My messages have gone missing

The Quick Answer

When messages go missing in a Gmail account, it's typically due to one of the following:

  • A configuration issue with IMAP or POP access
  • Settings applied to incoming mail, such as a filter or forwarding
  • Deliberate or accidental human action, or possibly a compromised account

To help you investigate what happened to your messages, we'll walk you through a step-by-step process to eliminate possible causes of your missing messages.

Step 1: Search all messages

Sign in to Gmail, then click here to prepare a search.

Fill in the search fields with the details you remember confidently. If you're not certain about any field, leave it blank (Gmail won't return your result if an exact word match isn't found or the word is misspelled).

In the 'Search:' drop-down menu:

  1. Select Mail & Spam & Trash.
  2. Click the Search Mail button.
  3. Look for the message(s) in the search results displayed.

If you didn't find your message(s), move on to Step 2.

Step 2: Check 'All Mail' and 'Trash'

Click on All Mail on the left side of your Gmail page to see if the messages have been moved from your Inbox. If that doesn't work, try looking in Trash, which is also on the left side of your Gmail page. If you do not see All Mail or Trash, click the more link at the bottom of your labels list.

If you didn't find your message(s), move on to Step 3.

Step 3: Check your forwarding and POP/IMAP settings
  • Forwarding: In the 'Forwarding and POP/IMAP' tab of your Settings, check if forwarding is enabled.

    If so, make sure you haven't configured your settings to 'delete Gmail's copy,' or Gmail will move all messages to Trash when they're forwarded to your other account. To keep all messages in your inbox, select 'keep Gmail's copy in the Inbox' from the drop-down menu.

  • POP: If POP is enabled, make sure you haven't configured your settings to delete Gmail's copy, or Gmail will move all messages to Trash when they're accessed with POP. To keep all messages in your inbox, select Keep Gmail's copy in the Inbox from the 'POP Download:' drop-down menu.

    If you are using 'recent mode' with POP access, configure your POP client to leave messages on the server.

  • IMAP: If you access your mail using IMAP, make sure you're using our Recommended IMAP client settings.
Step 4: Check your filters

Check to see if you have any filters set up. Filters can automatically move incoming mail to other places in your account. Please check the 'Filters' tab of your Settings to verify your settings, even if you don't think you've set any up. Make sure you don't have filters that are deleting your mail, or causing messages to skip your inbox.

If you can't find your messages in 'All Mail', 'Spam', or 'Trash', or by performing a search, then they've been permanently removed from Gmail. Messages that users place in Trash are purged from the trash every 30 days. Or users can go into Trash and choose to purge immediately.

Similarly, you may restore your contacts within 30 days using these instructions.

Step 5: Check your account access

If you're unable to find missing data, it's possible your account has been compromised. Some users have reported missing messages as a result of unauthorized access. If you suspect your account has been accessed, follow the article My account has been compromised.

In the past, users have reported that they are missing messages as a result of unauthorized access. If your account was compromised and you would like us to investigate whether recovery is possible, please first complete the process described in Recovering deleted messages to secure your account and then file a report indicating your messages have gone missing.