When you delete an item from Gmail, Drive, Calendar, Contacts, Keep or Google Photos, the system moves the item to a trash folder. If you do nothing else, the system will automatically empty the trash after a retention period.
However, trash retention lengths vary. The system permanently deletes items that have been in trash in Gmail, Drive, Calendar and Contacts after 30 days. Google Photos, however, retains images that have been moved to trash for 60 days, after which photos in trash will be automatically deleted. Google Keep notes placed in the trash will be permanently deleted after seven days.
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If you need to recover a deleted item in any of the above services during the retention period, you can. The recovery sequence for each of the services is similar: Open the app, locate Trash, select an item, then restore it. The specific steps to help you recover from an accidental—or intentional—deletion, as well as the closure of a Chrome tab/window, are detailed below.
How to restore a deleted email in Gmail
In Gmail on the web, you’ll use the Move to command to retrieve and recover email from Trash.
- Open Gmail in a web browser. (If Trash doesn’t display on the left-side menu, you may need to select the three horizontal lines in the upper left corner, More at the bottom of the column that starts with the Inbox, or, both in sequence.)
- Select Trash (Figure A, on the lower left).
- Select the checkbox (to the left, as shown in Figure A, circled) next to each email you wish to restore.
- Select the icon of the folder with a right-pointing arrow, also identified as the Move to icon (Figure A, indicated by the arrow).
- Choose one of the displayed destinations (e.g., Inbox) to restore selected email.
Remember, there’s a difference between Archive and Trash in Gmail. When you archive an email, you may still access it via the All Mail option (in the list of labels, below Inbox). However, when you trash an email, the system places the item in the Trash folder, where it remains for 30 days until it is automatically deleted.
How to restore a deleted item on Google Drive
You may recover any Google Docs, Sheets, Slides, Forms, Sites, Jamboard, image (e.g., jpeg, png), video or PDF file, along with any Microsoft Word, Excel or PowerPoint from the Trash on Google Drive.
- Open Google Drive in a web browser.
- Select Trash (Figure B, left menu item).
- Select the item you wish to restore (Figure B, sample document selected).
- Select the icon of the clock (Figure B, in the upper right area, below the question mark, indicated by an arrow) to restore from trash. The item will be removed from Trash and a brief prompt that includes the option to Show File Location displays in the lower left portion of the screen.
How to recover a deleted event in Google Calendar
You may retrieve recently deleted Google Calendar events. Additionally, if you have access to multiple calendars, you may select a calendar from the left side of the display to review and restore items to each calendar, respectively.
- Open Google Calendar in a web browser.
- Select the Settings menu (in the upper right area, to the right of the question mark help icon) | Trash, as shown in Figure C (top).
- Select the checkbox (to the left) next to each event you wish to restore.
- At the top of the column of listed events, select the icon with the arrow that points to the left, as shown in Figure C (bottom, indicated by the arrows). The selected events will be restored to the calendar.
How to restore a deleted contact in Google Contacts
Use the following steps to recover recently deleted Google Contacts.
- Open Google Contacts in a web browser.
- Select Trash (Figure D, lower left).
- Select the checkbox (to the left) next to each contact you wish to restore (as circled in Figure D).
- Select Recover (at the top of the display contacts or to the right of Delete forever, as indicated by the arrows in Figure D).
Note that this process does not apply to contacts dynamically identified by the system—those accessed via the Other Contacts menu item (just above Trash). These Other Contacts are found via email or other interactions and are not actual Google Contact records. If you delete information from this Other contacts list, the record is simply removed and will not be displayed in Trash.
How to restore a deleted note in Google Keep
Keep notes that you have moved to Trash remain there for only seven days. That’s significantly shorter than the 30-day trash retention period for Gmail, Drive, Calendar and Contact.
- Open Google Keep in a web browser.
- Select Trash (Figure E, left menu).
- Select a note to restore.
- Select the trash can icon with an up-arrow in it (Figure E, indicated by the arrow) to restore a note.
How to restore a deleted image in Google Photos
Images that have been moved to Trash in Google Photos remain for 60 days—a significantly longer duration that all of the above services.
- Open Google Photos in a web browser.
- Select Trash (Figure F, left image).
- Select a photo to restore. The image will open and display in your browser.
- Select Restore (Figure F, right image).
How to restore the most recent tab closed in Google Chrome
If you use Chrome, press a combination of three keys to restore the most recently closed tab or window. On a Windows system or Chromebook, press Ctrl+Shift+T; on a macOS device, press Command+Shift+T. Alternatively, you also may access additional recently closed tabs or windows from the History menu. Select the three vertical dot menu (in the upper right) | History to access recently closed resources, as shown in Figure G. Select any site from the displayed list to open it.
You also may access and search all sites stored in your Chrome browser history. On a Windows system or Chromebook, press Ctrl+H; on a macOS device, press Command+Y. If you prefer to type, go to chrome://history/ in the address bar. This is useful if you wish to find a site you have visited, but no longer have the tab or window open.
What’s your experience?
Have you ever restored an item from trash in any of the above apps? Were you successful in recovering the item you wanted? In addition to the above, if you use Google Workspace, do you also rely on other backup methods or services to preserve data beyond the time periods covered above? And, how often do you rely on Chrome history to retrieve a site you visited? Let me know what your experience with the above restoration and recovery processes has been, either with a comment below or on Twitter (@awolber).
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