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Why Is My Email Disappearing?

by on June 23, 2017
in Tips & How-Tos, Computers and Software, Internet & Networking, Computer Safety & Support, Productivity, Mobile Apps, Android Apps, iPhone/iPad Apps :: 36 comments

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If you use two different devices (i.e. a phone and your computer) or different apps to access your email and your email messages seem to disappear sometimes, you're not imagining things. They are being removed from your inbox. But you don't need to worry. There's an easy way to fix the disappearing email problem. 

Why your email is disappearing from your inbox

There are multiple ways you can access email — logging into your account through a web browser on your computer, using an app on your smartphone, using a desktop app like Outlook. Depending on how you access your email, you're either downloading a copy of the email to your device and using it locally using a protocol called POP3 (Post Office Protocol 3), or you're keeping it in sync with all of your devices using a protocol called IMAP (Internet Message Access Protocol). It's when you use POP3 that you can get into a situation where email goes missing. 

How to check if you're using POP3 or IMAP

Email services including Gmail, Yahoo!,, AOL, default to IMAP. So if you go through the automatic setup for your iPhone, Android phone or Outlook, you should automatically be set up for IMAP. If you've had your Gmail account for a long time, you will want to double check your settings to ensure that IMAP is enabled. Log into your Gmail account through a browser and select Settings > Forwarding and POP/IMAP. 

If you are using another email provider or accessing your company email, you may be using POP3. You'll want to check your account and look at the advanced settings, which is an option in iOS, Android and Outlook. The incoming mail address will either start with "pop" or "imap". This is where you can change your account setting as well to switch.  

Outlook IMAP settings

How POP3 works and why you might want to use it

Think of POP3 like you would a real-life post office. I send you a letter, it arrives at the post office, the mail carrier delivers it to you and, so, the letter gets moved physically from me to you. If you or the mail carrier loses the letter, the post office won’t be able to give you a copy.

With POP3, you can set your email program to automatically download new messages at specific intervals (e.g., every 5 minutes or once every 3 hours) or manually download them as you wish. All new messages are moved from the server (i.e., the post-office) to your email client or program (i.e., your mailbox at home). You cannot download just one message; it’s all or none.

Once messages are downloaded to a device, such as your desktop at home, those very messages will no longer be accessible from another device, such as your mobile phone, because the messages have been removed from the server. That is unless you instruct the server to retain copies of your messages so that you can also download them on other devices, which is how your email is mostly set up.

If you do set the server to keep copies of your emails, you can download them on your other devices, but each email will be treated as a separate email. So, if you delete one from your phone, the deleted email will still be on the server and on other devices that you downloaded it to. To truly delete email, you’ll need to delete it on every device where it was downloaded to.

In addition, if you've organized your downloaded messages into folders and subfolders using Outlook, for instance, those folders will exist locally on your device only. To reproduce the folder structure on another device, you will need to do it manually.

The main benefit of POP3 is that entire messages — message headers, body and attachments — are transferred from the server to your device allowing you to read your messages offline. This can be a cost-saver if you’re on a limited data plan or flying without WiFi. On the flip side, this can cause you some waiting time if you have a lot of new emails, especially those with huge file attachments.

If your IPS limits the amount of email you can store on the server, POP3 may be the right choice for you. For as long as you regularly fetch your messages, you don’t need to worry much about running out of storage room on the server. The only limit will be your local storage space. But, remember that if ever your local storage crashes, all messages that you’ve downloaded to it will say goodbye along with it, unless you’ve kept backups.

How IMAP works and why you want to use it

Unlike POP3, IMAP will download an entire message and its attachments (if any) only if you ask it to — that is, if you choose to read the whole message, or depending on your email program or app’s settings. Note that smartphone apps will fetch the whole email minus attachments. This download-on-demand flexibility can help you save on bandwidth.

Also, unlike POP3, whenever you download a specific message from the server, the message stays on the server until you delete it. Only those messages that you choose to read or download are stored in your local storage. If your desktop or mobile gets bricked, you won't lose your email.

