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On average, Gmail user receives 120 new emails daily. However, they read only the most important emails, with some reading the notification bar. Other unread emails get buried in a pile of new emails.

Scanning through your inbox to access old emails is easier said than done. Thankfully, Gmail allows you to find old emails faster, so you won’t have to sort emails one by one. Below are simple methods of accessing your old, unread emails in seconds. 

Method 1: Let Unread Emails Appear First in Your Inbox

You can adjust your Gmail settings, so unread messages appear first in your inbox. This setting is applicable whether you are using Gmail on the web or an app. Additionally, the setting is automatically updated on all devices; if you update via the Gmail app, it’s automatically updated on the web version.

#1. Show Unread Messages When on the Web

Step 1: Sign in to your Gmail inbox 

Go to Gmail.

Search mail.google.com and enter your Gmail account username and password to log in. Verify through your phone if you have set up a two-step verification to proceed to your inbox.

Step 2: Open inbox settings 

Tap the inbox tab.

Click on the screen’s settings icon at the top right corner and then click on more settings. Navigate to the inbox tab, which is the third on the list, to open settings that are specific to the inbox. 

Step 3: Change inbox type to unread first

Click unread first.

Click on the drop-down menu next to default in inbox type and select unread first. 

Step 4: Select the number of unread messages you want to see in your inbox

Customize the number of unread messages to top your inbox.

Go to inbox sections and click the dropdown menu next to options under unread. Select the number of unread messages you want to see in your inbox. Consider a higher number if you have a busy inbox

Step 5: Save the changes

Select save changes.

Scroll down to the bottom and click save changes to activate the changes you made to your inbox. 

Step 6: Confirm the changes you made 

Confirm unread messages appear first. 

Go back to your inbox, and you will realize that your unread emails are displayed first, and then read emails are pushed below. 

#2. Show Unread Messages First on the Gmail App

If you are using an iOS or Android device, you can use the Gmail app to change your inbox settings so that you see unread emails first. Here are the steps:

Step 1: Sign in to your Google mail inbox 

Open Gmail app. 

Click on the Gmail app with a large M as its icon and enter your Gmail account credentials to log in. 

Step 2: Open the account’s settings. 

Access account settings. 

Click the three dots at the top left area of your screen to open a menu, then scroll down to settings. Under settings, click on the Gmail account you’d like to adjust its settings. 

Step 3: Set inbox type to unread first 

Tap unread first.

Under the account’s settings, click inbox type, which is the first option, then check the unread first. 

Step 4: Gmail will show the unread messages first 

Toggle between default inbox and unread emails first.

With this setting, the unread emails will appear first in the Gmail inbox, followed by read emails. You will also get a new folder for the unread messages where you can switch between the default inbox and the unread first inbox. 

Method 2: Search for Unread Emails

You can search for unread emails if you do not want to change your inbox’s default setting. This is possible on a phone or computer using the search label ‘is:unread.’ Here are the steps:

#1. Unread Messages on the Web

Step 1: Open the folder with the email you need 

Open the All Mail folder.

Open your browser and search mail.google.com. This will open your Gmail inbox or prompt you to enter your account details to log in. Once in your inbox, select the folder with the unread email you need. If you need help determining its location, click the All Mail folder. 

Step 2: Search for unread messages

Type is: unread, and hit enter.

Go to the search bar, type “is:unread” (without quotation marks), and pound enter. This will display all the unread messages in your selected folder or label. 

To get unread messages from a specific category, say primary, search “label: unread category:primary” (without quotations). This will shortlist unread messages only in the primary tab. 

#2. Unread Messages in the Mobile App

Step 1: Open your Gmail application and log in to your Gmail account 

Open your Gmail inbox.

Download the Gmail app if you don’t have it on your phone and enter your Gmail account details to open your Gmail inbox. 

Click the search icon. 

Tap on the search icon at the top right of the screen to open a search field 

Step 3: Search for your unread email 

Write ‘is: unread’ and hit search or enter.

Type “is:unread” on the search bar that opens after clicking the search icon and select enter or search. This search will give you every unread email in your inbox. 

#3. Adding an Unread Label

Although you can get your unread messages by searching “is:unread” on the search bar, you can make the search more specific using the search filters. These search filters help you add a label that holds all unread emails that fit your search criteria. Here is how to do it: 

Step 1: On your Gmail inbox, go to the search field 

Click on the search bar.

Log in to your Gmail account, then click on the search bar at the top. Your cursor will blink on this space, ready for you to enter your search criteria. 

Step 2: Search for the unread messages 

Look for unread emails.

Type is:unread in the search bar and hit enter to get a result of all unread emails. You can also click the search icons to search. 

Step 3: Create a filter 

Enter filter details and click create filter.

Click on the “show search options” to the right of the search bar to open a field where you can create a filter. Enter all the details you remember about the unread email you are looking for and select the create filter below.

Step 4: Confirm your filter 

Click Ok to confirm.

Step 5: Choose what happens to similar messages 

Click ok on the confirmation message to continue making the filter for unread emails. 

Select apply the label, then new label.

Tick the box to the left of Apply the label, then click the drop-down to the right of choose label and select new label.

Step 6: Create a new label 

Type the name of the new label and click Create.

A New Label dialogue box opens. Type the name of your new label and click create to save the new label name. 

Step 7: Check whether the unread emails that meet your search criteria fall under this label 

Unread emails appear under the new label.

Go back to your inbox, click the label icon at the top and open the label you created. Your unread emails that fit your search criteria will be under this label. 

You can also refine your search without using the filter function. Instead of using the search options function, you type the whole of your search criteria on the search bar. 

Search for Unread Emails Using a Date

Find unread emails with a date range.

To search unread messages sent on a specific date, you type “is:unread before:(date) after:(date).

Search for Unread Emails Using the Sender’s Name

Find unread email(s) using the sender’s email/name.

To search for an unread email using the sender’s name, search “is:unread from: (email address).”


Looking for unread emails helps you avoid missing out on an important email and makes organizing your inbox easier. Thankfully, it is possible to find unread emails whether you are using a phone or a computer. Use the methods above to help you find those emails you may have received a while ago but haven’t opened yet. 

Up Next

How to Find Unread Emails in Gmail With Photos FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Can a sender know that an email they sent is unread?

Gmail does not notify a sender after their email has been read. So, it’s hard for a sender to know that their email is still unread. However, some third-party apps like ContactMonkey or Yesware notify senders after their email has been delivered. If your sender has these apps, they can tell that their email is still unread.

Do unread emails disappear from Gmail?

Gmail does not delete unread emails, no matter how old they are. If you need to delete the messages, click on the empty box next to the message on the left, or right adjacent to the email and hit delete.

Why does one mark an email as unread?

You can mark an email as unread if you’d like a reminder to read the message later. Unread emails are bolded, making it easier to identify them from the other read emails.

Is there a maximum number of unread emails that you can have in your Gmail inbox?

There is no maximum number of unread emails in your Gmail inbox. Gmail does not delete your unread emails even if they have already piled up.

Do unread emails take up more or less storage?

Emails in your inbox take up the same space, whether read or unread. If trying to save space, consider deleting and removing the emails from the trash folder.

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