I don't know how it happened -- I was reviewing my email on my old MacBook Pro, running Sierra, and somehow managed to send all of my Apple Mail Inbox emails to the Trash, and then they disappeared. Unfortunately, I did not back up the MBP. But, I have email being stored in the Cloud and am constantly backing up with Time Machine on my iMac, running Catalina. I am trying to restore Mail using Time Machine from the date before I noticed all of the emails were gone.

When I clicked Enter Time Machine, and selected the date I need to restore, Mail did not appear in the list of applications in the Finder. I went to the hard drive and found the Applications folder there, and found the Mail application, selected it, and clicked the Time Machine Restore button. This error message popped up:
“” can’t be modified or deleted because it’s required by macOS. I checked the Trash and did not find the emails there.
Is there any way I can restore all my emails using another method?
Apple Discussions have not directly answered my question, given all the steps I have taken.

  • 2
    You are not trying to restore the Mail app itself, merely its contents. Run Time Machine in Mail not from the Finder. Select the appropriate Mailbox, then "Enter Time Machine" from the Time Machine menu bar icon top right of your screen. [If you don't see that, then go to System Prefs>Time Machine & enable it] Report back. Also note you cannot restore a Catalina backup to Sierra, you need to restore to the same or a later OS, not earlier.
    – Tetsujin
    Commented Aug 10, 2020 at 16:15
  • Thank you for your help. Yes, I am only trying to restore a Catalina backup of my iMac to the same iMac, the same Catalina. I opened Mail, selected the Inbox, then Enter Time Machine as you said. Unfortunately, Time Machine will not allow me to go to an earlier date to recover messages. I am only able to select today's date, the most recent backup, which does not help me with my problem. I saw that it could be possible to select the contents of the Inbox by selecting all the messages or I could go through and select individual messages. However, I cannot open the backup I need. Commented Aug 10, 2020 at 17:37

1 Answer 1


I have a new iMac running Catalina and I too found that I could not travel back in time when entering Time Machine from Mail (but it was OK when entering Time Machine from Finder).

The problem may be with backing up Mail messages. During a Time Machine backup, the Console app issues unpromising messages including Couldn't create MailLibraryItem at path: /Volumes/com.apple.TimeMachine.localsnapshots/Backups.backupdb/(my mac)/2020-08-16-141340/Macintosh HD - Data/Users/(my user)/Library/Mail/V7

I have just spoken to Apple support, and their engineers are aware of the problem and are working on a fix, to be included in a future OS update, which is great news.

I appreciate that this reply doesn't help with the original problem, but the lady from Apple I spoke to did say that there may be other ways to restore lost email messages, so it might be worth your while calling Apple support. Good luck!

  • 1
    Thank you, Nigel. I did call Apple support, also, and they restored all of my “lost” email messages from a server in the cloud, that only they could access. Calling support was the only remedy for my situation. I hope Apple will fix the Time Machine problem with restoring Mail backups. Commented Aug 27, 2020 at 10:18

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