How to find a lost message in Gmail

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Vicki Pen lost three important messages from her Gmail inbox. I help her find them.

I know of only three ways to completely and permanently destroy a message in Gmail:

  1. Mark the message as spam, then empty the Spam folder.
  2. Delete the message, then go to Trash and delete it again.
  3. Delete the message, then wait 30 days, after which Gmail will automatically erase it.

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In other words, chances are that you simply misplaced the messages, moving them to another label by mistake. If that's the case, finding them shouldn't be too difficult. (Remember that in Gmail, a label acts much like a folder in other programs, except that you can assign multiple labels to any message or conversation. See How to manage Gmail labels for details.)

To find a lost message, search for a word or words that will be in that message, and hopefully not in too many others. The search results are sorted by date, so finding the right one shouldn't be too difficult.

But if you can't find the message, look at the bottom of the list. If you see the words "Deleted messages match your search," click the View them link.

If that doesn't work, check your Spam section.

Of course, it's possible that you could have deleted them for good, in one of the three ways I describe above. Those accidents may not be likely, but they're certainly possible.

In that case, you may have no alternative except contacting the person who sent you the email (or who you sent it to) and ask for a copy.

See Back up Gmail to a local drive for adding another level of protection.

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