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I received an email from someone and was in the process of responding to it but it seems to have disappeared, hopefully just temporarily.

I clicked on "reply" and would write some, then clicked on the "minimize" box and it would be at the bottom of the screen ready to work on later. I did this several times; but over the weekend, with guests in the house and my wife downloading some photos off the camera my email (in the state of reply) seems to be gone. It is neither in items sent or deleted, nor is it in drafts. Do you know a way I can retrieve this email?

I'm afraid the news is not good. You've looked in all the places that it could have been (drafts, in particular). I would have expected to find them in drafts, but I'm not sure why they're not there, though I can make a few guesses.

The real "problem" here is that you've picked perhaps one of the most dangerous ways to manage your email under construction that I can imagine.

I have a strong aversion to just minimizing windows to "save" a work in progress. The fact is, when you minimize a window, the application may not save anything at all! The application, be it your mail client, your word processor, or anything else, may elect to simply leave the information in the computer's memory without writing it to disk in any way.

Now, in the normal case, these programs should be on the look out for things that might cause you to lose your data. For example, let's say someone comes along and asks Windows to shut down. The programs should notice that you have open windows with unsaved data, and ask you about each one. If it's someone else shutting down your computer, and they get tired of answering all these questions, they might just start hitting ESC to make the messages go away ... and discard all your data.

"'Save early, save often' is something that most computer users learn by having lost hours of work at one point or another."

The abnormal case is worse. If someone hits the power button, or the computer unexpectedly reboots for any reason, *poof* - all your hard work could be gone.

Most programs "auto save" periodically. Mail programs will auto save to the drafts folder, word processing and other programs will often auto save to temporary files that can be recovered in case of a failure. But in all cases, if the program asks "do you want to save", and the answer is the escape key, or "No" - then the auto saved copy is removed as well.

So it's unclear exactly what happened in your case.

"Save early, save often" is something that most computer users learn by having lost hours of work at one point or another. I know I have! In short, don't rely on a minimized window to save anything for you. Save it yourself. If you're updating a document in Word, for example, hit CTRL+S every so often to write your work back out to disk. In email, the same keystroke typically works to save a copy of your email to drafts. If you need to step away from the computer, don't just minimize, close the window, making sure to say "Yes" when it asks if you want to save your work in progress. That way you don't have to worry about someone else answering "No" while you're not around, and when you return, you'll find it in the drafts folder.

Note: this does not apply to web-based email services like Hotmail, Gmail and the like. If you close your browser it will discard any mail being composed without asking. You must explicitly hit any "Save Draft" or equivalent button in the web mail interface if you want your email to be saved for later.

Article C2630 - April 21, 2006 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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25 Comments
Mark
April 21, 2006 5:56 PM

just a note on good old Gmail. They currently have an auto save feature for drafts that is darn near fool proof. Even if you attempt to close move to another window in gmail, it will ask if you want to save it.

Leo
April 21, 2006 6:09 PM

Very cool. I was unaware of that.

Ross Giddings
April 21, 2006 6:35 PM

My problem with emails is just losing them if I have to re-install Windows. I have had Netscape/Firebird on drive d: for years but haven't figured out how to have a copy (recoverable) on d:. Something to do with "Local Folders" perhaps but it beats me every time.

Viola
April 22, 2006 2:35 PM

I sometimes lose what I was composing and can't find it anywhere. I discovered that when I type too fast I accidentally hit the key under the shift key with my fingernail as I was capitalizing and everything disappears.

Jeff Rankin-Lowe
April 22, 2006 2:58 PM

I've had a few e-mails disappear before I could finish them and hit send. The reasons varied. Some were just short replies and easily rewritten, but after it happened to a long, detailed reply I'd spent some time on, I decided that in future, when I have to write an e-mail like that which would be hard to re-create, I write them in Notepad, then paste the finished reply into an e-mail's body. That way, even if the computer crashes, I've been clicking "Save" all along while writing and have only lost a couple of sentences at most. I only do this for e-mails that would be a real pain to have to start over, but it's paid off a couple of times and I was glad I'd adopted that way of doing it.

jackie
July 30, 2006 1:52 AM

MSN messenger seems to have disapeared from my computer. How do I access it?

Eileen
December 6, 2006 9:16 PM

I accidentally did not save my microsoft word document. Can I get it back? Please respond back!
Eileen

kristie
May 8, 2008 12:54 PM

thats aweful, I spent over an hour on my email and on the last sentence msn timed out before i could send i didn't expect that cause i never left my computer or quit typing. Where is it? Can I get it back??? this is horrible i did nothing else but the email.

Mary
July 22, 2008 8:41 PM

I was composing an email and I saved it several times. I got called away from my work, and when I came back I had timed out. How can I find what I had saved?
Thankou

That depends entirely on what email program you use. Most place auto-saved messages into a "Draft" folder.

-Leo

J E Pettitt
August 14, 2008 2:10 AM

BLOODY HECK! I was composing an email with Yahoo and stopped to consult an internet site's actual name and author which I wished to recommend to my recipient; the email disappeared. I've been mortally wounded like this before. THANKS for the reference above to G-mail and the preventions built-in [Mark,Ap.2006]. Loss of a 'composition' can be devastating!

