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What is Gmail's confidential mode and how to use it

Learn how to send self-deleting emails right here.

Published onMay 19, 2023

If you’re sending an email with sensitive or personal information, it’s best to take all the necessary precautions to avoid that information spilling into the wider world. Gmail confidential mode can go a long way to helping you in this particular quest. But what is it, and how do you use it? Here’s everything you need to know about Gmail’s protected messages feature.


Confidential mode in Gmail enables an email sender to prevent unauthorized access to a message. Senders can set an email expiration date, disallow forwarding or downloading of an email, or limit access to an email by setting a passcode. It's available per email and can be found in the compose toolbar in Gmail.


What is Gmail’s confidential mode?

Added to Gmail in August 2018, confidential mode adds another layer of security to emails on Gmail.

Users sending a confidential email in Gmail can set a self-deletion expiration date for an email or strip the recipient’s access whenever required. The feature also limits forwarding, copying, printing, and downloading any attachments or the email text itself. Confidential mode emails can also be locked behind a passcode that can be sent to a recipient via SMS.

Essentially, the feature limits unauthorized access to an email meant explicitly for one recipient and adds a layer of protection and control for senders. While you likely wouldn’t want to set every email as confidential, it provides peace of mind for those required to send personal information in a thread.

How to use confidential mode in Gmail

The feature can be toggled on and off per email, so there’s no need to dig through your Gmail settings to activate it.

On Android

  1. Open Gmail.
  2. Tap Compose.
  3. In the new email, tap the three-dot menu button at the top right.
  4. Select Confidential mode.
    1. You’ll see a toggle to enable and disable Confidential mode; ensure this is toggled on.
    2. You can set a self-deletion date by using the dropdown under Set expiry. Your options include 1 day, 1 week, 1 month, 3 months, and 5 years.
    3. Finally, you can lock the email behind a passcode by selecting an option under the Require passcode option.
  5. Once you’ve adjusted these settings, tap Save.
  6. Compose your email and send it as normal.

On desktop

  1. Navigate to Gmail in your browser.
  2. Click Compose.
  3. In the new email box, click the padlock with clock icon between Insert photo and Insert signature.
  4. Set an expiration date and choose whether to lock the email behind a passcode. Hit Save once you’re happy with your changes.
  5. Compose your email and send it as normal.

How to turn off or disable confidential mode

confidential mode gmail browser disable
Andy Walker / Android Authority

To turn off or disable the feature in a Gmail email, head back into the Confidential mode settings menu and toggle it off on Android, or click the X in the box at the bottom of your email in Gmail on a browser.