Oh no. You’ve gotten locked out of your Gmail account and you don’t know what to do. If you have a recovery email address or phone number listed, the solution is easy. But what if you don’t? Or what if you’ve lost access for another reason? Here’s how to recover a Gmail account you’ve gotten locked out of.
How to recover your Gmail account
Google has several support articles that explain how to recover a Gmail account, but who has time to sift through all of those to find the help you need? We go through all the problems you might have getting into your account and advise you on how to regain access.
I forgot my password
The first thing to do is open Gmail in your browser, enter your username or email address, and then hit next. It will take to the password page as usual.
Click on the “Forgot Password” link beneath the password field. Enter the last password you remember or click on the link that says, “Try Another Way.” We’ll discuss that more in a second.
Enter your recovery phone number in the field and hit “Send.” Wait for a verification code to appear on your phone, and then enter that code in the “Code” field on your screen, and click “Next.”
Google will take you to a page where you can reset your password, thus restoring access to your account.
I forgot my email address for Gmail
What happens if you forgot your email address? Many of us might think all is lost since we need to know our addresses to recover anything, including our passwords.
Go to the “Find My Email” page and enter your recovery email or phone number. You’ll also need to provide your full name or the full name attached to the account.
Google will then ask you to provide additional information to get a verification code sent to your phone. Once you receive that code, enter it in the field on the page, and you’ll get your email address.
If you have more than one Gmail account attached to your name, Google will ask you to choose an account. Click on the one you were looking for, and enter your password (for a forgotten password, follow the steps above).
At that point, Google will prompt you to supply a recovery email and phone number or change those to make this process easier for you (remember, you can do that anytime under “Manage Your Account”). It will also ask for your home address, which you can provide or not, depending on how comfortable you are.
Recover a password without a phone number or recovery email
Some people haven’t entered recovery emails or passwords because they worry about that information getting hacked, or they have some other reason. That can make it difficult to find your Gmail password.
Open Gmail and enter your email address, then click on the “Forgot Password” link. You can try the last password you remember for that account. It doesn’t have to be the most recent one. It just has to be one that you’ve used on that account at some point.
Click on “Next.” That will take you to a page where you have to answer your security question.
Enter the correct answer, which will take you to the password reset page, and reset your password.
What if I don’t remember the answer to my security question?
Don’t keep trying to answer it if you don’t remember because you only get so many guesses before they lock you out. Remember the “Try Another Way” link we mentioned earlier? Open your browser and go to Gmail. Enter your email and click “Next,” then click on “Forgot Password.” In the following window, don’t type anything, but click on “Try Another Way.”
Keep clicking on “Try Another Way” until you get a window that asks for an email address you can access where they can contact you (it doesn’t have to be a Gmail address). They’ll send a verification code to the email address you provide, and once you receive it, you can enter it on your Gmail page.
However, Google may or may not decide whether they can verify you’re the account owner immediately and may need some time to review your request. You’ll probably want to at least give them a recovery email address once you have access again, though.
Restore your Google account
Sometimes, we delete accounts and then decide that it was a bad decision. Can you restore your Gmail account? Go to the Google Account Recovery page. It will ask you for the address of the account you want to restore and the last password you remember. If it’s your current password, then Google will sign you in, and you’ve restored your account.
You only have two to three weeks to do this. After that time, you can’t get your Google account back, and you’ll have to create a new one. Your best course of action is to avoid deleting your account unless you’re absolutely certain about it.
What if I lost my Google password?
Things will be a bit more complicated, but you can still restore a deleted account. Remember the “Try Another Way” link? That’s available on the recovery page as well. Click on that until you get the option to provide the answer to your security question and an email address to which you have access.
It can take a day or so for them to verify your information and send you a link to recover your account. Once you get it, though, click on “Get Started,” which will take you to the password reset page. Reset your password, and that should restore your account.
Restoring a hacked account
You might notice unfamiliar activity on your account or a notice from Google that they detected an odd sign-in. If someone has hacked your account, you have a few options available to you.
Secure your account
If you’re signed into the hacked account already, review your activity and the devices that use your account. Then:
- Turn on two-factor authentication
- Scan your computer for malware and remove it
- Secure your apps and devices by whatever means you have available
- Enable Password Alert to protect your password
- Secure any other Google products you use
If you can’t log into Gmail
This can happen when someone changes your password or other information, or they delete your account. Go to the recovery page, answer the questions they ask as best you can, and follow the rest of the steps for how to get your Google account back.
Tips to follow to recover your Gmail account
Suppose you’re having problems restoring your account or recovering your email or password. In that case, there are some tips on the google support website that you can follow to help ensure you’re eventually able to re-access your account.
Use familiar devices
All those browser cookies we all hate do come in handy sometimes. If you can’t log into Gmail, Google can recognize your device and make it easier for you to navigate the steps to regain access to your account. Also, make sure you’re on a network and browser you usually use. The more frequently you use it, the better. Google will use those, too, to recognize you.
Answer as many questions as you can
You may well get sent to a page where Google starts asking you a lot of questions. Those can include your full name, birth date, the phone number associated with your account, your last-known password, and your security questions.
Some of those you’ll know right off the bat, but others, you might stare at and think, “What? How am I supposed to remember this?” (Don’t worry, we’ve all been there.) Try and answer it anyway, using your best guess. Just remember not to guess too many times so you don’t get locked out entirely.
You don’t have to panic if you need help accessing your account. If you stay signed in forever or don’t use your account frequently, you’re more likely to forget your password and possibly your address. But all is not lost. Google has many ways to restore your account access.
Do unused accounts expire?
Yes. Your account will remain active as long as you regularly use it. Google may deactivate it if you stop using it, though.
Can I see my password?
Yes. Go to passwords.google.com, which will bring up a list of accounts and their passwords. Click on the view button (it looks like an eye), and you’ll see your passwords.
If you use a sync passphrase, though, this won’t work for you.
Should I report my hacked account to the authorities?
If your email account contains sensitive information, like banking information, then yes, you should report it to the authorities. You should also contact them if the hacker’s activities could get you into trouble. Report it to Google even if sensitive information wasn’t compromised.
Are recovery emails and phone numbers really necessary?
To make the account reset and recovery process easier, yes. Google does not require you to do this, but it’s always a good idea.