks Keith,
      I have tried that and the remove option does not appear and the old email address still shows up…

  21. Margaret

    Same here. I press the i button, “remove from recents” no longer an option. Help!
    Why do they change stuff that works??

    1. So, the blue ‘i’ appears but then when you press it the red ‘Remove from Recents’ is not there? Is that what you are saying?

      1. Margaret

        Yes. That is no longer an option. If you read a few responses from above youll see others have already mentioned it.
        Very frustrating to not have a way to permanently delete.

      2. Kim

        Hi Wayne! Yes that’s the issue I’m having and it sounds
        Iike others as well.

  22. Margaret

    Yes. Blue i appears but ‘remove from recents’ no longer an option.

  23. babu

    How do i delete the email address which is appearing in the address bar though i deleted from the contacts list and from the address history. I need a solution immtly.

  24. Marie Nichols

    To: Mr Wayne, or, anyone who can help! I am gonna sound ignorant and I must be. I am very 🐌 slow in recalling things, and I missplace things easily. I have a few different email accounts that I have created since around 2006 and new phones and forgetting passwords…well, I can’t get rid of old email addresses to even make any new ones. Each one I think I remember, is always wrong. And, then those passwords! I learn one step at a time. Could you please walk me thru clearing out the old in favor of new ones???? I would be so greatful. Marie

  25. The following seems to have worked for me on the iPad (v9.1): Go to Settings>Mail>Contacts Found in Mail and set this off. Then go to the Mail app and start to construct an email for the recipient concerned; when offered the list of suggested addresses find the address that you want to delete and press the blue “i” alongside it. Now, as a result of deselecting Contacts Found in Mail, you can now see an option “Remove from Recents” so choose this and then optionally go back to Settings and reselect Contacts Found in Mail. (I did so because this feature is useful for most of the time).

    1. Sounds good Pete.

    2. Bobbi Hampel

      Doesn’t work for me. Some email addresses come up with the circled blue i and others don’t. The one I want to quit coming up doesn’t have the blue i. I don’t understand why.

    3. Trish

      Hi. I am a teacher and my “recents” come up whenever I go to send an email from the student iPads. But it’s my personal contacts that are coming up as recents. I can’t go and delete 240 recents from coming individually on all the iPads for the class so how do I stop them from showing up in all the iPads… without going through individually in each one for each contact?

      1. I’d say make sure you are using a different Apple ID for your personal iPad and your student’s iPads. You might have to talk to the IT person who set them up.

  26. Jim Johnson

    I want to remove a group, but not the members of the group. When I start to type in the group name, two groups are suggested. They contain some, but not all of the same names. How do I remove the group I do not want suggested, without removing the individuals in the group?

    1. If you go into contacts on your computer, and delete a group, the individuals in the group are not removed from your contacts.

  27. Robbyn

    When I go to the Mail and then ‘Window’ and then ‘Previous Recipients’, remove the email address, then go email the address is still appearing.
    Surely there must be a way. Please help.

    1. Is it in your contacts?

  28. Barbara Peth

    How can I do this on an iPad?

  29. Patrick

    Awesome! Thanks!!

  30. jross

    The addresses that I want to permanently remove are removed In contacts. When I try to remove them in mail, there is not an “i” or an arrow, so how do I delete them?

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