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How to Retrieve Your Deleted (Or Archived) Emails in Gmail

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This post is part of a series called Your Ultimate Guide to the Best Gmail Tips and Tricks.
How to Permanently Mass Delete All Emails in Gmail (Quickly)
How to Back Up All Your Gmail Emails (Complete Guide)

You know that you received an important email from your boss, but the message is no longer in your Gmail inbox. Maybe in your rush to declutter your inbox you've accidentally deleted or misplaced an email you really need? It could easily happen. 

So, what should you do now? You need to find that missing Gmail message. First, don't panic. You're probably worried that you're going to have to contact your boss and admit that you deleted their email. How embarrassing! 

But with Gmail, you may not have to bother your boss at all. There are several methods that you can use to recover deleted emails in Gmail or other missing messages.

In this tutorial, we'll explore the various ways to recover deleted emails. You'll learn how to retrieve deleted emails from Gmail. We'll look at how to access archived emails. We'll also explore why archiving old emails may be better than deleting them, especially if you're not sure whether you'll need a message in the future.

How to Retrieve Deleted or Archived Emails from Gmail (Video)

The following screencast quickly explains how to recover deleted emails in Gmail.

 

For detailed guidance on how to retrieve deleted emails from Gmail, review the written instructions below:

1. How to Find & Recover a Deleted Gmail Email From the Trash

If an email was deleted, it is likely in the Trash folder. Unless you permanently deleted the email, you can recover it from the Trash folder if it's been in the folder less than 30 days. Gmail messages that have been in the folder longer than that are automatically deleted.

In this section, you'll learn how to find and recover a Gmail that's been accidentally deleted. 

Step 1. Find and Open the Trash Folder

When you first open your Gmail inbox, it may look something like this:

Gmail inbox
Start by opening your Gmail inbox.

As you can see, the Trash folder isn't visible. To find it, click the More option on the left side of the screen. Your menu options expand:

Find and open Gmail Trash folder
Next, find and open your Gmail Trash folder.

Your Trash folder appears on the menu. Click the Trash option to open the folder:

Open Gmail Trash folder
Your Trash folder opens. Notice that the words in:trash appear in the search bar.

Step 2. Use Gmail Search to Retrieve Deleted Emails from Gmail

You may be able to see your missing Gmail message as soon as you open the Trash folder. If so, good for you.

However, if you've got a lot of emails in your Trash folder, it may take more effort to retrieve your deleted email message. Use the scroll bar on the right of the screen to move through the emails on your screen. If there's more than one screen of messages, use the left and right arrows at the top right of your screen to move through the screens:

Trash folder navigation
Use the left and right arrows to navigate through your Trash folder if you've got multiple screens.

But scrolling through the screens of email messages in this fashion could be time consuming. There's an easier way. You can use the Gmail search bar to find your missing message in the Trash folder. To start, click the down arrow in the right of the search bar. The Advanced Search dialog box displays:

Gmail Advanced Search dialog box
Use the Advanced Search dialog box to find a specific message in your Trash folder.

The best way to find your missing message is to type what you know about it into the search fields in the Advanced Search dialog box. 

In this example, I am looking for an email sent in May of the year about an upcoming conference. I type the information I've got in the search fields:

Fill out the Advanced Search dialog box
Fill out the Advanced Search dialog box with details about your Gmail message.

Tip: The more information you type into the dialog box, the more you narrow your search down. Be careful not to enter incorrect information, though, since that can keep you from retrieving your deleted email.

When you've finished entering information, click the Search button (it looks like a magnifying glass) in the lower left of the dialog box. The search results appear:

Gmail Trash folder search results
All the messages that meet your search parameters display.

In this case, the search parameters were specific enough that they returned the missing email message. If more than one email meets the search criteria, you'll see multiple messages on this screen.

Learn more about how to use the Gmail search tool in this tutorial:

Step 3. Recover a Deleted Email from Gmail

Now that we've found our missing email, it's time to get it out of the Trash folder. To do that, click the checkbox to the right of the email to select it. Your screen should look like this:

Recover a deleted email from Gmail Trash
To recover a deleted email from Gmail Trash, select the email and click the Move to Inbox folder.

Click the Move to Inbox button above the message. Your email is moved from the Trash folder to your Gmail Inbox. You've just learned how to retrieve deleted emails from Gmail.

2. How to Recover Permanently Deleted Emails

If your deleted Gmail email message isn't in the trash, it's likely that it was permanently deleted. There are several ways this can happen:

  • You emptied your Trash folder.
  • You selected the message in your Trash folder and clicked the Delete forever button.
  • The email was automatically deleted from your Trash folder after 30 days.

Study this tutorial to discover more details about Gmail email deletion: How to Permanently Mass Delete All Emails in Gmail (Quickly)

If you've accidentally permanently deleted an email message (or messages), the Gmail email might still be on one of Google's servers. There's a chance that you may be able to recover a permanently deleted email with the help of Google Support. 

