Skip navigation

Mail Downloads folder

3911 Views 18 Replies Latest reply: Jun 15, 2013 11:22 PM by Moloy RSS
1 2 Previous Next
Moloy Calculating status...
Currently Being Moderated
Jun 13, 2013 12:04 AM

Hello everybody !



I have a question connected with


I am addicted to making back-ups of everything I have on my computer. Correspondence in mail in a part of important data I need to regulary back-up just in case. Untill now I've been back-uping the folder  "User->Library->Mail->V2" because I thought that all the messages INCLUDING ATTACHEMENTS are stored there.


But recently I've found out the folder with a significant size "User->Library->Containers->>Data->Library->Mail downloads" that contain (well, obviously) attachements to the messages from 





What is the role of "Mail downloads" folder? Will all attachements (in be deleted in case I clean this folder by deleting all it's content ?  Or should I back-up it together with "V2" folder to be able to restore all information from (includint attached files) on my computer?



Thank you in advance

MacBook Air, Mac OS X (10.7.1)
  • Topher Kessler Level 6 Level 6 (9,305 points)
    Currently Being Moderated
    Jun 13, 2013 12:17 AM (in response to Moloy)

    When you receive an attachment from someone and open it, Mail stores it in this location. These attachments are still available on mail on your server, so this is more of a temporary local folder for these items.


    Are you using Time Machine, or another routine to back up your system?

  • Topher Kessler Level 6 Level 6 (9,305 points)
    Currently Being Moderated
    Jun 13, 2013 5:56 AM (in response to Moloy)

    The program needs some place to store attachments that you open. If someone sends you a Word document, then it will need to be stored temporarily in some location so the system can have it ready if and when you decide to access it. One option is to store these along with the message itself, the other is to leave it on the server, and the last is to store them all in a central location. Mail does the latter.


    This same behavior is true for any files you open in any application, be they in a Web browser, email client, or otherwise. Many programs cache files so if you browse by them it can make them available quickly without requiring you re-download them every time. The system merely downloading content in this manner will not hurt you. If you remove the corresponding email message, then the temporary items should disappear as well (eventually). If not, and they appear orphaned, then you can remove them manually without hurting anything. The system will only repopulate the items as you use it.

  • Topher Kessler Level 6 Level 6 (9,305 points)
    Currently Being Moderated
    Jun 13, 2013 9:28 PM (in response to Moloy)

    These programs will have their own options for caching attachments and other files.


    As long as the attachments are on the server, then they will be re-downloaded when you next sync with the server. If your email accounts are IMAP accounts, then this means that if you will be able to access the attachments again as the messages simply sync with what is on the server. On the other hand, POP accounts may download the files to your system and then remove them from the server so they may not be available afterwards. You can check the type of account by going to the Mail preferences, and in the Accounts section check the type of account right under the account name (ie, Gmail IMAP is an IMAP account).


    These folders aren't "to be cleaned" on any regular basis, by any means. They are there to support the program's functions, and if you remove them you will to some degree disrupt the program's functions. If there is corruption in these folders then this can slow the program down or cause other problems, in which case a cleaning of sorts may be warranted; however, if not then a cleaning is likely unnecessary.


    If you are running low on space, then I would recommend you leave the system and application support files alone, and instead tackle how much user data you have on the system instead. These are things like movies, music, and pictures, with which the system does not interact.

  • Topher Kessler Level 6 Level 6 (9,305 points)
    Currently Being Moderated
    Jun 13, 2013 11:20 PM (in response to Moloy)

    I am not sure why Apple placed these in separate folders; it could have placed them within the same folder. Mail is sandboxed, so technically it accesses all of these folders either directly in the Containers folder, or through aliases (i.e., for the Mail Downloads folder) from within the Containers folder. However, sandboxing is a separate detail here.


    To ensure all of the Mail data is preserved as-is on your system, you will need to back up both folders; however, if you use a complete system backup like Apple's Time Machine service, or a cloning tool, then you will not have to bother with doing this manually. This is the route I recommend to establish a backup routine, as it will ensure you get everything.

  • Topher Kessler Level 6 Level 6 (9,305 points)
    Currently Being Moderated
    Jun 14, 2013 6:17 AM (in response to Moloy)

    Right. When Mail downloads messages from the server, it includes the attachment as well. These are in the standard mailbox structure. When you open the attachment then it is placed in the Mail Downloads folder and opened from there. If you have not saved the attachment elsewhere, but have opened it for viewing and during this time you delete the initial message, then the one on the Mail Downloads folder will be the only message you have opened. This allows for you to continue managing your email without interruption, regardless of the status of the attachments you're currently interacting with. In this manner, the Mail Downloads folder is simply a cache.

  • Alfred DeRose Level 5 Level 5 (5,590 points)
    Currently Being Moderated
    Jun 15, 2013 5:17 AM (in response to Moloy)

    If you are as fanatical about backup as you seem you should not be using POP, where the downloading email then deleting off the server is the default. Use IMAP and retain a copy on the server for back up as well.

1 2 Previous Next


More Like This

  • Retrieving data ...

Bookmarked By (2)


  • This solved my question - 10 points
  • This helped me - 5 points
This site contains user submitted content, comments and opinions and is for informational purposes only. Apple disclaims any and all liability for the acts, omissions and conduct of any third parties in connection with or related to your use of the site. All postings and use of the content on this site are subject to the Apple Support Communities Terms of Use.