Messages that you’ve marked as read in your email client will also be marked as read on the server and in all other email clients that access your IMAP folders. Folders and subfolders that you create or modify on one of your devices will also be synced to the server, which in turn syncs with your other connected devices. So you experience consistency regardless of how or where you access your messages.

IMAP Vs. POP3: Which method should you use?

Here at Techlicious, we strongly recommend IMAP. However, your emailing habits and needs may be different from ours, so your choice of protocol should match those needs.

Why would you want to use IMAP? First of all, IMAP allows you to retrieve your messages on multiple devices — your smartphone, home computer, tablet, laptop and the like.

Since the server stores your messages, you don’t need to worry about losing messages if one of your access devices fails. So, if ever you need to reformat your desktop’s hard drive, you won’t need to go through the process of backing up your local mail database and importing it into a fresh installation of your email software. Just set up your IMAP account, connect to the internet and let your email client sync the folders. Almost all servers also use mechanisms to keep your email data safe and secure, often by keeping redundant copies on multiple servers, so that’s additional peace of mind for you. One major tradeoff, however, is that the volume of emails that you can keep is limited to the server storage space configured for your account. 

Second, whatever modifications you make on one device will be reflected in all other devices that access the same IMAP account. For instance, when you read a message on your desktop, that same message will be marked as read on your phone, tablet etc. The same case happens whenever you delete messages, move messages to subfolders, create or delete folders etc.

Third, you save on bandwidth because full messages are downloaded to your device only when you choose to. You get to see what messages have arrived and choose which ones to download and read. Retrieving the message headers happen relatively quicker than POP3, too, since only the headers are fetched. You do need to be online to be able to download full messages.

Why would you want to use POP3? If you read your emails using only one device (for instance, a laptop exclusively for work use), POP3 may be a better option. All of your new messages will be downloaded in full at once to your device. In contrast with IMAP, you won’t need to be online anymore to be able to read any of the downloaded messages. As long as you regularly download your POP3 email, storage limits on your account should not be a big issue. Just remember, though, that all your messages are tied to your specific device, so make sure that your local emails are frequently backed up.

[Image credit: woman frustrated at computer via BigStockPhoto]

Discussion loading

help is needed

From kathy horne on March 07, 2018 :: 3:14 am

I can’t understand what i need to do, to stop my e-mails disappearing.  Where am I supposed to go for help? I am one who never learned the basics at school.  They didn’t have any computers there then.  People I ask and books I buy, automatically Assume that I know these things.  I don’t know what questions to ask, and if I did, I can’t understand the answers.  New systems and updates leave me floundering.  This is too frustrating.  Help is certainly needed.  I just have no idea from where, i’m not well enough to do courses.  Until this improves I won’t be getting wifi and fancy tv at home.  I’m sure I’m not the only one.  Facebook you can’t read offline also irritates me.  Stop assuming please, and find out what can be done for people like me.  Sincerely, “a new phone feeling is torture to me”, along with so much else.  I survived cancer, what am I supposed to do about this?  Please help.  Cordially, Kathy H


Keep it simple

From Josh Kirschner on March 08, 2018 :: 10:25 pm

Hi Kathy,

Technology can be overwhelming if you’re not familiar with it. My recommendation is to keep things as simple as possible and find someone you know who can help you get things set up and resolve issues as they arise, such as your email disappearing.



Horrible idea which is IMAP!!!

From TJ on June 25, 2018 :: 1:10 pm

Never use IMAP – this is your problem!
Many people these days recommend it - but I am saying that if some body recommend it don’t know much about technology and has to go back to school!
Simple solution:
Setup your email as POP3 and on all of your mobile devices find setting: “leave a copy of the email on the server” and “never delete from the server”
Than on your main computer set the same setting to: “leave a copy of the email on the server” and “delete from the server after 30days” (amount of time you need to make sure that you will open the email on both mobile and computer.)

