Friend woke up today to find only 15 of his 9000+ emails in his Gmail Inbox. Have confirmed on iPhone and Gmail website that for whatever reason, these emails are gone -- they don't show up in "All Mail" and they aren't int the trash.

Compounding that, although his TimeMachine backup has been running, when I go to restore for him, there are two problems preventing him from actually restoring anything. 1) when choosing a date/time on the timeline, although the email count changes, the screen doesn't animate 2) the Restore button never becomes active

If I try to restore something in a Finder folder, TimeMachine restore works fine.

Has something changed in El Capitan that prevents email from being restored? perhaps due to it being a Gmail or IMAP account?

Running Mac OS X 10.11.4

1 Answer 1


If it is an IMAP account (don't know if GMAIL accepts POP3) I'm afraid the Time Machine is useless because those mails were not in the local storage - your HDD or SDD, so there is no way Time Machine keep it in backup files. This emails was in a remote Google server and you will have to try their recovery tools.

Usually, the server will keep the deleted messages for a while, even not showing in the trash. This is good place to start: Google Support

  • thank you for responding so quickly. There's good news to followup with, although some of it remains a mystery. 1) I personally have several IMAP-based email accounts and when I look back through my TimeMachine, I can pick a particular date/time and I see the emails in that particular snapshot, and the Restore button is available. So, I believe that if you are saving a copy of the IMAP emails locally, they SHOULD have a chance of being backed up.
    – user75281
    Jun 1, 2016 at 20:46
  • 2) Decided not to go the Google Support route -- the email was never in the trash, so I'm guessing it would be an involved process to persuade Google to restore 9000+ messages. 3) Instead the easiest solution turned out to be Crashplan. Besides a TimeMachine backup, we also had Crashplan backing up as a secondary form of backup to the cloud. Turns out, it saved our bacon. I restored the Inbox from Crashplan from yesterday, and imported them into Apple Mail just the way you'd expect. All 9500+ emails restored perfectly.
    – user75281
    Jun 1, 2016 at 20:46
  • So, we're in good shape, but two mysteries remain. Why those 9500+ emails disappeared in the first place. And why Crashplan was successfully backing up his email, while TimeMachine was pretending to. I suppose I'll wipe out his TimeMachine backup and start over again. Hopefully this "lesson" will help someone in the future.
    – user75281
    Jun 1, 2016 at 20:46
  • I'm glad you share your experience, we always learn something with these cases. Missing files are really mysterious, a few days ago I found a missing file lost in the middle of system files - a php script that I had to recreate, at list I think the recreated version is better!
    – Gustavo
    Jun 1, 2016 at 21:38

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