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Thursday, September 18, 2008

What to do if you can't Access your Gmail

We know how important webmail is to the people who use it regularly, since (of course) we use it ourselves at Google. So we know that not being able to access a webmail account -- no matter what the reason, or how long it lasts -- can be frustrating at the very least. Sometimes interruptions are caused by technical issues with your mail program or your Internet connection. More often, they're account-related.

When it comes to Gmail specifically, there are a couple of things that might cause account-related interruptions in access: a lost or forgotten password, unusual activity that triggers the safety measures designed to keep accounts from being compromised, or, in the worst case, someone has stolen your login info and changed it.

Most of the questions we get about account interruptions are the result of lost or forgotten passwords and as such are relatively easy to fix (more below). But no matter what their origin, we take these issues very seriously. Of course, there are certain cases where our options are limited -- we don't ask for much personal information when you sign up for Gmail, which can sometimes make it difficult to prove ownership of an account and trigger the recovery process.

Still, there are some simple steps you can take to ensure that your account stays in your hands, and to greatly improve the chances of regaining access if you have any problems:
  • Don't share your Gmail password with anyone. Not friends, not family, not anyone. And if you need to write down your password, be sure to keep it in a safe place, away from your computer. (For info on how to choose a good password and keep it safe, check out this post.)
  • Don't respond to messages asking for your login info. As you may already know, there are people out there who will try to steal your login info. Google will never send you an email, IM, or any other communication asking for your Gmail login info, so don't respond to any messages asking for it.
  • Always keep the verification number you get when you sign up for Gmail. When you sign up for Gmail, we'll ask you for a secondary email address and then email a verification number to that account. This number is the best way to prove ownership of your account, so be sure to hang on to it.
  • If you aren't able to access your account, try resetting your password. As mentioned above, most of the support requests we get turn out to be lost or forgotten passwords, rather than something more serious. Resetting your password usually gets the job done.
  • If resetting your password doesn't work, try our account-recovery process. We recently launched an account-recovery form in our help center that can drastically reduce the amount of time it takes to verify ownership of an account and restore access. If you have the information necessary to prove ownership -- such as the verification code for the account -- this new process can help our support team restore access within a matter of hours.
Again, we're always working on ways to help you keep your account secure and to stay safe online. Some of that work is educational, and some of it is technical, like the feature we recently launched for Gmail that lets you see when your account was last logged into and whether your account is currently open on another computer. Head over to our Gmail blog for more info.

Announced by Colin Bogart, Gmail user support team


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