This is it! From now on you will have full copy of each email on all of your devices forever (or until you permanently delete from each device)
Never use IMAP!! For IPhone use either built in Mail app or Airmail app (only one that allows POP setup but is better than Outlook anyways)


Pop3 also looses mail

From Sue de Nym on May 13, 2022 :: 3:50 am

I use POP3 and all my emails have disappeared from all my folders despite the settings showing as never deleting them from the server. Things can go wrong with POP3.
However the questioner is asking how to access help when all the answers assume you already have certain knowledge. This is absolutely right, there’s a lot of arrogance in the way answers are given. Even basic books assume a starting knowledge.
The only suggestion I have is to enrol in a local evening class for beginners computers. As someone else says this may be held in your local library or run by your local council.
I also went to school before PCs and we’re supposed to somehow know everything about them. I was lucky in that I had an interest in technology and bought a PC in the early days of dialup and spent hours playing. Not many have the time to do that. I’ve learnt a lot but still don’t know enough. Most people even those younger have little knowledge surprisingly. They just don’t admit it!


Understanding IMAP

From Michael on December 13, 2022 :: 12:36 pm

To say never use IMAP is ridiculous. If you organize your emails into sub-folders and require access to these folders across multiple devices, POP3 is not the answer. Only IMAP will allow you full access with multiple folders.


You will find answers

From Jane on May 03, 2019 :: 8:40 am

Go to your local library. They are willing to teach one on one. Best of luck.


Lost mail

From Irene Lofton on April 22, 2018 :: 8:50 am

I need to find my e-mail. Until yesterday I had no problem. I look through all the problem solvers but I am not computer savvy. I ask for help and I am told to go the my e-mail to get items that should help. Well!!!!!, How can I do this when the problem is with the e-mail? I cannot not retrieve it and/or use it in any fashion.


Lost e-mail

From Irene Lofton on April 22, 2018 :: 8:59 am

I just tried to let you know what my problem is.  You return a error message saying this portion has not been completed. Once again, I cannot retrieve my e-mail. I have checked out what the problem may be. However, I am not computer savvy so none of the things make sense to me. Please help me with things with a simple way of retrieving my e-mail. Thank you.


lost emails

From charles. mugagga on June 07, 2021 :: 6:32 am

i can’t access my emails


Email problem

From Lyn Gaudry on April 23, 2018 :: 8:15 pm

I have a couple of email addresses to my phone but my default is Bigpond. At the moment I have no emails showing in my mail box whether sent or receieved or even trash. But ill be out some where and be telling someone about it and when I go to show them they are all there. So I think its working now but then I look at it again maybe at work or home and there is nothing, I just send a test email to my work and it appeared to go through but its not showing in any folder but a jeans west one turned up at the same time then dissappeared? I can not send photos either, this is frustrationg me to no end. I love apple Iphones but this is a huge problem. I have checked possible causes


IMAP is really bad invention!!!

From Thomas on June 16, 2018 :: 2:43 pm

Personally I can’t understand why everybody recommends IMAP even though it is really bad inventon.
I am using extensively email for last 15years recently I realized that all mail apps offer only IMAP. I am using it for over a year on my iphone and I can’t understand why someone can recommend it!
POP3 is not as explained above only for use on one device. You have access to the mailbox from all devices, when you open, you download emails to each device and can view it wherever are and whether you have internet connection or not (seatting on the airplane).
IMAP let you access your email the same way from anywhere but if you delete it on one dewice it diapires from all devices and it is gone!!! If you try to find the email that you received few weeks ago you get the message that it does not exist.
This is horrible. Try to change your email address everything is gone for ever.
With pop3 I have emails from 10years ago and already referenced it several times. Many times my customers refer to the order few years ago and I have whole conversations and drawings from 5k customers.
And now on my IPhone I am using outlook app with IMAP - can’t find emails from two weeks before.


IMAP is best for people who want to sync across devices

From Josh Kirschner on June 25, 2018 :: 6:38 pm

If your goal is to sync all of your emails (received, sent and trash) and their status (folders, read vs not read) across multiple devices, then IMAP is the only way to go. The fact that if you delete an email on one device, it deletes from all devices, is a good thing - much more efficient than having to delete the same message multiple times on your laptop, phone and web server. And if syncing your sent messages across devices is important, then you need IMAP.

