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How long does Gmail keep read, but unanswered messages in the Inbox?

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Indefinitely.

The only messages that Gmail automatically remove are those in Trash and Spam. Those are removed after they're there for 30 days.

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Can confirm: my inbox goes back to 2007. – pjc50 Mar 15 at 14:38
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I've noticed that Google sometimes doesn't even remove Trash and Spam items automatically; I've had spam and deleted e-mails stick around for months on occasion. – JAB Mar 15 at 15:05
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My inbox goes back to 2006 (got an invite in the last months while they still were needed). But the OP might be referring to the recently created Inbox app, not the regular inbox (in which case, no idea, sorry, though likely the same - there's no reason to delete that sort of messages). – January First-of-May Mar 16 at 2:50
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One should be wary, that many apps have a setting only synchronize the last X days for the inbox. I think this defaults to 30 days on many apps, so you will only see the last 30 days of messages in your inbox at first. (But all messages are still there and can be accessed via search or another client/browser interface) – Falco Mar 16 at 12:01
    
Hmm, my Sent folder goes back to 2005, but my inbox only goes back to 2006. Not sure why ... – RBarryYoung Mar 16 at 13:57

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