Missing emails after installing Leopard?


This past Friday, after my little FedEx experience, I promptly backed up my hard drive and then did an Erase & Install of Leopard.

Once Leopard was installed I began moving over necessary files, including my Mail files.

To get your new version of Mail to recognize your old mail (so you don’t have to recreate all of your accounts), you need to move over the following files and directories:

  • ~/Library/Mail/
  • ~/Library/Mail Downloads/
  • ~/Library/Preferences/com.apple.mail.plist

I did this and about an hour later realized that when I searched for previous emails I was only getting results from the past 10 days or so and emails that were still sitting in my Inbox before the install were now missing.

So…how did I fix this? It’s actually really simple.

Mail.app Rebuild

After moving your Mail files over, you basically need to force Mail to re-index your mail files. To do this, simply select each mailbox and folder, one at a time, and go to Mailbox > Rebuild in the menu. Depending on the number of emails in those accounts/folders, it could take up to a minute or two to rebuild it. After that all of your previous emails should be accounted for!



I also installed leopard yesterday onto my computer. I did not back up my emails, however after the installation, not only are all emails gone but I no longer can receive or send any messages using the Apple Mail. My internet connections are good. Any idea what I can do to fix it? I already checked account settings for email and it is correct.

Paul Rauschelbach

The various values have changed in some version updates to Mac OS X. For me, it was changing the this value, JunkMailBehaviorHasBeenConfigured, to false. Also removing the JunkViewerAttributes seemed to be necessary. These can also be changed with Property List Editor, or it’s possible it could be done in the Terminal with these commands.

defaults write com.apple.mail JunkMailBehaviorHasBeenConfigured false
defaults write com.apple.mail JunkMailInfoPanelHasBeenShown false
defaults delete com.apple.mail JunkViewerAttributes


Thanks, Paul.
This your Terminal editing did the trick for me. Although I didn’t need the last default to be changed. Just the 1st two worked great. You’re a life saver.

Denver Minnich

I desperately didn’t want to lose all my folders and account settings, so I tried to implement nocholas’ above method. Not having any experience in this area I was not able to follow his steps and instructions exactly. However, after opening the com.apple.mail.plist file in the Property List Editor application, I simply unchecked the line item labeled JunkMailInfoPanelHasBeenShown, saved & closed the file, opened Mail and IT WORKED! Everything appears to be restored as before the Leopard install.


Hi, I had the same issue – emails vanishing after Leopard upgrade. The Rebuild option didn’t work for me, just didn’t do anything. I did some searching and found a post on MacOSHints forum that involved fixing the com.apple.mail.plist file. I tried this myself and it fixed Mail, restoring all my messages.

“I ran into this problem, and found a way to get mail.app working again without completely deleting the com.apple.mail.plist (found in your home folder within Library/Preferences for the previous poster).

The console was showing a problem related to the junk mail rules, so I opened up the plist file in the Property List Editor.app (available free as part of Apple’s XCode/developer download bundle). There were two entries whose name started with JunkMail, so I deleted those. I then looked at a clean new Leopard mail preferences file, and copied its junk mail settings. These were:

JunkMailBehavior – String – 1
junkMailTrustheaders – Boolean – Yes

You’ll need to quit mail.app, make those changes to the plist file, and then run it again. In my case, that let me access all my accounts again and run perfectly. I really didn’t want to recreate my multiple account settings again.

Your mileage may vary of course, but this worked like a charm for me. You could probably use the ‘defaults’ command line tool to do the same without the Property List Editor too.”
from: http://forums.macosxhints.com/archive/index.php/t-97495.html


I tried moving these three items to my desktop and got myself in more trouble. I lost my Mail Profiles except one and my saved folders except two and none of my saved emails came back in my remaining folders. I had hundreds of critical emails in the unrestored folders. I had archived them before the upgrade so I wasn’t in a full out panic.

I called AppleCare today and got walked through the process. I was told my mistake was in not quitting Mail before I pulled the ~/Library/Preferences/com.apple.mail.plist file to my desktop. The other two folders don’t have to be moved.

After that while on the desktop, highlight your plist and use Control-click to get to the command to Copy the plist. Open Mail again and then open finder window with only Preferences (~Library>Preferences) highlighted. Go to the Finder>Edit>Paste function of the toolbar. It will ask if you want to replace the newly created plist with the one you just copied. Select replace. You may need to close and open Mail again. I tried so many things that my memory is a bit fuzzy.

That should restore all our Mail Profiles and retrieve your messages. It even brought back my mail folder structure of messages I’d sorted and saved and put all the saved messages back where they belong. I didn’t have to get into my archived messages file after all.

I did have to rebuild my ISP email profile because it got wiped out in my haste last night. Make sure you know your password! It restored all the rest of the information as soon as I put in my password. It’s even working to let me send from that account for the first time in months.

I hope this helps and doesn’t further confuse the issue.


I have tried the fix but it didn’t work, Couldn’t find ~/Library/Mail Downloads (although all the old mail files ARE in the new Mail folder (in text form) as I didn’t delete anything before installing Leopard – did back up to HDD though – but Rebuild does nothing! Any more ideas?


WOW!!! That was a HUGE help, I greatly appreciate it. I had a lot of emails in a ton of folders and I thought that for sure they were gone…. Thanks!!!


Thanks so much. Fixed the problem perfectly and the solution was way simplier than the other suggestions I found online.


where do they get moved to? Do you drag and drop the,m on your desk top and then move them back?


Z – exactly the same situation on my computer. This sucks – never had any problems with mail doing this before, this has effected my inbox, drafts and sent items. Mail that has been dragged into a folder is not effected. Some of my “work in progress” or reminder emails were ones I really wanted. I could just see the titles, rebuild made the titles disappear too. Glum :(


I tried the rebuild and now only got 2 emails. All my emails are wiped out. Tried also the import, but it would just create the import files into a separate box instead of integrating into my main email box, any suggestions?


What do you mean move them over, from where to where? How do you move them over and how do I know if it is the old mail and not the new mail files? I have already installed leopard and tried importing my old mail box but there is still mail missing from a year ago.


I did an erase and install also. Got back about 20 gigs just clearing out junk and decided to not reinstall some stuff I didn’t need. But my saved emails weren’t there. I figured someone would have a fix. Thanks for the tip. It worked easily.

Jeremy Brooks

Thanks for the tip. I am getting ready to install Leopard this week (full backup, then clean install) and I have been looking for this kind of information.
It would be really nice if there was a spot with all these tips together. For example, here are the files you need for iTunes data and preferences, Mail data, iPhoto data, etc. I want to migrate my current data to Leopard after the install, but I am still searching for good how-to’s for various apps.
At least I know Mail will work afterwards.

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