So IMAP is a really good invention. For most people, it’s the far better solution. But you always have the choice of POP3, if you prefer.


Never IMAP.

From TJ on June 26, 2018 :: 1:42 pm

You are right about syncing the devices and send items folder but the biggest problem is that you have to constantly work on archiving the emails and be very careful with deleting them, because it is permanent for all devices. For almost a year I was using Outlook on my iphone and IMAP is the only option there. This was horrible experience. On my work laptop I have all emails for last 10 years. And I can go back to it anytime. I understand that most people don’t need that but a year is a must. And this is how long I keep deleted folder. I don’t care when I delete Items because they are not despairing permanently.
I understand that IMAP is perfect for kids where emails are not very important but in business you cannot rely on server and internet connection – if there is no internet you have no way to see your emails!! I don’t understand how somebody can take this risk. And it is even bigger problem when you have more than one person syncing to the same mailbox.


Disappearing emails

From nicholas ohotin on June 30, 2022 :: 1:21 pm

I use IMAP for both my yahoo and reagan email accounts.

Three times in the last month, important emails which I accessed on my phone disappeared minutes later (including my negative COVID test which prevented me from getting a boarding pass for a flight from Italy to the US!).

From both reagan and yahoo accounts.

The emails are not in ANY folder, NOR do they appear on either my home or work computer.


Can't Figure Out How To Stop Emails From Disappearing After Hours of Searching For Answers

From Betty on June 23, 2018 :: 4:46 am

I forwarded an email address from G-Suite to my laptop Outlook app and my iphone using IMAP.  When an email comes in it will go to both devices.  However, as soon as my Outlook app on the pc receives the email, it will disappear on the iphone.  It does this without me opening the email on either device.  I need to keep these emails on the iphone and pc.  Is there a setting that will prevent the emails from disappearing from the iphone?

Thanks for any suggestions….....


Are you sure you're using IMAP and not POP for Outlook?

From Josh Kirschner on June 25, 2018 :: 12:28 pm

If you’re using POP for Outlook, there is setting to “Leave a copy of the message on the server”. If this isn’t checked, Outlook will upload the message and then delete the original message from Gmail. Your iPhone will see the message deleted and then delete it on the phone.

I haven’t directly tested this, so I’m shooting from the hip here, but it seems like a plausible cause. See this link for more info:



From TJ on June 25, 2018 :: 1:16 pm

Setup your email as POP3 and on all of your mobile devices find setting: “leave a copy of the email on the server” and “never delete from the server”
Than on your main computer set the same setting to: “leave a copy of the email on the server” and “delete from the server after 30days” (amount of time you need to make sure that you will open the email on both mobile and computer.)

This is it! From now on you will have full copy of each email on all of your devices forever (or until you permanently delete from each device)
Never use IMAP!! For IPhone use either built in Mail app or Airmail app (only one that allows POP setup but is better than Outlook anyways)


gmail messages disappearing

From Wendy Rose on August 20, 2018 :: 1:23 am

I thought I had finally found someone with a solution to my problem when you said about checking emails on a mobile device as well as a pc but I checked the settings as you suggested and they are ok. Your article does not say what to do if your settings are ok but you are still losing emails. I’m losing my mind over this not to mention some very important correspondence


ID Theif

From James A Gardin JR on November 29, 2018 :: 6:56 pm

All of my personal information has been compromised. Who do I contact? Also, my wife and my whole entire families personal information has been compromised.

Thank You

The Real “James A Gardin Jr.”


Lost Inbox Messages

From Deb Bullerman on December 28, 2018 :: 5:21 pm

Why are my messages in the Inbox disappearing?  They are no where to be found.


email coming in the system in the office but not reflecting in my android mobile phone?

From cr sampath kumar on March 27, 2019 :: 3:59 am

since jan 2018 everything was ok() afterwards emails are coming to my system in the office where as not my mobile phone? not able to recover it by seeing youtube sustems becuase the letters and the demo is not able to visible properly() tell me what can i do?


