How to Retrieve Archived Emails in Gmail: A Comprehensive Guide

Gmail comes with a nifty feature called Archive that allows you to move any email you don't want to read to the archive. You can also delete that email, but what if you wanted to access it later? That's why the archive is a better solution, in case you are in doubt. While archiving an email is super easy on both desktop and mobile, retrieving archived emails in Gmail can be tricky. Turns out, there is no dedicated label for Archive.

1. How to Archive an Email in Gmail

Select the emails you want to archive and click on the folder with the down arrow icon to archive it. If you are using Gmail on your smartphone, simply swipe towards the right to archive it. This gesture will depend on your Gmail app settings. You can configure it to your liking. Open Settings and select Swipe actions to edit.

2. Search to Find Archived Emails in Gmail

When you archive an email, it is still on Gmail servers and you can directly search for them if you know the title or content of the email. In the example above, a simple search for the sender of the email will list all the emails I ever received from them. That list will include emails that are archived, in the Inbox, or are saved with any other label. You can also search for the email by content as I did which narrows down the results significantly. Once you have located the archived email that you were looking for, simply select them and select the Move to Inbox icon to move it back to where it was. You can also label it accordingly like you always do. All emails in this list that do not have any label next to it are archived emails.

3. Retrieve Archived Emails in Gmail's All Mail Label

All Mail aptly describes the kind of emails that it houses. All. It doesn't matter where your emails are stored or under which label, you can find them under the All Mail tab on the left. Scroll a little to find the option in the left sidebar. If you are using a smartphone, you will find it under the menu.

4. Search Operators to Retrieve Archived Emails in Gmail

Just like Google Search, you can also use search operators in Gmail. You just have to come up with something that narrows the search result to what you are looking for. Archived emails. Here is a list of all the search operators that works inside Gmail:

has:nouserlabels -in:Sent -in:Chat -in:Draft -in:Inbox

What we are doing here is removing all emails with labels, all emails that are saved in Sent, Inbox, Chat, and Draft folders and then what remains are emails that are simply archived. You can see that search results contain only emails that were archived with no labels on any of them. You may have to further tweak results depending on what you are seeing. You can then move these emails back to the inbox or your favorite label. The above search operator will also work in mobile apps. This is called the process of elimination where instead of looking for emails that you wish to view, you will search for all emails and then eliminate the ones that you don't want to see. That should leave the emails, in this case, archived emails, visible.

There are a few ways to retrieve archived emails in Gmail, and depending on your needs and the search results that you are seeing, you can go with one or more of these methods. A combination of these three methods may work for you. Recently archived emails are easy to spot as you don't have to scroll a lot to find them in the search results. The search operators can further narrow down the results. Play around a little to find a solution that works best for you.