Oops! How to Undo Mistakes on Computers & Mobile Devices


erica-manfred2Last week, Erica reported on her visit to CEWeekNY, the annual trade show for consumer electronics; see why she picked ReSound hearing sids as her Best in Show here. This week in Aging With Geekitude, Erica discovers some useful new tricks.
I still wish I could unsend the email promising to return the security deposit of a tenant who was trying to screw me out of a month’s rent. I hit “send” just so he’d leave – now I have to pay for my error. I didn’t know when I made that mistake that you can unsend an email if you act fast enough.

There are no do-overs in life, but if you know some insider secrets, there are in computing. Luckily has done some research into how to recover from all kinds of mistakes, both smartphone and computer. Here are the tips I think are most useful – and a couple of my own.


How to unsend email in Gmail

If you use gmail, there’s a nifty way to unsend email. First, you have to set it up:

  • Click Settings (the little gear icon on the upper right)
  • Choose Labs (near the end of a list of selections in blue type across the top)
  • Look for Unsend and click Enable
  • Scroll all the way down and click Save Changes.

Extra tip: Labs gives you the option to enable all kinds of bells and whistles. I had no idea this setting existed and clicked a few other options while I was there, like the Google Calendar gadget that shows my Calendar on the left side of my email.  Very handy.

You have at least five seconds to unsend the email; you’ll see an “Unsend” link in the “Email sent” notification that appears after you hit send; just click on that link. If you think you need longer to unsend, check out this tip from on how to increase the time before the email gets delivered:

  • Click the Settings gear in your Gmail’s toolbar
  • Choose Settings from the menu that comes up
  • Open the General category
  • Pick the desired time to undo message delivery for Send cancellation period: __ seconds under Undo Send
  • Click Save Changes.

How to unsend a text message

Download the Tiger Text app It works for both iPhone and Android. You can recall any message and even set a time limit that the recipient has to view it.

The iPhone trick  Pure Wow explains that “though you can’t un-send a text once it’s gone out, you can stop one that’s in the process of being sent (i.e., the little gray bar is still loading).” How? As soon as you’ve sent the text, put your phone on Airplane Mode. Of course, the text will fail to deliver because you have no signal; then you can delete the message. (Warning: This only works for texts sent through iMessage and for texts that are sending particularly slowly.) To enable Airplane Mode, go to your iPhone’s Settings, then move the slider next to Airplane Mode to On.

How to undo and redo typing & other actions

On your iPhone/iPad To undo something you just typed, just shake the phone. To redo, shake it again.  Sometimes I wish I had an iPhone.

On your computer  Ctrl-Z (Command-Z on a Mac) deletes the last action you took, whether it’s a copy-paste, a deletion or something you typed. I can’t believe I’ve been writing for 30 years and never knew this.  If course, backspace is pretty handy as well.

If you’ve deleted a sentence by mistake and you’re using Word, click on the little curvy backwards arrow at the top and it will restore it.  Or use Ctrl-Y.

How to restore a closed  browser tab

Did you just close a browser tab or a bunch of tabs, either accidentally or because your computer slowed down? Lost that link to a great deal on a pair of shoes and can’t figure out how to find it? Hit Ctrl-Shift-T (Command-Shift-T on a Mac) and the pages will pop right up again. (This works for all browsers.)

How to find a lost document

If you use Word, I guarantee this has happened to you.  Your document has disappeared and you are sure you have lost it forever.

Check your Temp folder on a PC This is the default folder for docs that Word wants to bury forever.  I’ve found many “lost” docs there. To find your Temp folder, go to Windows Explorer, paste C:\Users\<username>\AppData\Local\Temp  into your navigation bar and you may spot it there.  FYI, “<username>” is the Administrator name that pops up  when you open Windows. I use <Erica>.  Also check your <downloads> folder.  It may have wound up there somehow.

Oops – you haven’t saved it? On PC, if it’s not in the Temp folder,  go to the File menu, click Open, then Recent Documents. Scroll to the end of all recent documents and then click “Recover Unsaved Documents.”  If you find the Word doc you’re looking for, double-click to open it. Save immediately.  I have lost hours of work accidentally closing docs without saving them. On Mac, look in your trash for a “recovered Items” folder.