My problem is similar, but seems to only apply to emails with large file attachments

From Jill Jump on March 29, 2019 :: 9:00 am

I’m a musician with a recording studio.  I love my iPhone for most everything in life except its unwillingness to play with Microsoft Windows devices.  The only two options I have for getting my studio mp3s onto the iPhone are launching iTunes on my Windows PC and connecting to my iPhone’s Music Library, or emailing the mp3 to myself and playing it inside the mail app.  I choose the latter because connecting an iPhone to my car’s USB port is always interpreted by the vehicle as “Let’s begin playing music from the freshly connected device.  Surely that’s why someone connected an iPhone to me.”  That’s another feature I wish I could disable, but I’ll save that for another post.  Anyway, I like leaving the iTunes Library empty.

For whatever reason, I’ve found that some of the emailed mp3s do find their way to the mail account’s Trash folder without my involvement.  At first, I questioned whether or not it was me doing this inadvertently, but this has happened too many times now for me to believe that it’s me doing it.  If I catch that it’s happened within the window of time mail is allowed to sit in the trash bin before it’s purged, I can rescue it back to the Inbox.  Otherwise, it’s gone until I resend it to myself.

One thing I did do that seems to be working against this, I created a gmail folder for my work and now anytime I send myself a song, I immediately move that email to the special folder.  I’ve never had an email get deleted from the user created folders—only from the Inbox.



ok i didnt read all i skimmed

From John White on April 05, 2019 :: 10:27 pm

but to be honest i asked why my emails are getting deleted and fact of it its not all of the it seems very selective at which is being deleted
from both sent and recieved and im betting some recieved i never saw
how is it even possible



From carolmarek on May 22, 2019 :: 5:40 am

What a shock I got the other day when I went into one of my Gmail folders on Windows 10 and found it EMPTY! I then checked several other folders and EVERTHING that I had in there is gone!  How could this happen!  I have pictures that can never be replaced in one folder plus some documents.  Every time Windows decides to add a new feature or THINKS they are giving us something good, it winds up a disaster.  This would have had to happen some time in April 2019 as in some folders, I have saved messages but all the others are empty.



From Steve Roller on March 20, 2020 :: 11:05 pm

Mom dad


Downloading emails on different devices with different settings

From Yuktesh on May 26, 2020 :: 10:45 am

I have configured three devices to download emails from same account under POP3. However, I have set each device to delete emails from server after x, y, z number of days. For e.g. for PC1 after 15 days, for PC2 after 30 days and for PC3 not enabled ‘delete from the server’ (meaning leave emails in the server always). In this scenario I would like to know how the deletion of emails will take place.


the effect of Various email download settings

From Bruce Mangy Critter Lightfoot on July 05, 2020 :: 9:01 pm

Answer:  Only the server manager knows for sure.  You may be able to select the answer yourself, but it is most likely that there is a set policy on the email server that determines this, and that would be part of whatever software package they use.  Likely options would include longest, shortest, most recently requested, and some default. You have to ask your email service to learn their policy, and what your neighbor has may be totally different. Except for backups, there is only one copy to delete off the server, and once gone…  Use Any other policy and there will be Exabytes of email on every server in the world.


When Gone may not really mean Gone

From Bruce Mangy Critter Lightfoot on July 05, 2020 :: 8:48 pm

I am aware of the Pop3 vs. IMAP issues.  I use Pop3 exclusively to receive mail exclusively from my Spectrum ISP. One source, one mode.  Not only do I find that most, but not all messages will transfer to a sub-folder without issue, but I also find that some messages, Usually from specific SENDERS, will read fine and stay in the inbox indefinitely, but they will Always disappear when moved to a sub-folder.  Some will increment the number of items in the sub-folder, others will not.  If you remember what the message was about and use a text string from it, a SEARCH of that same folder will find and display the entire document!  I have copied the .PST file to another computer and the results are the same.  I have used a variety of recovery tools with varying success. Nothing will bring it all back, and recovery is usually by folder, not email source or age. This happens daily and is in a Win 10, Office 365, single PC, single instance of Outlook environment.  There is no corporate or Exchange server involvement. Reinstalling Outlook, the OS, resetting all to default changes nothing. What disappears seems totally random.  I have paid up to $100 for recovery tools, none of which restore everything I know is there - as indicated by Outlook’s listing of the number of files present, and which I can recover IF I can remember a test string from the document.  This has not been fixed in at least a decade on 3 different PC’s.  Comments?


