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I am in the process of cleaning up the user database on a forum.

A small percentage of registrations basically never perform any actions and never come back after registration.

What is the general recommendation for managing user accounts which have registered, but which have not ever taken any action e.g. posting, and have not ever come back after initially registering? Would it be acceptable to simply delete these after some period of time has passed?

  • Would the users lose anything if they came back and re-created their accounts later? There's a difference between, say, an SE account with associated posts and badges and rep, on the one hand, and a lightweight login ID that just gets you access to content and nothing else (e.g. Tor free e-books). – Monica Cellio Mar 16 '17 at 21:53
  • No, in my question I specify that the deletions would be only for those accounts which were created and then had no further activity. Basically registered the account and nothing more. Any accounts that had any activity whatsoever would be left alone. – GWR Mar 17 '17 at 2:40
  • Thanks; I some how read "never perform any actions" as meaning after the initial session and thought maybe they did some things on that first visit. But your question is clear; I was having an "insufficient caffeine" moment or some such. :-) – Monica Cellio Mar 17 '17 at 2:46
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I have managed forums that follow both policies - keep every account ever made and delete inactive users. There are perceived benefits to both, but if the account is unused it probably doesn't matter one way or the other what you decide to do with the accounts.

Delete Unused accounts

The benefit of deleting these unused accounts is a cleaner user base. You have potential spammers and bad actors removed from your system. I didn't run the process to remove old users on a scheduled basis. Usually it'd be run after a new spam wave hit the forum.

I started doing this because many of the accounts I was getting hit with were sleeper accounts. They'd register and not post for a month or two. Same day registration and postings were not as common as you'd expect, in my case. Thus, deleting the accounts that were never used (never even logged in) within a month solved many of my recurring spam problems on that particular community.

The downside of this, is that you occasionally remove a user that is just slow to getting around to using the community. In this community's case, this was unfortunate, but an acceptable risk. We didn't remove accounts that had logged in, just ones that registered and never returned.

Keep everything

In another community, we kept everything that registered, unless it explicitly spammed the site. This method guarantees that users that registered will have an account if they return. It also increases the membership numbers so that the community looks larger.

Many forum software packages show number of registered users some place. It's much more impressive to see a number in the 10s-100s of thousands than it is to see a number in the thousands. Even if most of those are inactive, the number number gives the perception that the community is bigger.

This community was larger than the one where we deleted inactive users, so it was able to handle spam better on its own. That makes it hard to tell if if having these inactive accounts sticking around was a problem or not.


If the accounts are inactive, they aren't hurting you since they aren't being used. I liked deleting the inactive ones, because it reflected a much more accurate view of how large the community was.

  • Great stuff here, good food for thought. One of the main reasons I was considering the "Delete Unused Accounts" scenario is that for all of those deleted accounts, the "user name" goes back into the pool of "available" user names, potentially reducing the friction of others signing up. – GWR Oct 27 '15 at 13:52
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    That's a good point. I didn't consider that since the forum allowed users to set their display name and there wasn't a duplication limit. Many of the "sleeper" accounts seemed to be randomly generated too. – Andy Oct 27 '15 at 13:54
  • @Andy There is a significant difference between real accounts and bot accounts, troll accounts, and similar. While consideration should be given for whether or not to delete an account created by a real person, generated accounts should be frozen or deleted as they are a waste of resources. – Underverse Mar 19 '17 at 11:46
  • The "delete unused accounts" applies in the workplace where if a user has left the organisation and never contributed to the community then their account can be deleted - unless management requires statistics on how many people registered, ever. – Underverse Mar 19 '17 at 11:51

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