So, here’s a funny thing about Gmail. If you delete a regular email, it gets moved to the Trash folder. However, if you discard a draft, it just vanishes in a puff of smoke. My wife discovered this frustrating behaviour tonight after spending an hour writing a message to her sister via gmail.com. Something went wrong when she tried to insert a picture and she hit the Discard Draft button in haste.
Given that the draft is not moved into the Trash folder when this happens, there are only a few options for recovery:
1. The “Undo” text appears on-screen, but only until you click on another folder / message. It’s easy to panic and click on something else once you realize that you’ve just discarded your draft.
2. If you have another device hooked up to the same account, you can quickly put it into airplane mode and perhaps recover the draft.
3. In some cases, the back button *may* work.
None of these worked in our case and so I thought of a hail mary option:
4. Scan the browser process memory for the discarded draft. This can only work if you have not yet closed the Gmail browser tab, and if the process memory has not yet been overwritten or reclaimed. Also, there need to be some reasonably obscure words in the text you are looking for (‘bazaar’ was the winner in my wife’s draft).
There are lots of tools to read process memory; I used HxD to search the process memory for keywords from the draft.
Actually, HxD is a little clunky since it doesn’t show you the process ID of the process you are viewing. Incidentally, you can get the process ID for a Chrome tab via the Chrome Task manager (right-click on the tab bar).
After about 9 attempts, I found the correct chrome.exe process and found the text of the discarded draft. Of course, by this time, my wife had already introduced another mitigation:
5. Rewrite the email.