How to recover deleted emails in Gmail

What to do if you accidentally hit the delete button on an important message in Gmail

A screenshot shown the Gmail logo

We've all been there; you're in the middle of sorting through your inbox or replying to an important email when you accidentally hit the wrong button and delete something that you didn't mean to. Suddenly, that long email chain full of vital information is consigned to oblivion.

This can be embarrassing and annoying but thankfully, it isn't the end of the world, especially if you're using Gmail, which has a couple of built-in mechanisms to stop this from happening. These tools can also help you to recover emails that you've deleted on purpose but then need to retrieve at a later date.

It should be noted, however, that these safety mechanisms aren't foolproof, and not every deleted email can be successfully recovered. It's good practice to ensure that you make a note of any important information outside of your email inbox, just in case anything happens to it.

Recover deleted emails in Gmail: Trash folder

Google is well aware that it's easy to accidentally delete an important email or to decide post-deletion that an email was actually more important than you first realised. For this reason, Gmail doesn't immediately erase your emails when you hit the delete button. Instead, it sends them to a separate 'trash' folder, from which emails can be viewed and recovered as necessary.

Don't leave it too long, however, as Google deletes emails from the trash folder after 30 days, unless your organization uses Google Vault. The information governance and eDiscovery tool for Google Workspace enables users to retrieve data older than 25 days if it was subject to retention rules or holds. Deleted emails can also be retrieved from the Admin console, which lets admins restore messages that were permanently deleted from a user’s Trash within 25 days of deletion. However, after 25 days, the data is gone forever. 

If you do accidentally delete an email and you haven't cleared the trash yet, it's worth heading to the trash folder and searching for the email you think might be gone for good. Of course, if you're not sure what it was called or can't remember any other information that may appear in it (such as the recipient), you can browse through the entire folder.

When you've found the email, you can live it back to your inbox or file it away in a folder by clicking on the folder icon under the search bar. You can also return it to its previous location by tapping the x' next to the trash icon by the subject line.

However, if you've permanently deleted your email from the trash, or 30 days have elapsed since you deleted it (Gmail automatically clears emails from the trash 30 days after they were placed there), then you'll have to dig a little deeper.

Recover deleted emails in Gmail: My message has been emptied from the Trash folder

If you can't find the email in the Trash folder, this may be because you have either accidentally emptied the Trash folder or hit the "Delete Forever" button on a message.

If this has happened, you can send a request to the Gmail Support Team to ask it to recover these deleted messages and emails in your Gmail account. However, don't get your hopes up as there's a good chance that the messages have well and truly disappeared into the ether. This service is geared more towards messages that have gone missing as the result of a Gmail account being compromised.

To submit an enquiry, you simply need to go to Gmail's missing email web page and then fill out the form with the necessary details, such as the email address from which the emails have been deleted, whether you are currently logged in, and a short description of the problem. 

When this is all filled out, click on the Submit button. It isn't likely that they'll be able to find the email for you though, and the longer you wait, the less chance that an email can be recovered.

Recover deleted emails in Gmail: I can't find the Trash folder!

Sometimes the Trash folder is hidden from view. If you can't see the folder, open "Settings" via cog icon above the messages. Click on this, then the Labels tab in settings, scroll down and stop on Trash labels and click on the show button. You will now be able to see the Trash folder and recover any emails found in there. 

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