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Question: Mail.app IMAP sync disaster, any way to get messages back?

  1. I use Mail.app with IMAP, and my email account provided by a hosting company on which I registered my domain.
  2. My registered domain expired.
  3. The messages (in Inbox and Sent folders) remained in Mail.app which of course could no longer connect to the IMAP server.
  4. I bought the domain afresh with the same hosting company.
  5. I tried several times to copy the contents of my mailboxes on Mail.app to local On My Mac folders in Mail.app, but every time, after a delay, it complained and failed.
  6. I tried several times to export the mailboxes from Mail.app, but the .mboxes that were created were empty (no messages). So I proceeded without backups.
  7. I created a mailbox with the same name as before for the domain via my hosting company's control panel for my domain.
  8. I typed in the new password into Mail.app.
  9. All my messages in Mail.app instantly disappeared as the IMAP synched! The Inbox on Mail.app contained now only a single "Welcome to your new mailbox" message from my hosting company, and the Sent folder disappeared altogether. (I had hoped the sync would go the other way, and all of my messages from Mail.app would be copied to the server.)
  10. Is there anywhere on my Mac where all my messages might still reside?

MacBook Air, macOS Sierra (10.12.6)

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Question marked as Helpful

Mar 10, 2018 4:06 PM in response to Dorian Gray In response to Dorian Gray

This is the path to your user folder where Mail seems to store messages:

~/Library/Mail/

Check the folders below the V5 subfolder that are named after what looks like a long hex number. You might be able to still find some of your mailboxes and messages in there. Note that some folders are supposed to be empty even when there are mails, so don't give up yet if you find some that are.


For example, I was able to find some recently deleted messages in this path (will of course be a different path on your Mac):

~/Library/Mail/V5/5BC9E980-10D9-47D6-897C-7C5E92DFCF8D/INBOX.mbox/35FE07BA-B57B- 4859-A474-653D38EFABE7/Data/4/1/Messages

Question marked as Helpful

Mar 10, 2018 4:21 PM in response to Dorian Gray In response to Dorian Gray

@Tim Lorenzen, Bad news (for me). I found the relevant sub-folder of ~/Library/Mail/V4. I option-clicked on the view sub-folders arrow in the Finder, and a cascade of almost a thousand nested empty folders were displayed. Only one contained a file, and that file contained one message, the "Welcome to your new mailbox" message from my hosting company.


So it seems that the structure of my old Inbox is reflected in all these nested empty folders, but the messages and attachments have all been deleted from within them. Maybe the difference between your case and my case was that you moved or manually deleted the message - in my case an IMAP sync did so.

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Question marked as Helpful

Mar 10, 2018 4:06 PM in response to Dorian Gray In response to Dorian Gray

This is the path to your user folder where Mail seems to store messages:

~/Library/Mail/

Check the folders below the V5 subfolder that are named after what looks like a long hex number. You might be able to still find some of your mailboxes and messages in there. Note that some folders are supposed to be empty even when there are mails, so don't give up yet if you find some that are.


For example, I was able to find some recently deleted messages in this path (will of course be a different path on your Mac):

~/Library/Mail/V5/5BC9E980-10D9-47D6-897C-7C5E92DFCF8D/INBOX.mbox/35FE07BA-B57B- 4859-A474-653D38EFABE7/Data/4/1/Messages

Mar 10, 2018 4:06 PM

Reply Helpful (1)

Mar 10, 2018 4:06 PM in response to Tim Lorenzen In response to Tim Lorenzen

@Tim Lorenzen, Thanks, I had already spent some time looking there (on mine it is ~/Library/Mail/V4) but given your encouraging message about having found some recently deleted messages there, I will look more exhaustively!

Mar 10, 2018 4:06 PM

Reply Helpful
Question marked as Helpful

Mar 10, 2018 4:21 PM in response to Dorian Gray In response to Dorian Gray

@Tim Lorenzen, Bad news (for me). I found the relevant sub-folder of ~/Library/Mail/V4. I option-clicked on the view sub-folders arrow in the Finder, and a cascade of almost a thousand nested empty folders were displayed. Only one contained a file, and that file contained one message, the "Welcome to your new mailbox" message from my hosting company.


So it seems that the structure of my old Inbox is reflected in all these nested empty folders, but the messages and attachments have all been deleted from within them. Maybe the difference between your case and my case was that you moved or manually deleted the message - in my case an IMAP sync did so.

Mar 10, 2018 4:21 PM

Reply Helpful (1)
User profile for user: Dorian Gray

Question: Mail.app IMAP sync disaster, any way to get messages back?