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February 28, 2011

Many Gmail Users Can't Find Their Messages

Imagine loading Gmail and noticing that all your messages have been deleted. This is a real problem for many Gmail users who thought that they lost all of their messages. Here's one of the many reports from Gmail's forum:
Yes, whatever the error is on Google's end (and it clearly is that, not a hack, unless it's some kind of inside hack) it's basically reset my account so it's like a brand-new Gmail account. My contacts are intact, but nothing else--the folders have reset to default, my signature line is blank, the "theme" is changed back to the default and--of course--every single email from the last 7 years has vanished completely.

The Google Apps Status page mentions that "this issue affects less than 0.08% of the Google Mail userbase" and "Google engineers are working to restore full access". The users that are affected "will be temporarily unable to sign in".

This is a really important problem for Google and one of the biggest Gmail issues ever since Google's email service was released, back in 2004.

Update: A Google engineer says that the "accounts that are affected are currently fully disabled. We're in the process of changing this to be a Gmail only disable so you should regain access to other Google services soon. This will also mean email to these accounts stops bouncing and gets queued up for later delivery instead."

Update 2: Google says that only 0.02% of the Gmail users were affected. "In some rare instances software bugs can affect several copies of the data. That's what happened here. Some copies of mail were deleted, and we've been hard at work over the last 30 hours getting it back for the people affected by this issue. To protect your information from these unusual bugs, we also back it up to tape. Since the tapes are offline, they're protected from such software bugs. But restoring data from them also takes longer than transferring your requests to another data center, which is why it's taken us hours to get the email back instead of milliseconds."

{ via Engadget }


  1. Thank god i'm using backupiFy in the event it should happend to me..

  2. I have for some time now forwarded all my e mail to Windows Live and kept a copy in the gmail inbox for this very reason

  3. Live Mail also had this problem. You'd better keep a local backup!

  4. I use

  5. ohmygod! fortunately I use my gmail accout only for non-private stuff...

  6. Interesting timing that a Google research post went up Friday titled "Where does my data live?"

    <<... we found that storing data across multiple data centers reduces data unavailability by many orders of magnitude compared to having the same number of replicas in a single data center. The added complexity and potential for slower recovery times is worth it to get better availability, or use less storage space, or even both at the same time.>>

    I'm guessing that the ~2 million of the Gmail users that are affected by this outage might not necessarily agree that the slower recovery times are 'worth it'.

  7. @que:

    I don't think it was an outage. If there are 200 million Gmail users, the number of users that were affected is 160,000 (0.08%*200,000,000). Quite a lot of people.

  8. Update from Google:

    "We have revised downward our estimate of the total number of users affected by this issue from 0.08% to 0.02% of Google Mail users. Access has been restored for one third of the affected users. The remaining 0.013% of accounts are being restored on an ongoing basis, and we expect the issue to be resolved for everyone within 12 hours."

  9. Wow, that's a serious problem indeed. Thankfully one that I have never experienced .08 percent of all Google means quite a substantial number of Google users have been affected. Must be quite a scare to log in and see everything wiped out! Hope the Big G gets it cleared up soon.

  10. 28/2 Haven't bee able to get into Googlemail for last two days. I receive & send a lot of emails,
    I just hope they sort it out soon. Please!

  11. Don't you just love it when the use percentage statistics to make the issue seem smaller
    0.03% is still approx 40,000 users.

    Still, so long as Gmail can always recover users accounts fully then no harm done.

    Email is too important for everyone nowadays.
    We all should have more than one email address and provider, as well as our own regular backups.

    Email service providers need to ensure backups are made simple not just for Tech people.

  12. I imagine there are backups, at least I hope. How many times have you had a drive crash or other computer problem where all data is lost, we all have. Not everyone has great backup strategy, I have email from 198?, but that is rare for most people. Internet access before Windows 95 was mostly reserved to true patient geeks via a very expensive high tech 14.4 kbit/s dialup modem.

  13. They also have "minor" bugs. Many time when I search for messages I find they are trashed - which means they are auto deleted later on. I'm sure I did not delete those (I hardly ever delete) and also when I find them I have to manually recover every message of long threads!
    Sent a bug report but never heard back.


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