How to Retrieve Archived Emails in Gmail

Did you lose an important message? It might be archived

how to retrieve archived emails in Gmail

Getty Images (Sally Elford/Ikon Images)

Google's Gmail service provides the ability to store messages in an archive for future viewing purposes, allowing you to control what remains in your inbox without permanently deleting messages that you may need to reference at a later time. This archive feature can also prove helpful when it comes to organizing your email into different categories.

In addition to purposely storing your messages in the aforementioned archive, many users often accidentally archive an email by clicking or tapping the wrong button or link. Thankfully, these emails can be easily accessed at any time once you understand how to retrieve them from your Gmail archive.

Retrieving Archived Emails

Although archived messages are in fact removed from your inbox, they're still stored within your Gmail account and can be retrieved in just a few steps. These messages also remain indexed, and therefore can also appear whenever you perform a search within the Gmail interface.

Gmail retrieve archive
Clicking Move to Inbox moves an archived email back to front and center.

To view all emails that have been previously archived, you'll need to access the All Mail label.

On an Android or iOS smartphone or tablet, archived messages can be viewed via the following path: Menu button (three horizontal lines; upper left-hand corner) > All Mail

On a computer, this is done by taking the following steps: More (left menu pane) > All Mail

These emails can be viewed while archived, and you can move them back to your inbox. We recommend doing this if you intend to continue the conversation. 

gmail retrieve email from archive in Windows
Retrieving an archived email in Google Chrome on Windows. ​

On a computer, select the message that you wish to retrieve and click the Move to Inbox button — located on Gmail's main toolbar. On a smartphone or tablet, tap the message, then tap the menu button — represented by three dots and located in the upper right-hand corner of the screen. When the pop-out menu appears, click Move to Inbox.

Avoiding Accidental Archiving

As mentioned at the outset, it's fairly easy to slip up and accidentally archive a message. Fortunately, you can avoid this by taking the following precautions.

  • On a computer, make sure you are clicking the Back to Inbox button and not the Archive button that's located next to it.
  • On a smartphone or tablet, take your time when scrolling through your messages and don't make any sudden swiping motions from right to left.
  • Android users have the ability to modify the Gmail app's default behavior when this action is taken, ensuring that messages are deleted rather than archived. Take the following path within the app to change this setting: Menu button (three dots or horizontal lines located in the upper right-hand corner) > Settings > General settings > Gmail default action.
  • Keep your eyes open for any confirmation messages stating that a conversation has been archived, as they are usually accompanied by an Undo button that can revert your accidental changes if necessary.