A few days back, I deleted an email while using the iOS Mail App. A pop-up appeared asking me if I wanted to “Undo Trash”. Since I’d never seen this notification before, I didn’t quite understand what would happen if I responded to it. Would it ‘un-delete’ all my deleted emails? If so, where would the un-deleted emails wind up, and for how long exactly?
This Undo message is actually a hidden feature of many Apple and third-party apps. To activate it, you just need to shake your iPhone gently, and you’re shown the ‘Undo message’ notification. Smart and simple!
Typically, tapping Undo in an app performs a single operation, and hence only the previous action gets reversed. For example, in this case, the message you just trashed gets restored to the mailbox from where it was plucked. How cool is that?
However, that leads us to the deeper question: Where does the deleted email go when is it removed from the Mail account on your iOS device?
With most of the modern email clients, when you delete a message, it’s moved from your Inbox to another mailbox labelled ‘Deleted Messages’ or Trash. But effectively, it remains on the server, whether that’s Apple’s iCloud, Google’s Gmail, or any other.
However, iOS doesn’t store mail locally on a permanent basis. Instead, it works on a temporarily cached copy of your central email storage. macOS, on the other hand, can store emails in local folders and then either keep it on the server or delete it.
Owing to this conceptual difference, iOS always moves deleted mail into a Deleted Messages folder when you trash it. So all you need to do is access the Deleted Messages folder
Both iOS and macOS’s Mail apps automatically delete email from active email accounts, and they routinely check for new messages after a preset period. The default for iOS and macOS is one week and one month, respectively.
To change the iOS setting, you have to dive deep. Open Settings > Mail > Accounts > Tap the relevant account > Advanced > Mail> Advanced. And then you can finally tap the Remove item below Deleted Messages, which lets you change the automatic deletion period.
To alter the setting in macOS, select Mail > Preferences > Select a mail account at left, and then click Mailbox Behaviors. From the Trash Mailbox menu, you can select how frequently and to which mailbox you’d like to store these delete messages.