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I have 2 MacBooks: One that is I use, and one that my kids share, but that used to be my old personal one. I have kept my Admin account on that laptop. It's running out of Storage space, and I noticed that I have 11GB of Mail storage on it. How do I safely remove everything related to Mail on that laptop, including all used storage, without affecting my main laptop? I have:

  • 1 iCloud IMAP account using my iCloud email address that I never use
  • 1 IMAP Google account which is my main personal email address
  • 1 work Google account

I have unchecked the "Enabled" box for each of these in Mail -> Preferences -> Accounts.

If I try to remove the iCloud account by hitting the minus symbol below the list of accounts, it says "The iCloud account [email protected] is shared by other applications on this Mac. You can remove this account in Internet Accounts."

Ok, fine. So I hit Internet Accounts and there I see iCloud at the top, and the Mail box is not checked for syncing. Same for my Personal and Work accounts; I see both of them in Internet Accounts and neither have the Mail box checked for Syncing. So far so good?

Back to Mail app -> Accounts, if I try to hit the - symbol on my work account (which, remember, is not enabled), I see "The google account [email protected] is shared using iCloud Keychain; you can remove it in Internet accounts". Ok, so back to Internet Accounts, then. If I hit the - symbol on it there, it said "Do you want to remove the Gmail account [email protected] from all your computers using iCloud Keychain?". Well, no, I don't want to remove it from my current laptop, just from this old one. So I guess if nothing is checked for Syncing for this account in Internet Accounts, then it doesn't matter, and nothing is downloaded to this laptop, right?

Back to Mail app again. Same thing, if I hit the - symbol on it, I am directed back to Internet Accounts. This time, I get a different message if I hit the - symbol in Internet Accounts. "Do you want to remove the Gmail account [email protected] from all your computers using iCloud Keychain or turn it off on only this Mac?"... I suppose I can hit "Turn Off Account" here?

Thanks for your assistance!

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  • Removing accounts (Internet Accounts, Mail accounts, etc.) from your kids’ MacBook do not affect your current Mac. Go ahead and remove them. What I do suggest is that you wipe the old MacBook and reinstall a clean OS for your kids. You can add back the admin account and enable parental controls all from a clean palette.
    – Allan
    Commented Feb 5, 2023 at 17:17
  • Thanks, Allan! They've been using it for a few years already at this point, so they wouldn't be too happy with a fresh install, I think! I should have done that in the first place though, for sure.
    – richardmtl
    Commented Feb 5, 2023 at 21:18
  • Let me see if I can find some supporting info (Apple links) and I’ll write up a formal answer. You can still give them a fresh install. Just back up to Time Machine, then use Migration Assistant to bring over all their settings, customizations, etc/
    – Allan
    Commented Feb 5, 2023 at 21:27

1 Answer 1

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You can safely remove email accounts

You can safely remove email accounts from one Mac without affecting another Mac using the same email account. Per Apple Support:

You can remove an email account from the Mail app on your Mac at any time. When you do, the account’s email messages are removed from your Mac. Copies of messages remain on the account’s mail server and are still available (from webmail, for example).

With very rare exception, email is cloud based - Gmail, Outlook.com, etc. This means all of your messages are stored at the server, not on the client (your Mac). You no longer have to “download email from a POP server.

While cloud services like Gmail and Outlook.com (IMAP and Exchange, respectively) allow you to sync mail accounts to your client devices, it doesn’t delete messages when you remove an account. In other words, it will sync deletions to individual messages, but a removal of the account is not a deletion event. This is how you can wipe a lost device, get a new one and not lose a single message, calendar event or piece of contact info.

Keychain is not an “account.”

"Do you want to remove the Gmail account [email protected] from all your computers using iCloud Keychain?"

This is not removing an account from your Mac, but removing a Keychain entry from the Keychain database. It’s analogous to syncing messages described above. Here, you’re deleting a record which will sync across all devices - not deleting (removing) the whole keychain.

Be sure you have a backup!

While everything described here is quite safe, it’s always a good idea to have a Time Machine backup especially before making changes. We’re all human and we will make mistakes even when attempting completely innocuous tasks like removing an email account. It’s much better to have and not need it than to need and not have it.

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