Not there either?  If neither of these work and you’re still having a panic attack, click the Start Menu ( in  Windows 7 and above) and see “search programs and files” at the bottom.  Put in any word or phrase in the lost document.  This incredibly nifty little feature will search your hard drive and come up with a list of documents that contain the words you entered. This works for all kinds of documents, including PDFs.  It’s also very handy when you’re looking for an old document and you can’t remember what you named it or where you put it. On Mac, use your Spotlight tool – the little magnifying glass at the top right of your Finder window.

How not to make mistakes in the first place

Use a backup program  I recommend Dropbox, which will save drafts of documents as you go along so you won’t lose anything, including those brilliant ideas that you mistakenly deleted.  Check out my column on it.

Never hit “send” in the heat of the moment  Let that angry email to your ex sit until the next day, re-read it and then send it. There is nothing that can’t wait a day. I sure wish I’d waited to send that email to my tenant until the next day and called my lawyer instead.

Be very careful with group emails  Make sure you’re not hitting “reply all” unless you really want all those people to see what you’re writing. Mistakenly hitting “Reply all” has resulted in disaster for many hapless email senders. Here’s an example from Business Insider that went viral: “An intern turned himself infamous when he accidentally sent an email meant for a friend to dozens of his colleagues, which included higher-ups at the prestigious law firm where he worked:

I’m busy doing jack s—. Went to a nice 2hr sushi lunch today at Sushi Zen. Nice Place. Spent the rest of the day typing emails and bullsh–ting with people. Unfortunately, I actually have work to do — I’m on some corp finance deal, under the global head of corp finance, which means I should really peruse these materials and not be a f—up…”


Click here to read the complete article at

Know any invaluable do-over tricks for computers (or for life)? Share them in the comments.
See more Aging With Geekitude articles.

Erica Manfred is a journalist, essayist and humorist who writes about everything from dentistry to divorce to fantasy fiction. Friend her on Facebook.


16 responses to “Oops! How to Undo Mistakes on Computers & Mobile Devices

  1. I know you can help me get into my account please I know you can do it. You have the skill you have the knowledge some a****** file my phone in the parking lot and changed all my recovery information so I had to start a new account please email me I’ll explain everything I’ll pay you

  2. THANK YOU Erica again for a tech lifesaving article!!! I’ve been wishing forever that I could catch a sent message before reaching destination. You’re so wonderful, all your articles are SO helpful to us!

    Do you happen to know how to manage photos in Windows 10? Ever since I had it installed, I just do not know how to put them either on an email or on Word in a way that the recipient can enlarge them by just rolling up or down, as with Photo Gallery, and not just immobile as an album. I tried and tried and didn’t get anywhere. The moderators in, the creators of the windows, don’t know either lol! If you did an article may I have the link?

    Thanks again for all your help! :o)

    1. Yes I need your help is there any way that I can find out what was the last password I changed in my Google account that was hacked on December 20th of 2021, I have been trying to get back into my account since then and it’s impossible I’m always asked for a backup because calls that I do not have I put in the phone number I had when I originally opened the account but it wants to send the codes to that number but there’s no way for me to give my present number because it wants to send it to the

  3. I was trying to clean my internal files in my phone ty make room. My phone internal memory was at 95 serpent full. I accidental moved my music. I lost about 600 songs. I just plug plugged my phone to a desktop computer and saw that my music was still in the internal memory of the phone. How do I undo moving that file ? Please help before it goes into the trash. You can call me at any time 760 641-3035 help, help, please

    1. Hi Gail, PureWow covers fashion, art and other topics, including tech. If you click on the PureWow link in our article it will link you directly to that website’s piece about correcting mistakes. Let us know if you are not able to access the correct page (we just tested the link, and it works).

  4. Thanks for the wonderful information. It is really useful. I thought I was tech savvy but once again you share things I didn’t know.

    I have a question. When my computer (Windows 7) was rebuilt the tech named it Owner. How do I change the name to my first name?

  5. Hitting “Control-Z” to “take back”: what you just did, and now wish you hadn’t, is something lots of people do learn about early on. But I only just recently discovered, by sheer bumbling serendipity, that you can go much farther back than your last action, and find all kinds of lost phrases and fixable errors: Just keep repeating “Control-Z”:over and over till you reach the “layer” that you want.(Would that life had a neat repeat-reverse time-machine like this!)

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