I'm new to Macs and have a question about my MacBook Air OSX 10.9.1 and mail. I'm getting a "Startup disk full" message* and one thing I highly suspect is the mail. Even if it's not the culprit, I'm curious how things work. I set up the Mail Application to get email from my Gmail and two Yahoo accounts. As far as I can tell when I look at the Mail App, all my email I've ever received is there for me to look at.

Is the MacBook really downloading all the email?
How do I limit the email it downloads locally (to 2 weeks old and newer for example).

Where is the email stored on hard disk and can I delete it (without deleting on the Google and Yahoo Servers).

In the worst case, I'd be willing to simply remove the accounts from Mail and go back to simply looking at them through Safari. Will this remove the email from my local machine? If not, how do I do it?

I have attempted to research this and found some ideas on not storing mail locally. See for example: http://www.cnet.com/news/tip-change-mail-settings-to-save-hard-drive-space/

However, when I look at my system, I don't see this option and I'm guessing this is for an older version of MacOS. Thanks,


*My general question about disk storage is: Newbie question on getting back hard drive space

2 Answers 2


Mail will be stored in ~/Library/Mail. Gmail and Yahoo typically use IMAP, which means the messages are held on their server until you delete them. Doubtful that this is what is eating up a big chunk of your drive space; my Mail folder weighs in at just under 9GB for nine accounts, one of which has messages going back 8+ years. There are a few options in Mail/Preferences/Accounts on how to handle mail storage, but nothing that will limit the time period for what mail messages are stored locally. Removing the accounts from Mail then expunging any of their associated files will clear up some space, but I'd be looking at other places for what is using disk space. Movies and music are big space hogs, for example.


i removed my yahoo account from mail and deleted the mails and attachments from library/mail/ folder. Then emptied the trash. This Freed up over 20GB.

I would have preferred to keep using Mail if I could limit the local storage to a few weeks worth but the programme does not allow any such option. Another concern for me was that deleting the mails from the Mail application seems to suggest that they would be deleted from the Yahoo server. That would be a disaster for me. There was no option within the programme (that i could find) to delete the locally stored data only, hence my blunderbuss approach to closing the account and deleting it all from the computer. I would not delete the files without deactivating the account in Mail for fear of it later deleting my stored messages from Yahoo's server.

A Good way to identify your memory hogs would be a program such as Grand Perspective which showed me that Mail and some GoPro videos were hogging 50GB of my 500GB disc and leaving me with the same 'startup disc full' message.

Now that message is hopefully a thing of the past.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .