How to recover old emails

Written by simon foden Google
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How to recover old emails
Email software typically enables you to search archived or old mail. (Getty Thinkstock)

It can be really frustrating when an email you thought would be no longer relevant suddenly turns out to be important. There are lots of reasons you may want to recover old email. For example, to prove somebody said something, to prove you said something or just to double-check some facts. But even if you don’t save copies of email to your hard drive, it’s still possible to recover old email. Depending on the email programme you use, you can sometimes even recover deleted messages.

Skill level:

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  1. 1

    Sign in to your Gmail account.

  2. 2

    Type the name of the sender or a snippet of the email content into the Gmail search box at the top of the page. Gmail search functions just like a normal Google search. This method will return any email in your Gmail account with matching sender details. If there are lots of emails with the same content, filter the search by name and content, for example “from: John Smith legal advice.” If the message was deleted in the last 30 days, Gmail will return a message saying “deleted messages match your search.” Click on the message to view deleted emails. If this doesn’t work, you can manually browse the trash folder.

  3. 3

    Click the “Trash” icon on the left-hand control panel. This opens the folder containing all email you’ve deleted. Unless you go into Trash and actively delete this folder, Gmail keeps trashed emails for 30 days before permanently deleting them.

    Outlook and Hotmail

  1. 1

    Log in to your account.

  2. 2

    Click “All mail folders.” This ensures that any subsequent actions you perform apply to all email folders.

  3. 3

    Type a memorable snippet from the message into the search box. Unless you trashed the email, it will appear in the search results. If you did trash the email, click the “trash” folder and perform the search in there.

  4. 4

    Click on the relevant email in the search results. If the email is has been deleted, you’ll be prompted by a dynamic message to move it to the inbox.

  5. 5

    Perform a search on your local machine if this approach doesn’t work. Hit “Start,” then select “Search.” Type in the name of the sender, the email subject or any snippet from the email message. If you saved the message to your machine but since deleted it from Outlook or Hotmail, this approach will recover it.


  1. 1

    Log in to your Yahoo account.

  2. 2

    Search for the old email by sender name, subject or by using a snippet from the message, if you can remember it. Type into the search box, then hit “Search Mail.”

  3. 3

    Narrow your search by omitting certain words. For example, if you need to find a specific email about a wedding party, searching just for “party” may bring up lots of emails about birthday parties. So type “party - birthday.” This tells Yahoo search to omit results containing the word “birthday.”

Tips and warnings

  • Know that no matter which email service you use, if you permanently deleted the emails, after they were sent to the "deleted items" or "trash" section, you will not be able to recover them.

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