Here's what to do:

Step 1. Gather Information

Put together as much information as you can about the missing Gmail email(s). Here are some of the details you'll need:

  • Your Gmail address
  • When the Gmail(s) disappeared (approximately)
  • Details about what steps you took to try and retrieve the deleted email(s)

Step 2. Contact Google Support

Type this URL in your browser's address field: support.google.com/mail/contact/missingemails

Fill out the fields on the Gmail Help screen that displays. After you've entered all your information, click Submit to send your request to Google Support.

Caution: There's no guarantee that Google Support can restore your deleted Gmail email. That's why it's better to archive an old Gmail message than to delete it. I'll show you how to retrieve archived emails in Gmail in the next section.

3. How to Access Archived Emails in Gmail

Avoid the frustration of permanently losing a Gmail email by using Gmail's Archive feature. Archiving old messages is better than deleting them. Archived Gmails aren't automatically deleted after 30 days. And if you know what to do, you can easily restore an archived Gmail email.  

You may be worried that your Gmail archive will use up your available Google storage space. But remember that even a free Google account comes with 15 GB of storage (shared between Google Drive, Gmail, and Google Photos). So, odds are that you won't fill up your Google storage with archived messages very quickly. Plus, you can buy additional storage if you really need to. 

If you don't know how to archive a Gmail message, it's easy to do. Simply select the email you want to archive in your inbox and click the Archive button on the toolbar above the messages: 

Archive a deleted Gmail message
It's better to archive a Gmail message than to delete it.

Here's how to restore an archived email message:

Step 1. Retrieve Archived Gmail 

You can't open your Gmail archive the way you can open your Trash folder. But that doesn't mean you can't access archived emails in Gmail. 

You can find Gmail emails in your archive with the All Mail option. Start with your Gmail inbox open. Click More to the left of your Gmail emails to expand your options. Here's a screen with the expanded options:

All Mail option in Gmail
Use the All Mail option in Gmail to recover archived messages.

Click the All Mail option. All the mail in your Gmail system displays, including archived messages:

Gmail screen show All Mail
All the mail in your Gmail system displays except for mail in the Trash or Spam folder.

Important: All Mail doesn't show messages in your Spam or Trash folders.

Use the scroll bar to the right to scroll through the Gmail email messages and find the archived email you're looking for.

Step 2. Access Archived Emails 

Using the All Mail option can be a great way to retrieve an archived Gmail email message if you don't have many emails in your archive.

If your Gmail archive is full, you'll save time if you use the Gmail Advanced Search tool. The process is very similar to the method we used the Search tool to find Gmail emails in your Trash folder.

With your Gmail inbox open, click the down arrow in the right of the search bar. The Advanced Search dialog box displays:

Gmail Advanced Search dialog box set to All Mail
Retrieve archived Gmail messages using the Advanced Search tool.

Make sure that the Search parameter at the top of the dialog box is set to All Mail.

In this example, I've lost an important meeting notice. I type the word "meeting" in the Has the words field on the Advanced Search dialog box. I'm not sure when the email was sent out, so I set the Date within parameter to within 1 year.

When you've finished entering information, click the Search button (it looks like a magnifying glass) in the lower left of the dialog box. The search results appear:

Recover archived emails
The search results help you to recover archived emails in Gmail.

In this case, the search parameters were general and returned several Gmail emails with the word "meeting" in the email. The email I was hoping to retrieve from the Gmail archive, however, appears at the top of the screen.

Step 3.  Move Archived Gmails to Your Inbox

Now that we've learned how to retrieve archived emails in Gmail, it's time put the retrieved messages back into the Gmail inbox. To do that, click the checkbox to the right of the email to select it. Your screen should look like this:

Restore archived Gmail email to the inbox
Use the Move to Inbox button to restore the archived Gmail email to the inbox.

Click the Move to Inbox button above the email messages. Your email is moved from the Gmail archives to your Gmail Inbox. You've just learned how to retrieve and restore archived emails in Gmail.

4. How to Retrieve a Gmail Email From the Spam Folder

There's one final place to look for your misplaced Gmail email. It may be in your Spam folder. Usually the emails in your Spam folder are junk that you don't need to worry about, but sometimes an important email ends up there by mistake.

The link to your Spam folder is below the All Mail link:

Finding your Spam folder in Gmail
Sometimes messages are accidentally sent to the Gmail Spam folder.

To open the Spam filter, click the link. The Spam folder opens. To retrieve a Gmail email message you find in spam, use the checkbox the left of the email to select it. Click the Not spam button at the top of the screen to send the message to All Mail. Or, move the selected email directly to your inbox or other email folder.

Warning: Messages in your Spam folder are automatically deleted after 30 days. So, if the message you're looking for was sent to spam more than a month ago, it won't be in your folder.

5. Reduce Email Accidents With Better Email Management

You're less likely to accidentally delete or misfile a Gmail email message if you're following good email management practices. Learn how to reduce your email inbox clutter with our free eBook: 

 Free eBook PDF Inbox Zero

If you're interested in learning more about email management with Gmail, this tutorial is another good resource:

Conclusion

If you know what to do, you can find missing your missing email messages. In this tutorial, you've learned how to retrieve deleted emails from Gmail. You've also learned how to access archived emails and how to recover archived emails. We've even discussed how to find missing messages in the Spam folder.

Now you know what steps to take if you can't find a Gmail email message. Never worry about a lost email again.

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