Disappearing Emails

From Ken on August 17, 2020 :: 11:59 am

Hi Everybodyout there!

With all the chaos caused by disappearing emails it appears to me that the answer is to use your computer/laptop for what it was intended for and get rid of the all singing/dancing “keeping up with the Jones’s” phones and by a straight forward phone that rings/answer/talk it will save you stress and time trying to be “with it”.


Even with "do not delete" enabled, my emails disappear

From Lee Gee on September 18, 2020 :: 4:16 pm

I’ve had a hotmail account forever. Up until recently, ALL my devices downloaded all emails from hotmail. I had each device set up for POP3, and had checked the box to “do not delete” in my hotmail account settings.
Several months ago I opened my hotmail account on my phone using the Bluemail app. I glimpsed my messages and then they disappeared right in front of me. I’ve since discovered that if email client on my laptop is open, all hotmail downloads to laptop and will not go to phone. If phone is running while laptop closed, email downloads to phone, but as soon as I open laptop email client, all hotmail previously downloaded to phone while laptop was off disappears from my phone. I did NOT change ANY settings on any of my devices or on the hotmail account. I have been trying to figure out a solution for months, but there does not appear to be one. Every article says to check the “do not delete” box on hotmail, but that box is checked. What’s odder, the laptop client does not download any email id’d as spam, but the Bluemail app DOES download the SPAM. On my laptop it’s like those SPAM emails never existed, which I discovered when I kept missing activation emails and other important stuff that hotmail ID’d as SPAM.
Yesterday I logged into the hotmail web settings and discovered a folder called “POP.” There were all my missing emails. That folder does not appear in any email client I use, whether with IMAP or POP enabled. I have tried every possible setting, but no matter if if I use POP, IMAP or exchange, I CANNOT get all of my email on all devices. It will ALWAYS disappear from all but one device.  HOW CAN I FIX THIS???


lost emails

From charles. mugagga on June 07, 2021 :: 6:42 am

they keep on disappearing


Hello not only Ttakes and not only gives mostly forver

From Hossein Mahjour on February 03, 2021 :: 11:02 am

Hello please taske me not only mostlyx forever .And please gives not only mostly forver mostly not only .


I am using IMap, but still loosing incomint emails

From Thomas E McQuiggan on February 18, 2021 :: 5:33 pm

the ring the bell announcing the incoming, I look up quickly and it disappears. 

Only certain files..,,

Could there be some Trojan horse thing?


IMAP folders disapearing

From tmf on December 16, 2021 :: 10:42 am

I have been using IMAP for work for years with little to no issues. Ease of use across devices BUT you have to be careful not to delete things by accident or it is lost forever.  BUT windows updates suck, and when they happen when the server is updating a folder and it is not completed, the incomplete email account will get uploaded to all devices.  I have lost a couple of folders this way. Using outlook desktop on my laptop and Iphone mail on my devices. All IMAP. Anyone know how to get the lost folder back or prevent this from happening in the future?  Restore from server will mess with all email accounts containing more than a thousand folders.


Lost email

From Ariya Rathi on February 24, 2022 :: 8:08 am

Having trouble with your email? Check out our tutorials on how to set up your email account and how to manage your inbox.I just tried to let you know what my problem is.  You return a error message saying this portion has not been completed. Once again, I cannot retrieve my e-mail. I have checked out what the problem may be. However, I am not computer savvy so none of the things make sense to me. Please help me with things with a simple way of retrieving my e-mail.


Why your email is disappearing from your inbox

From Ariya Rathi on March 01, 2022 :: 7:40 am

Why are my messages in the Inbox disappearing?  They are no where to be found.


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