Mac OS X 10.3, 10.4 Mail: Overstuffed mailbox is unexpectedly empty

Overstuffed mailbox is unexpectedly empty.

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Do you have a lot of stuff in your mailbox? Never clean it out? Well, if you leave too much stuff in there you might find yourself saying, "My stuff! It's... GONE?!"

Don't worry, all those things you had in Mail are not history. Your email messages haven't really gone anywhere, but the Mail mailbox may appear empty if you let several hundred MB of messages and attachments (or more!) pile up, regardless of how much free space is on your hard disk.

How large does the mailbox have to be for this to happen? With Mac OS X 10.4 or later, 2.0 GB or larger. With Mac OS X 10.3 through 10.3.9, there's not a specific size where this will always occur--the mailbox could be anywhere from a few hundred megabytes (MB) to over a gigabyte (GB) large. However, the bigger your mailbox (or combination of mailboxes) is, the more likely it is this could occur.

When this happens, Mail might display this alert: "Message has not been downloaded from the server, take this account online to view."


Tip: If you're not affected but want to minimize the chances of being affected later, check out the tips in 'How can I prevent it from happening again?' section below.

Great, so how can I get to my stuff?

Try these tips:

  • Update to the latest version of Mac OS X 10.3 or 10.4. Even if this works, check out "How can I prevent it from happening again?" below.
  • From the Mailbox menu, choose Rebuild.
  • Quit Mail and open it again. If Mail had been open a while, this might help. Even if this works, check out "How can I prevent it from happening again?" below.
  • If you use more than one account, for example "Account 1" and "Account 2", instead of clicking on the "In" mailbox, click on either "Account 1" or "Account 2" that appear beneath "In" (as well as beneath Sent and Trash, for example). That way you'll only see messages related to that specific account. If your two account mailboxes are big individually, but not big enough to cause this issue, when viewed together (by just clicking "In" for example), the issue may occur.

How can I prevent it from happening again?

Follow these two main tips: First, use more mailboxes to sort your mail. Second, clean things up a bit (delete or save stuff elsewhere).

  • Make some mailboxes of your own and drag some stuff out of the ole' In box into your new creation. You might make a custom mailbox named "Mails from my sweetie," for example, and another named "Mails from my mother-in-law," and perhaps one called "Project planning" if you're ambitious. You can name them whatever you want--be creative.

    Once you've done that, learn how you can make Mail rules to help sort it all out for you. Mail can apply your rules to new incoming messages or to messages you've already got. Nice, huh?
  • You can also save space by deleting old messages that you no longer need, especially ones with large attachments. If you have attachments you want to keep, consider saving them elsewhere on the computer (in the Documents folder or on your desktop, for example). After saving the attachment, you could remove the attachment from the message (by selecting one or more messages, then choosing Remove Attachments from the Message menu). Old messages can also be automatically deleted.

Tip: You can easily see how large each message is by doing this--in the View menu, choose Columns > Size. A size column appears next to your messages. Messages that have "KB" (or kilobytes) next to them are smaller than messages that have "MB" (or megabytes) next to them. After you do this, the total size of all messages in the mailbox appears above the top message, similar to this:

Check back later--this document will be updated as more information becomes available.

151477 Mail 1.3.3 Help: Deleting email
151508 Mail 1.3.3 Help: Choosing how mailboxes are displayed
This document will be updated as more information becomes available.
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