How To Fix Common Issues In Apple Mail by Rebuilding and Reindexing the Mailbox

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Apple’s default mail client is not only one of the best email apps out there, but the fact that it’s both free and pre‐installed makes it even better. Because of this, most Mac users rely on Mail.app to do all the heavy lifting of their day‐to‐day email use.

If you’ve been using Mail.app for a while now, or if you have a mailbox that’s a little bloated, you might notice some problems with speed, message content, and even search craziness like messages that should be in a search not showing up. If Mail has been giving you grief, fear not because you can rebuild and reindex Apple Mail to fix the issues and make your mailbox work smoothly once again.

Do Some Spring Cleaning

Before you start with any reindexing or rebuilding you should make sure you clean out the dark and dusty corners of Mail.app first. Empty your spam/junk folders and make sure the Deleted Items folder is emptied as well. Depending on the last time this was done, you may very well clear out thousands of emails in this step alone.

Once you’ve cleaned these areas, it’s time to rebuild and reindex.

Rebuild

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Rebuilding a mailbox in Apple’s Mail client is a lot easier than you may think. All you need to do is open Mail.app and select one of your mailboxes to rebuild. If you have multiple mailboxes you will need to do this for each one that has an issue. With a mailbox selected, click on the Mailbox menu. Once it opens, choose the Rebuild option.

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This will start the rebuilding process. Depending on the size of your mailbox this may take anywhere from a minute or two up to a few hours. It is worth noting here that if you use IMAP or Exchange on any of the accounts you will notice a pretty huge spike in data usage, as every message is re‐downloaded from the server.

Warning: Since this can use a huge amount of data, you really should steer clear of doing this on a data‐capped connection like a mobile hotspot.

Once Mail finishes up, the rebuilding process is complete. If you’re still having issues or worse yet if Mail.app won’t even load, it might be time to do a manual reindex.

Manual Reindex

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The manual method for reindexing your messages in Mail.app can be very handy if your Mail problems have gotten to the point where Mail.app does not open correctly or even worse, not at all.

To complete a manual reindex, first make sure Mail.app is totally closed. Next, open a Finder window, click the Go menu, and then select Go to folder.

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In the box that appears, type the following then click Go.

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In the Finder window that comes up, select every file that starts with Envelope Index by using the Command button while clicking each one. Once you have these files selected, copy them to a folder on your desktop. Once they are copied, delete these files. The copies are only there for a backup in case something goes wrong.

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With the files deleted you can close this Finder window and open Mail.app. The lack of these files will force Mail.app to reindex your emails and should solve most issues.

Note: This can take a pretty long time depending on the number of emails you have. Be patient.

Wrap-Up

These two methods to reindex and rebuild mailboxes in OSX’s Mail.app client should solve the majority of issues. Once complete, your inbox should work faster and search better.

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