Skip navigation
Why Are My Gmail Labels Going All Wonky? Getty Images

Why Are My Gmail Labels Going All Wonky?

Q. I have used Gmail labels for many months for saving my Windows Secrets emails. Today I went to the labels and found that none of the articles were there! Then I discovered that none of my saved emails were saved, under any of the labels I’d set up for them.

Can you explain the loss of my valuable information?

​A. I suspect this is a problem related to your specific account, rather than a Gmail issue.

I say this because an online search shows that there have been few user questions of this sort since around 2012/2013. Also, I make extensive use of Gmail labels and sorting — and I’ve never had batches of mail suddenly vanish. So, again, whatever’s going on probably isn’t a general Gmail issue.

Several things can affect the way stored Gmail messages appear — or disappear!

For example, I have two Google accounts, and if I forget which one I’m in, it sometimes appears that my mail and calendar have emptied. But it’s just that I’m in the wrong account. So, when something like this happens, make sure you’re signed in to the correct account.

Also, if you’re using Google’s optional two-factor authentication and/or password-protected syncing, make sure you’re fully signed in. Otherwise, you won’t have full access to your mail or calendars.

It’s also possible that something — an errant click, a software error, etc. — deleted your mail. But the Gmail trash is automatically emptied only about once a month. Any mail there should still be recoverable. (It can be permanently deleted sooner, but that requires getting past extra, manual, “Are you sure?” prompts, so accidental deletion is unlikely.)

If neither of the above helps, and if you’re using generic, free Gmail, you can obtain assistance from the Gmail Help Center or in the Gmail Help Forum.

On the other hand, if you’re using Gmail via a hosted Google domain, there’s both the Google Domains Help and live help, available by phone, chat or email (chat/email help is available 24/7).

By the way: If you’re using Gmail for any non-casual purpose, I strongly recommend upgrading to a hosted Google domain. It’s cheap — currently U.S. $1 a month — and it gives you a private domain (e.g., You’re email looks and acts just like Gmail, but your account includes 24/7 support, interoperability with Google Drive and Google Sites, and other features. (For details, see the Google Domains site.) For a buck a month, I think it’s a bargain.

If or when you recover your lost emails, verify that you’re using Gmail labels properly by checking the related help page. With proper use of labels, any Gmail that you archive (info) should be easily retrieved.

Finally, you might want to consider downloading (technically, exporting) copies of your most important Gmail folders and storing them locally, offline. A Google blog page tells how.

That way, you should never lose any Gmail again!


Editor's note: We feature an abridged Q&A from Fred Langa's LANGALIST, a column available exclusively to paid subscribers of the Windows Secrets newsletter,. What you see here is just a small sampling of what Langa's writing for the newsletter — go here for more information on how to subscribe.

Hide comments


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.