Restoring your Deleted Gmail with Time Machine

I got a little aggressive in cleaning up my email on the iMac Mail program yesterday, and accidentally deleted every single piece of email in my Gmail account.


But hey, Time Machine worked as advertised.

Based on the way the Mac Mail application shows email, I assumed that the "On My Mac" archive boxes at the bottom of the left column were duplicative.

They are not.

When I deleted certain items from the "archive" boxes, they did NOT disappear from my Inbox on the Mac, or on Gmail in Safari, or on my iPhone.

Until they did, about 10 minutes later.

I thought I was blowing away the "locally stored" email on my Mac, but that sync is a 2-way street. Delete something in Mail, and it's going to disappear from Google's servers shortly thereafter.

When I went to my iPhone about 20 minutes after that cleanup, there was NO mail. I went to Safari - nothing.


I Googled the problem, and found that there really isn't a way to restore mail after you've bulk-deleted it. I was pretty much out of luck.

Fortunately, I have a Time Machine disk attached to the iMac.

It solved the problem (more or less) seamlessly.

Here's what you need to do -

1. Open your Mail program. And leave it open on the desktop.

Click on the empty Gmail folder in the left-hand column in the Mail app.

This will ensure you're able to find it immediately in Time Machine World.

2. Open Time Machine and scroll back to a time/date before you messed with your Gmail.

See the Mail Application? Your Gmails are there, good as new.

3. Click "Restore". And, really, wait.

The email will start repopulating into your folders - you can track this on your Mac, or even on your iPhone. It shows up at again.

Now, if you're like me, and you use your inbox for pretty much everything, your mail may not wind up exactly where you'd hoped.

My Inbox was still empty - all of the mail was in the "Important" folder.

You're going to have to manually move mail from the recovered mail back to your Inbox (I did this for a couple of months.... I'll leave the rest foldered.)

And just like that, it's as though you never deleted 30,000 emails in an attempt to clean up your hard drive.

1 comment :

  1. Thanks for this-it sounds exactly like what I did. However, on my time machine, only my exchange accounts were backed up and my 2 gmail accounts were empty!