Gmail emails deleted?
September 14, 2013 10:07 PM   Subscribe

Why do some of my emails in my Gmail account no longer exist?

I've used Gmail since pretty much its beginning; you needed an invitation to use it when I began. The big selling point (at the time and presumably still now) was that Google would give you an unthinkably-large amount of data storage, so that instead of deleting emails you could archive them and keep them forever.

Because of that selling point, I made a point of never deleting emails, only archiving them, and indeed Google's strong search capacity made this useful.

However, I've recently noticed that many of my old emails are gone. If I click on All Mail and re-order the emails so that the Oldest appear first, I see that I have three emails from 2006, two from 2007, and nothing before -- even though I used it regularly during those years. Similarly, if I search for specific emails (say, by looking for all the emails from a specific person with whom I know I traded many emails), there are many emails missing.

What happened? A friend of mine claims that it is indeed true that Google deletes certain emails, and she has noticed the same with her own Gmail. Is this the case? Why am I missing many emails?
posted by lewedswiver to Technology (13 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I'm not aware of any way to sort your messages by Oldest First in the current Gmail UI. This suggests to me that you might not actually be doing that. What happens if you search with the following terms? "date-begin:2006-01-01 date-end:2007-01-01"
posted by telegraph at 10:20 PM on September 14, 2013

Turns up the same three emails.

The way I sorted by oldest was to hover my mouse over "1-100 of [__total number of emails___]", which pops up a newest/oldest toggle.
posted by lewedswiver at 10:23 PM on September 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

First, thanks for the tip on how to get oldest to newest. I just checked mine and I have emails from January of 2005 on. I am not missing any email when I compare it with my Thunderbird copy. I am currently using 79% of my allocated free space. I do not think Google deletes emails. I have no idea what happened to yours. Maybe an IMAP or POP error on your part?
posted by JohnnyGunn at 10:36 PM on September 14, 2013

I have, on various occasions, misconfigured my mail client to unwittingly delete old e-mails. Some clients' default settings bizzarely choose to annihilate e-mails which have been in the "Trash" folder for 30 days -- and so if your e-mail client gets configured such that gmail's "All Mail" folder is the "Trash" folder, guess what, you get to start anew.
posted by mcav at 12:48 AM on September 15, 2013

This happened to my husband last year. He lost all emails from 2008 from his gmail. He contacted Google and got some semi-automated reply that says they are aware of the problem and that it probably means someone hacked his account at some point. (He doesn't think that actually happened, and why would a hacker just deleted a whole bunch of emails?) But anyway yes, this seems to be a known gmail bug. I've started backing my gmails up now I know this.
posted by lollusc at 1:58 AM on September 15, 2013

I just checked my Gmail, and I've got a steady stream of emails from mid-2004. So no missing emails at all. I would also suspect a rogue mail client.
posted by Jairus at 6:35 AM on September 15, 2013

Did you always use Gmail's web interface? Some third party clients can do weird things with mail headers, so it's possible the emails exist but with the wrong or missing date. Eg: I have a bunch of emails that think they're from the year 205, not 2005.

Try searching for content that you'd expect to see in emails from 2007, and see if that turns up anything.
posted by vasi at 9:22 AM on September 15, 2013

Checking for rogue email clients is a good idea. I'd change my password and consider setting up 2-part authentication just in case an email client that you don't control is deleting old unread emails.

In addition:
- Make sure you don't have any filters set up to delete old email (gear thing) -> Settings -> Filters.
- Make sure some rogue app isn't messing with your email. Go to Click on "Security" (left side) scroll down to "Connected applications and sites" and click "review permissions" and revoke access from anything you don't recognize.

Do your remaining emails have anything in common other than being old? That might help pin down what happened.
posted by Ookseer at 10:23 AM on September 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

I don't always use the web interface... sometimes I use the Android app.

I just clicked on the label "[Imap] Trash" and noticed 5 emails (from 2011/12) that I definitely did not trash. Seems to imply that probably many old emails ended up in that label and then got trashed. (It also seems to imply that emails and continually getting put in this label, and that more and more will be deleted!)

What is "[imap] Trash"? Could there be any way to get these back -- or at the very least, stop MORE emails from being deleted?
posted by lewedswiver at 10:35 AM on September 15, 2013

"[imap] Trash" is a Trash folder created by an IMAP email client. In fact any folders an IMAP client creates that aren't nested inside the Gmail folder get an [imap] prefix when you look at your mailbox via the web interface.
posted by flabdablet at 11:10 AM on September 15, 2013

Are you syncing your gmail with any other mail account, like Outlook from your office? The sync process always wants to delete things from my Gmail calendar because that's how my office's Outlook is set up. It might be similar with email.
posted by CathyG at 11:44 AM on September 15, 2013

I'm pretty sure that the only way I've accessed my Gmail other than the web interface is via the Gmail app on my phone.

Is there a way to check what clients are connected to my Gmail?
posted by lewedswiver at 11:46 AM on September 15, 2013

Click "Details" in the bottom-right corner of the gmail (web) page and it will show you all the recent accesses to your account, including date/time, IP address and client used. You can also log out any other logged-in sessions here.
posted by bizwank at 5:58 PM on September 15, 2013

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