Paul
October 6, 2008 1:05 PM

I was composing a reply and it disappeared.

I recomposed it and click to save it to drafts and then I couldnt find the drafts folder on MSN

Barry
March 4, 2009 12:54 PM

I, too, have suffered by having a lengthy email accidentally disappear just as I was finishing it. Now, if I know it's a long one, I compose in Word and then copy and paste it into my Hotmail email. I've never figured out which key is the culprit, but it's one at the bottom of the keyboard and if I just brush it, everything is gone. Aaaaarrgh!!!! So save, save, save......

Christine Cason
April 2, 2009 8:07 AM

Why didn't my letter get saved as a draft like usual. Not only did it not save but 10 other drafts just disappeared. Can I get them back and why is this happening?

Not enough information to go on. You didn't even tell me what email program you're using, any error messages, or the specific steps of what you were doing at the time.
- Leo
03-Apr-2009

William Roberts
May 6, 2009 5:17 AM

Hi can you help.We saved an email'Hotmail' to the save draft folder and retrieved it later to add more text, we then clicked on the save draft again but all the extra text dissapeared, what can we do to get it back and was it because our email was to long. we have checked in the commputer bin etc but cannot find the rest of the email anywhere. I am 75 so simple instructions would be much appreciated...Our security system is firfox and are computer is Vista...Thankyou...Scouser...

suzanne
June 25, 2009 6:09 AM

this happens to me ALL the time - typing a lengthy email and then, poof, its gone - no way to get it back. It started when I got this Dell Laptop and Windows Vista. Never occurred on my desktop. I must be hitting a key accidentally but I can't figure it out.

pansy
January 10, 2010 3:39 PM

I was just typing and my mail was gone, it was a reply.

barbara
March 7, 2010 12:25 PM

This disappearing email as I compose it is becoming a big problem now for me in outlook express. It use to happen periodically. Now the cursor jumps at random into another part of the email continually and emails under composition totally disappear. I have figured out that if I open a 'create' new email to compose rather than a 'reply' to compose & DON'T put the address or subject on until just before I send, it seems to NOT disappear. Also sometimes I highlight the whole email and hit copy just to be sure I don't loose it.
What a mess.

louielou
June 23, 2010 1:19 PM

This is very aggravating. I am using Comcast email, XP-SP3.Accessing comcast from a remote site. I stated a new Compose, the contents of which took a lot of thought. Now I have to start all over. This has been happening more often lately.

mary beech
June 28, 2010 8:31 AM

My text in yahoo email,facebook etc.. disappears when I press the capitol "m",The lower case"m"ends up in a different part of the text than I intended . I have a Toshiba laptop with windows vista.I've only had this laptop less than a year.. Anyone with suggestions?

Connie
September 19, 2010 10:23 PM

I don't know what email service you are using, but this has happened to me MANY times with my Outlook Express. All I do to get my message back, is hit Ctrl Z .....and voila!
Maybe this will help YOU, too. Good luck.

khaled
January 24, 2011 9:00 AM

I lost my email address {removed by moderator}@hotmail.com, kindly if I can get it back, cause I had all my emails and contact on it and now i lose them all
thank you

This article discusses recovery options for the various ways that Hotmail accounts can be lost or compromised: What are my Lost Hotmail Account and Password Recovery Options?
Leo
25-Jan-2011
sreek
May 24, 2011 12:17 AM

hi,

i have draft some mail, and final i have click on send , its came web page unable to connect. but it dint save even in drafts. how could i retrieve the data. because i spend 1 hr to draft.
it happens in a weak 2 times.
please possible provide me an option.

regards
rajeswari.s


littleray
November 12, 2011 4:30 AM

It happened to me multiple times that my drafts would suddenly be highlighted and in a flash disappear. I know the panic.
Then a friend showed me how to retrieve the draft.
Answer: Ctrl Z. Hit at the "same" time. If you hit one first, even if you hold it down while you hit the other, it won't work.

Try it. It works.
littleray

Roger PB
December 13, 2011 10:00 AM

I have on numerous occasions found that emails I was in the middle of drafting simply disappeared. I found the safest solution was to draft them in Word or another text editor, save it, and cut and paste the text to Outlook. That does not say much for the bomb-proof quality of Outlook, does it?

Doris Whitton
January 3, 2013 7:49 AM

Since Yahoo email changed it's format, I am "looping", i.e. having to keep signing in. Drafted email on my mac with 3 attachments & it kept saying that it didn't save to draft & kept spinning to send. After a while I hit refresh & now it is gone. Anyway to retrieve? Yahoo's new format is a PITA & I can't even get through my emails. They are aware, give a page how to fix but it doesn't work. Many more problems, but I am "fried" & don't feel like trying to compose this again, been up all night. What a pain! I don't know what you mean by download all messages since I tried to send that one... to Pages or what. Not worth it. Hope someone has an idea. I think that because I refreshed & also because it "looped", I lost the email. Thought so a couple of nights ago when it said it didn't send, then found it sent 3 times! Insanity!

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