How to recover Mail folders from Time Machine

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In MacOS, Time Machine plays a quite important role in as it supports a number of apps, which allows you to retrieve older file versions or easily deleted email messages. But if an entire folder of stuff goes away, you have to go to the Finder. If you use IMAP, there is a protocol that takes responsibility for syncing messages with a remote server in order to the mailbox of a local app, which can recover it, unless the deletion propagated to the server. You select in Mail app by going Mailbox > Synchronize > Mail account name, and it can restore the access to the messages.

However, in case you fail that, you can still take advantage of Time Machine, since it backs up the mailbox files that Mail app uses for storing messages. Here is how you can recover Mail folders using Time Machine.


How to recover Mail folders from Time Machine

  1. In the Finder, from the Time Machine system menu, simply select Enter Time Machine
  2. Now, go to your Home directory, launch the Library folder, and then choose the Mail folder inside that.
  3. You can see several folders. Just search for the one starting with V, which comes with the recent modification date then click on it.
  4. There are now see multiple folders coming with long hexadecimal names. One of them is the folder corresponding to the mail account that includes the mailbox you are looking for. Click on each till you find the right one.
  5. Restore the file with the name of the missing mailbox ([name].mbox) to somewhere, escape for the original location.
  6. Now, quit Time Machine.
  7. Switch to Mail, and then select FileImport Mailboxes.
  8. Now, select Apple Mail, and click on Continue. (The folders come with mbox format, and they don’t use the standard Unix mbox format, which is used to import mail folders from other platforms.)
  9. Select the mbox file click on Choose.
  10. You will now see that all messages under Items To Import are chosen by default, and that seems what you wish to keep in place.
  11. Just click on Continue.
  12. There will be a dialog notifying that the messages are now in a folder, which is typical “Import” if that folder has not already existed.
  13. Under On My Mac, look in the Mailboxes view, and you will see the Import folder at the bottom. Just select it
  14. All your messages will then show up in the summary column. (In case you open the folders under the mailbox name, there is a whole hierarchy.)
  15. Create the mailbox that’s deleted again.
  16. Finally, choose all the messages from the Import mailbox and then drag them into the mailbox that you want to get it back. If that mailbox is already hosted on an IMAP server, it will be automatically uploaded.

These are steps to recover Mail folders using Time Machine. Let’s know your thoughts in the comment below.


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