How to Search Everything in Gmail (Including the Trash)

Find emails you accidentally deleted

Young woman searching on laptop

Wendy Redfern / Redferns / Getty Images

Say you want to open a Gmail message you received from a colleague a couple of weeks ago. You use the search bar to search for a term you know is contained within it. But it's just not showing up. It could be that you accidentally deleted the message, so it's now in the Trash or Spam. Gmail doesn't automatically include those areas when performing a search, so that's likely why you're not finding it. Fortunately, you can expand the scope of a Gmail search to find and recover any message, even if it's in the Trash or Spam.

Instructions in this article apply to the web version of Gmail. The steps are the same regardless of which browser you use.

How to Search for Messages in Gmail

To search all categories in Gmail:

  1. On the far-right side of the search bar, select the down-arrow.

    Select the down-arrow to the right of the search bar.
  2. A dialog box appears. To the far right of the Search item, select the down-arrow. Select Mail & Spam & Trash.

    Make sure All & Spam & Trash is selected the Search field.
  3. Make additional selections to find the item you want, then select Search.

    Enter your search criteria and terms, and then select Search Mail.

Still Can't Find It?

The above method may not work if the message was in the Trash or Spam and then permanently deleted, as these messages cannot be recovered. However, messages might be cached in a desktop email client (like Microsoft Outlook or Mozilla Thunderbird) if you disconnect from the Internet before you look for them. Although it's not common, some people who use Post Office Protocol (POP) to check email with a desktop email client will see all emails deleted from Gmail after the other email program downloads them.

To reduce the risk of unexpected deletions, use a web browser to check your Gmail, or configure your email client to use the IMAP protocol instead.