Need help with Mac Mail

While repairing (which should be back up soon), I had my sister, who has a email address, delete her old account and create a new one. She did this in Apple’s Mac Mail program, which I don’t know or use.

All her sent and received emails are now gone. Or invisible. I don’t believe they’ve been erased, but I don’t know. Can anybody help here? Where are the files stored, and what would the files be called, so she can search for them?




  1. Ted Shelton’s avatar


    don’t know if they get deleted though when you remove an account…

  2. Graham English’s avatar

    All her data should be stored in /Users/username/Library/Mail/ and in there will be a folder with in the name.

  3. Andria Krewson’s avatar

    Her Mac should have User directories.
    Folder called Mail in her user directory.
    Within that should be folders and files with the .mbox extension.
    They only seem to open within the Mail application — tried opening with textedit on my machine to no avail.

  4. Lee Dale’s avatar

    The inbox, drafts, trash and sent messages for each account are stored in an account directory, separate from any folders that have been created manually. My understanding is that, when you delete an account, it removes the account directory and anything in it.

    Of course, as noted above, you’ll be able to confirm this by checking the account directory in , ~/username/Library/Mail/ And, yes, this is very annoying of Apple if the system deletes file folders when you remove an account in Mail.


  5. @mdbraber’s avatar

    Hi Doc,

    Look in ~/Library/Mail there are supposed to be all related files. are .emlx files iirc (no mbox). Of course easiest if she has TimeMachine backups, but that would be too easy I guess :-/ Good luck!

  6. Stephen Hill’s avatar

    Hi Doc…depends on how her original account was set up on your mail server. Apple’s can be either a POP3 or an IMAP mail client or both. Your question seems to indicate that you expected her to have an IMAP setup.

    If your sister was using a POP3 client before, she was probably downloading all her mail from the server and storing it locally, so those messages are not on the server any more unless it was configured to leave a copy there.

    If she deleted a POP3 account on her machine, it probably erased all the filed mail. Depending on her mail client, it could have deleted a single local database or (old school) it could have deleted a tree and branch directory structure in the filing system with individual files for each email. Either way you might be able to recover it with “unerase” software.

    If she previously had an IMAP account, it would depend on how she deleted it. If she deleted the entire IMAP account on your mail server, then Apple Mail would obviously not be able to see it.

    The correct procedure is to leave the old account in place, configure Apple Mail to talk to the mail server (either via POP3 or IMAP), then turn off the old client from receiving and sending mail — but not delete anything.

    If the old account was IMAP, then Apple Mail will be able to see all the filed mail. If it was POP3, the mail is probably on your sisters local drive, and she can use the old client to view it.

    Hope that helps…

    :: SH

  7. Doc Searls’s avatar

    She doesn’t have Time Machine. It’s an older machine. But she thinks she has that directory backed up.

  8. Doc Searls’s avatar

    Gary, it’s a POP account. It appears that its contents were lost. However, she did back up the whole ~/ directory several days ago.

    So she’ll try saving off the current ~/Library/Mail directory contents to some other folder and replacing them with the backed-up copy. Hope that works. We’ll know in the morning.

    Thanks everybody!

  9. Zo’s avatar

    They may not have been erased. Apple Mail has rary happy habit of “disappearing” its mail … and if those account folders containing the mailboxes are still in User/Library/Mail, what is left out in these comments is that the contents have to be Imported back in. This is probably also true after a TM restore. But Mail does so happily, and voila, there it all is again.

  10. Jim Thompson’s avatar

    I’m out of my first final around noon HST.

    Let me know if I can help.

  11. Stephen Lewis’s avatar

    A different take … back in the days of skating-on-thin-ice days windows 95 and 98 and very limited ISP inbox capacity I twice deleted all of the pop-email that was stored in my machine. The initial rush of panic and loss was very debilitating but once I calmed down I realized that it made almost no difference in my life or in my work. My suggestion, thus: Look forward, not backward, Jan! Be happy at being freed of “dusty” old emails, and, always use IMAP. Steve

  12. Fathers Rights’s avatar

    This reminds me of what I went through with Mac Mail. After trying everything I finally gave up after losing over a year of saved emails. Hope you get it working. Jim

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