My laptop locked up (black screen, spinning beachball), and after leaving it to see if it would handle whatever it was doing on its own overnight, I went and held the power button down to force it to shut down.

When I brought it back up, everything seemed okay until I went into Mail.app ... which is asking me about my account information, as if I had never used it.

I unfortunately don't have a recent backup. I see that I still have a ~/Mail directory, which looks to have lots of my local folders defined.

Should I go through with the 'new user' setup, to see if it finds my existing local mailboxes, or is there some other recommended procedure for this process?

I'm running OS 10.6.8, and Mail.app 4.6. (And before I get lots of comments, yes, I know they are old, and yes, I know that the newer OSes are free upgrades)

  • Do you remember if your mail account was set up for IMAP or for POP? Did you store all of your mail on the server or, did you move some/all messages to the local machine's hdd (this is only relevant if the answer to Q1 is IMAP) ? Finally, did you have any rules, or smart folders defined? – Kent Feb 19 '15 at 7:50
  • @Kent : I had multiple IMAP accounts, and one POP (work account, set not to delete). For my main account (IMAP), I had multiple filters including one that would copy messages to a local folder, as it was set to delete messages after about 2 weeks ... so unfortunately, it's not all just up on a server that I can re-retrieve it from.) – Joe Feb 19 '15 at 12:49

I don't think Mail has changed too much from 10.6.8 to now, but you should take my advice with caution, since I don't have the old system at hand.

Before starting this process, quit Mail. Any time you want to do a new test or reset to the existing state, quit Mail -- don't go copying or restoring things while Mail is running.

Now, copy your ~/Library/Mail and ~/Library/ApplicationSupport/Mail directory to a safe backup location. Also copy ~/Library/Preferences/com.apple.mail.plist. That should enable you to revert to the current status if something you try goes south.

I'm not sure what the ~/Mail directory is (I'm pretty sure I never had that in 10.6.8), but make a backup copy of it too. It might be worth comparing that to ~/Library/Mail, especially the timestamps; if you're like me, it's likely an old copy.

Kent observed many corruption issues can usually be traced to a single file (~/Library/Mail/Envelope Index in 10.6). After you have the backup safely tucked away, you could try removing that file from the actual directory before starting mail for what follows. I think it will be regenerated, though that could take a while for big mailboxes.

I would then try setting up the user account. Either it will find the existing mailboxes, or destroy them. If it destroys them, you copy them back in from your backup, possibly delete the user, and try something else; or you can import the contents of those mailboxes.

I don't have time to check it now, but this advice could probably be compared to advice for 10.6 by searching on mail issues for that OS. You could find out exactly where the various information is stored, I'm pretty sure.

  • Doh ... good call on the timestamps ... the ~/Mail directory is from 2008, and doesn't have many of my accounts that I've set up since them. I'm guessing it's deprecated from some previous version of Mail.app. – Joe Feb 19 '15 at 13:35
  • And it looks like I'm going to need to use something other than tar to back things up : tar: Mail/Mailboxes/Incoming/_incoming.mbox/Messages: Cannot savedir: Cannot allocate memory – Joe Feb 19 '15 at 13:37
  • If you want to use the command line, you can use rsync to copy the existing ~/Library/Mail structure to someplace else. Backing up ~/Library/Preferences/com.apple.mail.plist is a good idea as well. Also, one thing to add to the original answer is that much of the mailbox corruption issues can usually be traced to a single file (~/Library/Mail/Envelope Index in 10.6) After you have the backup safely tucked away, try removing that file from the actual directory and starting mail to go through with the "new" account setup. – Kent Feb 19 '15 at 22:41
  • When I've had to do this procedure in the past, I just copy directories using option-drag (hold down option key while dragging the folder somewhere else -- a big '+' should appear, indicating your are copying not moving; otherwise hit escape to leave things unchanged). There aren't any super-magic files, but if they are really big and you're nearly out of room on your disk, that's a big warning for all sorts of possible problems. Macs need lots of spare disk space to operate smoothly. – John G Feb 26 '15 at 5:25

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