Recovering a Deleted Draft in Gmail

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.

hxd0

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).

hxd1

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.

hxd2

Advertisements
This entry was posted in Data Recovery. Bookmark the permalink.

147 Responses to Recovering a Deleted Draft in Gmail

  1. Mary says:

    Thank you Alnoor. I used HxD, took forever to figure out what to do, but it sort of worked! I found the email, or about half of it anyway. I can’t seem to find the other half of the email draft, but some is better than none! Thank you. 🙂

  2. Liza says:

    Based on your advice I quickly did a word search in the search tool right in gmail and it found the last version —-I quickly opened it and got 98% of my email back Bless you!

  3. Eduardo Briceño says:

    #2 did the trick for me, thanks so much!

  4. Krishna says:

    Hi, I deleted a draft mail couple of days back from my desk top and later tried to search for it in trash, it was not found. can you help me !

  5. kiaker says:

    Airplane mode(trick #2) has just worked for me! Thank you so much!

  6. i found the file in hxd but couldnt put it back in gmail. could you please help me?

    • I think the best you can do is to select the contents of the email and then do a right-click -> Copy. You can then right-click -> Paste it into your email client. You will lose some formatting and such, but hopefully it doesn’t take you too long to redo it.

  7. Schroder says:

    Thank you for Needle in a Thread Stack. Tip Top.

  8. Phillip says:

    YES!!!!! This actually worked for me too! Thank you so much. Accidentally deleted a draft on my iPad and couldn’t find any undo, not in trash, or by search! Eek! (I was quite surprised not to see it in trash.) My heart fell, but before it hit the floor I decided to search the issue, found this page, grabbed my charging phone and switched it to airplane mode. I was convinced it was gone, but no. Did I say it worked already? It worked! Thanks again and god bless the internets and my google cache. I immediately sent a copy to myself. My new best practice.

  9. Nivas says:

    Wow, this just helped me recover two hours drafted mail, thanks alot for the pointer.
    I wonder why drafts are not moved to trash

  10. janet says:

    Okay, I found the thread and highlighted it. But now what? Pasting it into gmail search doesn’t work. What are the next steps to recover the lost, unsaved email? Help!?

    • I think the best you can do is to select the contents of the email and then do a right-click -> Copy. You can then right-click -> Paste it into your email client. You will lose some formatting and such, but hopefully it doesn’t take you too long to redo it.

  11. LM says:

    Any way to run HxD or similar program/extension on chromebook?

  12. Jordan says:

    just incase anyone on here doesn’t know how to do all of that, I simply went into gmail and did a search for some words I knew were in the email. It had moved my draft to my spam folder.
    Happy searching.

  13. jef pol says:

    HxD would not work on Win 7 x64… Out of memory when trying to load even the smallest image in RAM and I have 16GB of RAM!

  14. Phyllis Wolff says:

    Alnoor Allidina – Thank you so much for finding some solutions to this ongoing Gmail issue. I have lost many drafts over the years. And was relieved to find the ‘undo discard’ option in W-10. But I too have had issues lately. I send drafts to myself and that has helped. Today nothing helped. I’m not computer savvy enough to try #4.

    I sure hope an internal solution is found and Gmail drafts can be recovered.

  15. Varad says:

    Great! It helped me thanks!!!

  16. Sebastian says:

    Thanks for the tip! After accidental delete and finding your article I remembered my phone’s data connection was off and retrieved it that way. Phew!

  17. Niki says:

    Hi Alnoor, using latest version of Opera and accidentally deleted a really important and long gmail draft almost 2 hours ago. Steps 1 -3 didn’t work for my, so I attempted your hail mary (as my browser is still open), however, I have no idea what I’m doing – can’t find/access the process ID or task manager for Opera, can’t find my cache or view it and I’m totally clueless about how to go about it. Any advice for a non-techie like me?

  18. donmark godfrey says:

    please i mistakenly discarded my assignment in the draft folder and now, i was not able to see it in trash, and i need does file back because they mean so much to me, please anybody with useful information on how i can recover it back , please do not hesitate say ,God bless anybody with useful information

    • fitzfulke says:

      Follow the instructions at the top of this post. They worked for me.
      Do NOT turn off the computer or close your browser. The deleted information is in temporary memory. It will disappear completely if you shut down before you follow the instructions.

  19. Ivo says:

    Thank you SOO MUCH

  20. Sarah says:

    I could not find it. Please help me. I am unable to find the deleted file even by searching for specific words!!!

  21. nancy4436 says:

    I accidentally deleted a gmail draft, couldn’t find it in the trash and then turned my cell to airplane mode. Now, where do I look to recover the draft email……? I have a MacBook Pro by the way.

  22. Why can’t gmail just have unlimited storage. To avoid the hassle. I’m a writer. And I’m finding out. I’ve lost a ton poems, cuz I don’t have space. It’s not dare to go thru this. I put too much time dedicating. Saving my writings in the draft section. And this what happens. I’m homeless. I really need help on this. Please.

  23. K.Sarih says:

    Hi Alnoor / All
    Tried all the above methods but cannot retrieve the deleted Draft email (very important), downloaded HxD but would not work on my computer Win 7 x 64! any ideas ? or other tools!
    Many Thanks

    • Very sorry – I don’t have any other ideas at the moment. I’m sure there are other applications you can use to search the memory for each process. Maybe another reader can help. Good luck!

  24. NWOKAM EMMANUEL NGEMTO says:

    Thank alot

  25. Shital Desai says:

    Yesterday that is on 2 August 2017 I was writing comment on let’s talk about depression life is full of surprises, keep enjoying! drnamitaganjawala.wordpress.com that is left in between while writing without posting it. I was writing comment online. I am following this with the subscription and also get email notification from it. I have not completed the comment yet. While writing or correcting somehow the home key is pressed by mistake and the page closed all of a sudden. When I reopened it l found that the comment box was blank, there was no text written in it, it was empty. If I don’t get it back, I have to write right from the very beginning that is so time consuming that it is not possible for me to start from the beginning. I want to recover it now. How to find and where to find it out again? Help me to get it recovered so that I can easily continue from where I have left and post it to the blog. Help me to sort out it at the earliest.Recovery of it is a great deal for me. Send me the copy of it at the urgent bases.Help me to solve this as early as possible.

    • Very sorry. You could try the same trick to search the browser memory for your comment. I don’t have any other suggestions, unfortunately. Perhaps someone else will be able to help.

  26. Madison says:

    I have Windows 10 and downloaded the free HxD software. Then I opened RAM and finally found the correct chrome.exe and then did a search by keyword and it worked and copied and pasted what I found of my draft I deleted by accident! I didn’t get the whole draft back but half is better than starting from zero. THANK YOU Alnoor for helping so many people. Sending you many blessings. Madison

  27. Nicole says:

    You Rock, Thanks!

  28. Phoenix says:

    YOU ARE A LIFE-SAVER!! THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THIS VERY USEFUL ARTICLE, YOU HAVE NO IDEA HOW HAPPY YUR ARTICLE HAS MADE ME. I THANK GOD FOR LEADING ME TO THIS ARTICLE.

  29. Sharon Meyer says:

    Keeping in mind I’m not tech savvy, I’ve downloaded HxD and I clicked Extras then clicked on “Open RAM” then one of the “chrome.exe” items shown there then “OK.”. , But each time I do, it eventually pops up with a little “Out of memory” error message. This is a very new lap top with 16GB RAM & 1TB HDD! Granted, it was an extremely long email, which is why I’m so desperate to get it back. Please, please, please, tell me what I can do!!!

  30. Joan Whatmore says:

    Hi, I tried to follow the procedure you have mentioned Since by msitake i deleted my impt draft email from gmail account. I downloaded HxD and followed the step but it was not responding even after clicking on the chrome .exe.
    Could you please suggest what to do?
    Regards,
    Joan

  31. Thanks for the info, deleted all drafts on pc, after reading advise about opened I phone switched to airplane mode, copied draft, pasted to text message, went to settings switched off airplane mode and text myself.

  32. Lalitha says:

    Today I have deleted the draft by mistake.
    I have another device hooked up to the same account, and recovered the deleted mail. thank you very much.

  33. Rick says:

    I am not sure what is going on with my Gmail lately but I am at the point where I don’t trust it nor want to write anything anymore and save it to drafts before sending it. I just spend the last 30 hours writing about our trip and was doing a spell check. Once I was done, I clicked on the save and close button at the top right. Sometimes I click on the X button, then the save and close. Then when I went back to the draft just minutes later I could see it in the Gmail page with the others but could not open it. I then clicked clear caches under the develop button on the Mac and it worked. Then the second time it happened again, clicked clear caches and then the wording in the email where it starts was not there. Just the title of the story. I could not open it. I checked in Spam, Trash and anywhere else I could think of. Could not find it. Now the story is gone along with 30 hours of writing. No way am I going to write that all over again. So now the pictures can tell the story. There must be a way to write a story on a computer without the fear of losing it? I was told that if the Gmail server should crash you’d lose everything?

    • Robert says:

      I used to have similar problems with Yahoo email, (stopped that since they can’t deal with hacking & spam), but I eliminated the problem you had by getting in the habit of writing any emails longer than a few lines in a Word Doc first, then copy & pasting it into the email – hardly an ideal solution, but a solution.

      • Rick says:

        Thanks for your quick reply. I have never heard of Word Doc. There should be several things out there to avoid this problem. This is not the first time I have lost things and it’s the time that is put into then losing it that upsets me.

  34. Robert says:

    – You’re welcome, I know what you mean about losing the time put in on it, and I was just abbreviating – I meant a “Microsoft Word Document” – but you could use any Word Processor, (I don’t use Mac, so I don’t know what any Mac Word Processor program names).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s