I have a user that whenever she tries to open mail preferences it consistently locks up with the pinwheel icon and requires her to force quit mail. Mac mail was fine until a gmail account was added to her list of accounts.

Aside from the prefs issue, Mac mail runs fine. She has 10.8.2 installed. When she called Apple, they suggested reinstalling the OS by using the recover option at bootup.

Is there a trick we can do at the terminal, finder or elsewhere to fix mail? The same issue exists in safe boot.

Does mail have a way to easily reset preferences while retaining the accounts configured and rules.

4 Answers 4


Go to ~/Library/Containers/com.apple.mail/Data/Library/Preferences and move the file com.apple.mail.plist to the Desktop and restart Mail.

Other plist files exist in ~/Library/Mail/V2/MailData/ but I'd start with the above plist first. In this directory you could also manually remove the offending account (particularly if the mail is also stored online) and re-add it.

  • Thanks. Will these remove her accounts or rules if I remove com.apple.mail.plist?
    – James
    Sep 25, 2012 at 13:15
  • Possibly, but if you move it (rather than remove it) and it turns out it does, then you can close Mail and copy back the backup plist (overwriting the newly generated one). So there's no harm in trying.
    – sjbx
    Oct 6, 2012 at 18:17

We ended up deleting the accounts.plist file in ~/Library/Mail/V2/MailData to solve the issue. This caused us to have to re-add all the mail accounts, but the rules, smart mailboxes, and mailboxes on the mac came back automatically.

To be safe, we backed up the ~/Library/Mail folder beforehand.

  • So you followed a given answer, rewrote it and accepted it. Good form...
    – sjbx
    Oct 6, 2012 at 18:18
  • I will give you the answer. It's pretty close. The user had a million rules and local mailbox folders and it would've taken too long to set it up from scratch. Removing com.apple.mail.plist didn't seem to do anything in one of my tests.
    – James
    Oct 8, 2012 at 12:17

Removing ~/Library/Containers/com.apple.mail/Data/Library/Preferences/com.apple.mail.plist and ~/Library/Mail/* did not solve my problems.

After replacing those files back, I finally removed ~/Library/Application Support/AddressBook and then I could access my mail again.

  • Which instructions are you referring to exactly? The order of answers is not stable, so there is no above or below.
    – nohillside
    Feb 27, 2013 at 17:48

Its very simple. Just open mail, you can see file drop down menu(at the top left). There will be your preferences.

  • The OP is perfectly aware of where the prefs are located, that was not the issue.
    – Tetsujin
    Jan 23, 2016 at 9:01

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