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I'm using Apple Mail 16.0 (3696.120.41.1.1) on a MacBook Air (13-inch, 2017) with macOS Monterey 12.6.2 (21G320).

I don't know when it started but there's a problem I have since some months:

Sometimes when I click on an e-mail in the list of e-mails, no matter in which folder (inbox, sent …), the header (from, to, subject, date) gets shown as usual but the e-mail content is empty, just white space.

This happens with all my e-mail accounts. All of them are IMAP accounts. All these e-mails are already downloaded and often only a few KB in size. It's the same with e-mails with and without attachments. There's no "This message has no content" message or similar. This also happens when I disable the internet connection. When that happens the content preview in the e-mails list is visible as usual as well as the e-mail header. Only the mail content is blank.

Sometimes I just have to wait a few seconds to see the content. Sometimes I can make the content visible by clicking on another e-mail and then back to that e-mail. But often I have to restart Apple Mail.

This not only happens to one e-mail but often to multiple e-mails simultaneously. I click from e-mail to e-mail and they all show that behavior.

Rebuild didn't help. Also reinstalling macOS (keep data but reinstall macOS) didn't help. I even completely erased the system, made a fresh install of macOS, and then restored data from a backup. (I'm pretty sure my problem would be solved if I'd make a fresh install and then import data and make the settings manually instead of restoring from a backup but I cannot do that currently.)

Do you have any idea how to solve that problem? Is there any error log I can check?

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  • 2
    Just to note you're not alone. Mine does that sometimes too, on a totally different system; Mojave, POP3. stepping to another mail then back invariably fixes it, though, for me.
    – Tetsujin
    Dec 30, 2022 at 7:46

6 Answers 6

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+50

Unfortunately, this is not unheard of and there's a number of reasons this can happen, such as:

  • Your Mailbox(es) are bloated with years and years worth of email data
  • an unresponsive macOS at the time (usually due to issues with Mail Data, but also possibly for unrelated reasons)
  • a somewhat corrupted inbox
  • macOS being unable to find (or having delays in finding) the relevant message data
  • unintended consequences due to blocked users or Mail rules

Rebuilding mailboxes was certainly a good place to start. Since that didn't resolve your issue, I would try manually reindexing your mail data.

To do this, follow these steps:

  1. Quit Mail
  2. Go to Finder
  3. Press shiftcommandG
  4. After the Go to Folder window appears, type (or copy and paste) the following file path: ~/Library/Mail/V9/MailData

NOTE: For users not running macOS Monterey, the "V9" part of the above file path will be different - e.g. for macOS Ventura it will be V10, for macOS Big Sur it will be V8.

  1. Press return
  2. The MailData window appears, containing a number of files and folders relating to the Mail app
  3. Make sure you sort the view by Name (if it isn't already)
  4. Make a backup of the Envelope Index file and the ExternalUpdates.storedata file (copying them to your Desktop is fine)
  5. You'll probably see other files starting with "Envelope Index" and "ExternalUpdates" - if so, trash these files
  6. Open Mail again
  7. When prompted to re-import your messages, click OK. (Note: You may get a warning that the index is damaged and that Mail has to quit.)
  8. Be patient while Mail imports your messages. This can take anywhere from a few minutes to a number of hours, depending on how much data you actually have stored locally on your Mac.

Once complete, test Mail to see if this has resolved your issue.

NOTE: If you have any unexpected problems, repeat Steps 1 to 6 above and then copy back the files you backed up at Step 8.

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  • At step 8 do I also have to delete Envelope Index and ExternalUpdates.storedata themselves, after making a backup of them?
    – David
    Jan 2, 2023 at 7:51
  • It's ready now (altogether 130.441 e-mails) but it's still the same. Any more ideas?
    – David
    Jan 2, 2023 at 8:28
  • I will have to ponder this and get back to you. But, I will say that I have 65,000 emails going back over a decade, and you have double that amount. One thing I'm planning to do is actually go back and delete a heap of old subscription list type emails as these are often larger in size due to images etc. I'm doing this because I've noticed that Mail isn't quite as responsive as it should be and 65K emails is a lot to keep track of and then having to find/load them, so for you this is going to be even more relevant. No point in keeping old emails from stores etc.
    – Monomeeth
    Jan 2, 2023 at 23:03
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    I decreased the amount of e-mails to 64,000. Then I made that thing with Envelope Index and ExternalUpdates.storedata. Unfortunately, the problem still persists.
    – David
    Jan 3, 2023 at 21:41
  • I made a fresh install of macOS now and restored all data (apps, files, Mail app settings) manually. Now, the problem seems to be solved. But it would have been easier without doing that manually.
    – David
    Jan 4, 2023 at 20:22
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Check your "Handoff" setting in "System Preferences". Turn it off and try again. In some cases when synching App status to your devices is stuck it interrupts other processes

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  • I tested it but it doesn't change anything. The behavior still persists.
    – David
    Sep 6, 2023 at 5:09
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New approach: After I could not find a solution to the problem, I examined the behavior after upgrading to Ventura: So far, the problem has disappeared wherever it occurred (with at least 4 customers). The migration of the mail database must have fixed something...

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  • The problem is, that I'm using a MacBook Air (13", 2017). The maximum supported macOS version is Monterey. So I cannot upgrade to Ventura.
    – David
    Sep 8, 2023 at 11:51
  • Yes, you could, using OpenCore Legacy Patcher (I did it on several machines successfully. Sep 9, 2023 at 15:14
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This is only a temporary and irritating solution, but I've found that, if you click forward or reply the email that pops up WILL show the content.

It only works one email at a time and the downloaded content goes away when you close the forwarded/replied message.

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MacBook Air: I just fixed the problem of email not downloading content. I went to mail, preferences, selected iCloud. Make sure that the iCloud account is enabled and online. Problem fixed!!!

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  • I tested it for a few days but it doesn't change anything. The behavior still persists.
    – David
    Sep 6, 2023 at 5:08
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This had me stumped for ages. Finally discovered new version of Mail after upgrading to big sur has a filter button on top. If all emails have been read in a particular mailbox and the filter is set to unread emails, all you will get is white space. I thought my emails had disappeared!!

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