Gmail slowness caused by issue in Mac Mail?


MailactivityLast week I shared a very strange Gmail IMAP issue that I was having: mail was delayed from 30 minutes to three days. Adding to the timeliness issues was the fact that mail wasn’t coming in chronologically, so I never knew if my Inbox was actually up to date even when mail starting coming in. All in all, a terrible experience. The Google Gmail team has been responsive in requesting additional information, which is great for a free service. However, it appears I’ve found the issue through some research and testing. Looks to be a corrupt mailbox on my local machine: specifically, on my MacBook Pro.

At first, I thought the issue was on the server side since I saw the problem in all of my clients: Outlook 2007 in both Microsoft Windows XP and Vista, Mac Mail on the MacBook Pro, my iPhone and even on the Gmail web client in different browsers and machines. It wasn’t until I started to run just a single client at a time did I shed any light on the issue.Over the past few week, I’ve spent time using one client for a full day. The issue seemed to be resolved once I did that, which had my rethinking my initial diagnosis of a server-side problem. Mail just started flowing and flowing when I used my Windows machines and Outlook, for example. Then I got to the web client and noticed that my Spam folder was queueing up without delay even though my Inbox wasn’t. Again, that was telling me the service was likely fine as items in the Spam folder wouldn’t be sent to my mail clients.At the end of the week, I fired up only my Mac Mail application in Leopard. Boom. The problems returned… on all clients; I checked them after a full day of Mac Mail only. From what I can see, my local mailbox database (if that’s how Mac OS X keeps the mail, that is) is corrupt. Based on what I saw last time in my prior blog post, the Activity window in Mail was showing a constant but slow synchronization of the Mail client with the Gmail server. It’s almost like the two are speaking a different language and the client keeps insisting it’s out of sync with the server… or vice versa… I can’t be sure.One way for me to force the mail to temporarily work was to use the Activity Monitor and manually stop the synchronization of the All Mail folder. All of the other mail tasks were stacked up behind it, so once I kill that, some mail begins to trickle in… at least for a short time.I did some research because my attempts at removing all of the Mac Mail items from /users/library/mail didn’t accomplish anything. I was hoping to remove all local traces of my original mail and mail settings, but even after removing everything from the directory and removing my Gmail account from the Mail Preferences, the Connection Doctor still shows the Gmail settings. Those settings are tucked away somewhere, but I can’t find them.My next attempt at resolving this will be to reinstall the Mail application. That’s tricky since the package is part of the Leopard disk and not natively broken out separately. A quick check on the Google tells me that Pacifist should help greatly in this situation, so I’ll give this $20 shareware a look. If that doesn’t work it looks like I’ll be reinstalling Leopard just to fix my Mail. Seems like overkill to me, so I’m hoping it doesn’t come to that.Actually, before I attempt to reinstall Mac Mail, I may move the “” file from the users/library/preferences directory based on this tidbit from Mac Users Forums. I’m open to other suggestions from folks smarter than me in the ways of Mac Mail.Ironically, I think about the “You get what you pay for” commentary that often accompanies any issues with Gmail. I could still be wrong about the root cause of the problem, but if not, it’s interesting that in this case the free solution is working fine; the $2,000 laptop with the advanced operating system might be the issue. ;)


Jorge Soto-Andrade

I am also having problems with the mail 3.2 application bundled with leopard !0.5.2. Downloading messages from my gmail account as well as other mail accounts at other servers gets stuck and I have to kill mail with activity monitor, to be able to download a few other messages. Mail worked much better with mac os X 10.4. I am wondering whether to try to reinstall mail… Any better suggestion from anybody?


I am also experiencing such problems with Mac Mail (version 3.2 with Leopard 10.5.2), especially sync pbs with my gmail imap account and I was wondering whether somebody had already compared with Entourage ? I am new to Mac, and I hesitated at the beginning between Mac Mail and Entourage but I found that apparently most people preferred Mac Mail…. Now I’m confused !

Jason Clarke

Just thought I’d drop back in and note that within 10 minutes of closing Apple Mail, my work-related email started streaming in. I don’t really understand how a mail client could cause the Gmail web interface to not show new messages (I’d understand if they just didn’t download via IMAP), but there you have it.

So now what? I really want to use Mail in conjunction with Gmail’s web interface, but at least for now it appears that it can’t be trusted. This is twice now that something has gone seriously enough wrong as to interfere with my ability to work normally.

I’m tempted to agree that whatever Google did to fix the IMAP problem that Windows Mobile users were experiencing may have had other unintended consequences.

Jason Clarke

I had my inbox in Apple Mail get frozen, and it was actually marking messages as read and archiving them in my Gmail box – drove me crazy. I had to take the nuclear approach, and delete my Mail database entirely.

That was in 10.5.1, so I’d hoped it was sorted out in 10.5.2. Apparently not; I’m still having trouble… thanks for this post. I’m going to stop using Mail for awhile and see if my problem goes away.


Kevin– Some of us who use Chatteremail on the PalmOS started noticing problems with IMAp GMail a couple of weeks ago as well. I am not sure if it is the same thing, but after an application update, the problem seems to have been resolved. So, it could be that Google changed something in the way they implement IMAP that caused problems for multiple IMAP clients. The interesting coincidence is that the problem started occurring for me about the same time they “fixed” GMail for Windows Mobile.

Matt Devost

I’ve had lots of problems with in leopard as well. Many times it tries to pull down all of the mail headers like you experienced above. In addition, I get completely blank inboxes when connecting to my iMap server (hasn’t happened on gmail yet).


I to have had, and still have problems with my mac mail, I think both webmail, and the local mail aplication. I´m running OS x 10.4.11. I don´t get mail, or many days late from spesific mail adress, and even after contacting the mac support I haven´t got it fixed. Ironicaly my hotmail that I´ve had for several years for free is working perfectly. Realy frustrating that the mail I´ve paid for isnt working!

Marcus Cavanaugh

I too have noticed that often the mail activity window will sometimes flash saying it’s downloading thousands of messages, but in all of my instances, it seems to only show that for a few seconds at most. I’m still not sure of the cause, but I haven’t experienced any negative side effects other than that activity itself.

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