Silhouettes of two people using laptops in front of a Google logo

Do you remember Google Talk? Google launched its first chat service back in 2005. It’s long gone, but your old Google Talk chat logs may still be stored in your Gmail account. Gmail may remember your Google Hangouts chat history, too.

Like an Elephant, Google Doesn’t Forget

By default, Google remembers your conversation histories. Even though Google Talk is long gone, your chat logs from that discontinued service are stored in your Gmail account. Gmail’s search function searches both your chat logs and your emails. If you wanted to keep your chat history, that’s great.

But—if you started using Google Talk in 2005, that means that chat logs from more than 15 years ago are stored in your Gmail account. Do you really want to keep all those old conversations forever, indexed alongside your emails? If so, great. If not, you might want to erase them.

Your chat history also takes up storage space, just like the emails you store in Gmail. That’s another reason you might want to wipe it, just like you might want to delete old and unnecessary emails.

Chat history wasn’t mandatory—at the time, you could disable Google Talk’s chat history feature. However, it was enabled by default, and most people didn’t disable it.

RELATED: Why You Should Delete Emails Instead of Archiving Them

How to Find Google Talk and Hangouts Chat Logs in Gmail

Chat logs are easy to find. On the Gmail website, click the “More” option in the left sidebar.

Click “Chats” to view all the chat logs Gmail is storing in your Google account. You’ll see chat logs from both the older Google Talk and the newer Google Hangouts here.

You can click through your chat logs and read them. The counter at the top-right corner of the messages list will give you some idea of how many chat logs you’re storing in your account.

To search your chat history, use the search box at the top of the page. The “In:chats” term searches chat logs only, omitting emails. For example, you can search for “in:chats bicycle” to search for all the times you mentioned the word “bicycle” in a Google Talk or Hangouts conversation.

Chat logs in Gmail.

How to Delete Your Old Google Chat Logs

If you don’t want to store your entire chat history forever, it’s easy to clear.

While viewing your chat logs, click the checkbox at the top-left corner of the chat log list to select all the chat logs in the current view. Click the “Select all [number] conversations in Chats” link to select every single chat log stored in your Google account.

Then, click the “Delete” button on the toolbar to delete them all. They’ll be sent to your trash. You can either clear your trash immediately, or Gmail will delete them after 30 days.

Note: You can also just delete individual chat logs. Open one and click the “Delete” button on Gmail’s toolbar to erase one.

How to Delete Your Hangouts Conversations

If you’ve used Google Hangouts, you’ll find all the “active” Hangouts conversations on the Google Hangouts website. (Some of these conversations may be from several years ago.)

To delete conversations stored here, hover your mouse cursor over them, click the menu button to the right of the conversation, and click “Delete.” (If it’s a group Hangouts chat, you must click “Leave” instead.)

Remember that if you have multiple Google accounts—or you have an old one that you haven’t used in a long time—it may have its own chat history. Sign in to your old accounts and look at the Chats section under Gmail to see what Google remembers.

Profile Photo for Chris Hoffman Chris Hoffman
Chris Hoffman is Editor-in-Chief of How-To Geek. He's written about technology for over a decade and was a PCWorld columnist for two years. Chris has written for The New York Times and Reader's Digest, been interviewed as a technology expert on TV stations like Miami's NBC 6, and had his work covered by news outlets like the BBC. Since 2011, Chris has written over 2,000 articles that have been read more than one billion times---and that's just here at How-To Geek.
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