Apps chrome

How to Restore Items in 7 Google Apps

You can recover deleted items from Gmail, Drive, Calendar, Contacts, Keep, and Google Photos, as well as restore recently closed tabs or windows in Chrome. Here’s how.

Image: Andy Wolber/TechRepublic

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, waste retention times vary. The system permanently deletes items that were in the trash in Gmail, Drive, Calendar, and Contacts after 30 days. Google Photos, however, retains images that have been moved to the Trash for 60 days, after which the photos in the 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 from 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 the trash, select an item, then restore it. Specific steps to help you recover from accidental or intentional deletion, as well as closing a Chrome tab/window, are detailed below.

How to Restore Deleted Email in Gmail

In Gmail on the web, you’ll use the Move To command to retrieve and recover emails from the trash.

  1. Open Gmail in a web browser. (If Trash is not showing in the left 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 Inbox, or both in the ‘order.)
  2. Select Trash (Figure Aat the bottom left).
  3. Check the box (on the left, as shown in Figure Acircled) next to each email you want to restore.
  4. Select the folder icon with a right-pointing arrow, also identified as the Move To icon (Figure Aindicated by the arrow).

Figure A

Screenshot showing a single Gmail selected in the trash, with an arrow pointing to the Move to Folder icon.
To recover a deleted email in Gmail, select Trash, then one or more emails, then the Move to icon.
  1. Choose one of the displayed destinations (eg Inbox) to restore the selected emails.

Remember that there is a difference between archives and trash in Gmail. When you archive an email, you can still access it via the All messages option (in the list of labels, under the inbox). However, when you delete 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 can recover any Google Docs, Sheets, Slides, Forms, Sites, Jamboard, image (e.g. jpeg, png), video, or PDF file, as well as any Microsoft Word, Excel, or PowerPoint file from the Trash on Google Drive .

  1. Open Google Drive in a web browser.
  2. Select Trash (Figure Bleft menu item).
  3. Select the item you want to restore (Figure Bsample document selected).
  4. Select the clock icon (Figure B, in the upper right area, under the question mark, indicated by an arrow) to restore from the recycle bin. The item will be deleted from the Trash and a brief prompt including the Show file location option will appear in the lower left part of the screen.

Figure B

Screenshot showing a single Google Doc currently selected in the trash, with an arrow pointing to the restore icon.
To recover an item from Google Drive, select Trash, choose the item, then restore.

How to Recover a Deleted Event in Google Calendar

You can recover recently deleted Google Calendar events. Additionally, if you have access to multiple calendars, you can select a calendar on the left side of the screen to review and restore items from each calendar, respectively.

  1. Open Google Calendar in a web browser.
  2. Select the Settings menu (in the upper right area, to the right of the question mark help icon) | Trash, as shown in Figure C (High).
  3. Check the box (left) next to each event you want to restore.
  4. At the top of the column of events listed, select the icon with the arrow pointing left, as shown in Figure C (bottom, indicated by the arrows). The selected events will be restored to the calendar.

Figure C

Screenshot of two images: (top) Settings menu |  Trash selected and (at the bottom) a selected event, with arrows pointing to two different restore icons, one on the same row as the selected event and another at the top of the deleted event list.
To recover a deleted event in Google Calendar, select the menu Settings | Trash (top image), then choose the item from the list and select the restore icon (bottom image, indicated by the arrows).

How to Restore a Deleted Contact in Google Contacts

Follow the next steps to recover recently deleted Google contacts.

  1. Open Google Contacts in a web browser.
  2. Select Trash (Figure Dat the bottom left).
  3. Check the box (left) next to each contact you want to restore (as circled in Figure D).
  4. Select Recover (at the top of display contacts or to the right of Permanently delete, as indicated by the arrows in Figure D).

Figure D

Screenshot that shows a single selected contact, with arrows pointing to the word Recover, which appears both to the right of the selected contact and at the top of the all contacts column.
To recover a deleted Google contact, select Trash (left menu), then the checkbox next to each contact (circled example), then Recover (indicated by the arrows).

Note that this process does not apply to contacts identified dynamically by the system, those accessed through the Other Contacts menu item (just above the Trash). These other contacts are found through emails or other interactions and are not true Google contact records. If you delete information from this Other Contacts list, the record is simply deleted and will not be displayed in the trash.

How to Restore a Deleted Note in Google Keep

Keep notes you moved to the Trash that only stay there for seven days. This is significantly shorter than the 30-day trash retention period for Gmail, Drive, Calendar, and Contact.

  1. Open Google Keep in a web browser.
  2. Select Trash (Figure Eleft menu).
  3. Select a note to restore.
  4. Select the trash can icon with an up arrow (Figure Eindicated by the arrow) to restore a note.

Figure E

Screenshot showing two Keep Notes in Trash, with one selected, and a red arrow pointing to the Trash icon with up arrow.
To recover a Google Keep note, select Trash (left menu), select a note, then select the trash icon with an up arrow.

How to Restore a Deleted Image in Google Photos

Images that have been moved to the Trash in Google Photos remain for 60 days, significantly longer than any of the services above.

  1. Open Google Photos in a web browser.
  2. Select Trash (Figure Fleft picture).
  3. Select a photo to restore. The image will open and display in your browser.
  4. Select Restore (Figure Fright picture).

Figure F

Screenshot of two images: (left) Google Photos with Trash menu selected, arrow pointing to deleted image.  (right) An open image, with the Restore button shown at top right.
To restore a deleted Google Photo, select Trash (left menu), then the photo (as indicated by the arrow). In the open photo, select Restore, top right.

How to Restore Closed Most Recent Tab in Google Chrome

If you’re using Chrome, press a three-key combination 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 can also access other recently closed tabs or windows from the History menu. Select the three vertical dots menu (top right) | History to access recently closed resources as shown in G-figure. Select any site from the displayed list to open it.


Screenshot of Chrome, with the three vertical dots menu selected, History selected, and several recently closed tabs displayed in a list in the menu.
To restore a recently closed Chrome tab or window, navigate to the Chrome menu (three vertical dots) | History | Recently closed items.

You can also 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 enter text, navigate to chrome://history/ in the address bar. This is useful if you want to find a site that you have visited, but whose tab or window is no longer open.

What is your experience ?

Have you ever restored an item from Trash in any of the above apps? Did you manage to get 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 retain data beyond the periods covered above? And, how often do you rely on Chrome history to retrieve a site you’ve visited? Let me know what your experience was with the above restore and recovery processes, either with a comment below or on Twitter (@awolber).