Need to find and recover a gmail message? The whole ordeal is sort of like misplacing your car keys. A long day of meetings finally ends. You gather your belongings and exit the building. As you walk out, you reach for your keys. They’re gone. Or, at the very least, your keys aren’t in their usual spot.
Your heartbeat quickens and a search begins. First, you look through everything you’re wearing and carrying. Next, you retrace your path. After that, it’s time to call for help.
That moment of panic—when you expect to find something, but can’t—can happen with Gmail, too.
If you can’t locate an email you’ve previously viewed in Gmail, follow the sequence below before you call for help. Your help desk team will appreciate it. Skip the steps, and they’ll ask the same thing a friend might when you call about your missing keys: “Well, where have you searched so far?”
Search nearby places
Check the Trash first. When you delete an email, Gmail moves it to the Trash. The deleted email stays there 30 days, then Gmail deletes it. If the desired email is here, select it, then move it back to your inbox—or, in your browser, drag-and-drop the email to any other Gmail label.
Make sure to check your Spam folder for mail that people tell you they’ve sent, but you never received. Sometimes Gmail places mail from legitimate senders in Spam. Mark email that’s been misclassified as “not spam”, and Gmail will move the email to your Inbox.
You might also look in the “All Mail” label. When you archive an email, Gmail moves it here. “All Mail” shows, well, all your mail, typically with most recent items first. Sometimes, you’ll find an item here that’s been accidentally moved or mis-labeled.
Next, try a search. Select the triangle to the left of the blue search symbol in the box above Gmail. Enter information in the fields to help narrow your search. Review the results—and repeat the process with slightly different search criteria, if necessary. Typically you’ll find the email you’re looking for within the first two or three search attempts.
Check your path
It’s possible that an email never makes it to your Inbox. Or, more precisely, that an email makes it to your Inbox then is managed and moved so quickly that you never see it. You’ll need to access your Gmail settings to review these next two items.
Look for a Filter that moves or deletes mail. Scan your list for filters with actions after “Do this:” that include “Delete It”, “Skip Inbox”, or “Forward It”. Review any filter that includes “Delete It”, as those filters remove email that match the filter criteria from your account. The other two options may move mail in ways you don’t intend.
Next, check “Forwarding and POP/IMAP” settings. Configure forwarding incorrectly, and you can send your email to another account and delete your copy without meaning to! POP/IMAP settings may allow another email program to access your email and make changes you don’t want. (For example, if IMAP is active, choose “Archive the message” when a message is marked as deleted and expunged. The other options delete mail.)
Call for help
If your missing mail remains unexplained and unrecovered, it’s time to get help. The following items apply only to Google Apps accounts, not regular Gmail accounts.
Backupify offers self-help. Assuming your company has added their Backupify solution, you can restore any email that the system’s saved. From Gmail, choose the app launcher (the 3x3 grid of squares) in the upper right, then choose the Backupify app. You can select a label and/or enter a keyword and search to find saved email. Select your email, then restore, and confirm your choice. Your email will restore to your Inbox shortly.
You organization’s Google Apps Administrator may also be able to help. An Administrator may be able to restore email from the past 30 days—including items deleted from Trash. The Administrator chooses a date range, then restores data to one or more accounts. Google Apps limits the restore period to the prior 30 days. (Learn more about the restore process from Google.)
Hopefully, one of the steps above can help you find and restore your missing Gmail. If your company relies heavily on email (what company doesn’t?), it might be time to consider a cloud-to-cloud backup solution to ensure that if an email is ever permanently deleted by mistake, it can be retrieved.
The next time mail goes missing, search for mail just like you search for your keys: look nearby first, then check your path, then seek help.