My 2012 Mac Mini is running High Sierra, and I have copied older mail folders to a partition of an external drive. In the User mail folder, I then placed symlinks. In Finder, the symlinks show the complete hierarchical contents of the folders; but, while the Mail program sees all of the folder structure, it does not display the messages within. Any clues will be appreciated!
Edit 01/28 – Permissions look Ok; wonder about "Sandbox" – can't seem to find about that.
I found these similar questions, also relevant, but older OS versions: Moving individual Mailbox to external drive and How to move all of my mails to external HD and make them appear only when its connected and
Transferring Emails saved on Mac to generic folder and

2/2/2020 - Ideas, anyone?
11/28/2020 – add Move mail boxes data to external drive on Mac Mail on Mavericks to the list

  • Are you sure that you created real symlinks via ln -s, rather than creating aliases via the "Make Alias" option in Finder? You can check this with ls -l on the terminal. A symlink will show e.g. test-symlink.txt -> test.txt, whereas an alias will not. Instead, aliases have an extended attribute, indicated by the @ that follows its permission list, e.g. -rw-r--r--@.
    – Jivan Pal
    Commented Jan 24, 2020 at 20:28
  • Thank you for the suggestion. Yes, the symlink (both the one created on the external drive, and the copy placed in the Mail folder) has no"@" on the permissions. And a separate alias on the external does have that. I used the Mac application SymbolicLinker2.1.1 by Nick Zitzmann the create the symlink. Commented Jan 25, 2020 at 23:02
  • Here are the results of doing "ls -l" – the permissions show drwxr-xr-x@ on the External mail archive folder, and lrwxr-xr-x on the symlink for it, and -rw-r--r--@ on an alias for it; whereas normal Mail folders look like drwxr-xr-x@ [and drwxr-xr-x+]. Thus, yes, something wrong with the permissions ... Commented Jan 25, 2020 at 23:11
  • Is the external volume formatted as HFS+ or as APFS? Either way, are "permissions" enabled or disabled on that external volume? (Look inside the "Get Info" dialog.)
    – jdmc
    Commented Nov 23, 2020 at 21:53
  • The external is HFS+. Permissions are apparently OK, see in Dropbox dropbox.com/s/9y7b2bdow0x1t7z/… Oh another thing, I can see the emails in Finder when I drill down through the cumbersome folder structure, but of course there is no sensible way to navigate those awful folders. Commented Nov 29, 2020 at 1:05

1 Answer 1


Wow, I just discovered that while this would not work in High Sierra, it does work in Mojave!
And then as I did some further importing, it no longer worked ... sigh ...

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