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How do I recover a deleted email on my Mac?

Answer

To restore a deleted message, click “View” from the navbar followed by “Trash.” This will show you your messages that have been deleted. (NOTE: You should also be able to find them in Trash using Search). Click on the message you wish to restore and then return to Messages by clicking on its tab or checking it from the dropdown menu. Look for the Undelete button in the bottom left corner of your screen.

How to Recover Deleted Emails on Mac

Email is critical to most people’s work and personal lives. While we all know that deleting an email is not a permanent action, there are times when an email has been deleted by mistake, or when we need to undo our decision to move it out of the inbox. For those situations, Mail offers several ways to recover deleted messages:

Restore messages from Trash

If you haven’t emptied the Trash folder yet, then your message could be there waiting for you. To check this first hold down Command+Option+Shift before clicking on the Finder icon in your Dock. This will open a Finder window showing all of your files and folders including any still residing in Trash. Find the one containing your missing email (it should have a name ending in “.mail” or “.mbox”, and drag it to your Desktop. Then open Mail, select the Trash mailbox, and double click on the email you’ve just dragged out. If you need to recover multiple messages, then use Finder’s “Select All” option (Apple+A) before dragging as above. Note that during this process you will see an alert claiming that “Files can’t be moved to Trash because they’re being used by another application.” In fact, this is telling you that you are now sending a copy of these files somewhere else – try not to panic!

How to Recover Deleted Email Files in Apple Mail on Your Mac

Restore messages from Preferences

If Mail has been shut down since you deleted one or more emails then there’s still hope. Click on the Mail icon in your Dock to open the application, then click on Mailbox Preferences (in the “View” menu). In the list of mailboxes towards the bottom of this window, you’ll see any deleted messages displayed with a blue icon. Clicking on one will show its contents and allow you to restore it to your inbox. Note that if you’re using iCloud as your IMAP server, then you won’t see these options – Apple says that deleted messages are retained for longer than 24 hours, but doesn’t say how long or where they can be found, so we’ve no advice for this situation right now.

Restore from Time Machine backup

If your Mac is set up with Time Machine then we recommend that you use this method to recover your deleted emails. If you have turned on Time Machine backups then these snapshots of your Mac’s files are kept automatically and could contain the missing email(s). Select Go > Applications from the menu bar, open the utility folder and launch Time Machine. This will bring up a window into which you can browse to find the date when you sent/received the email(s) in question; select it and click “Continue”. You may be prompted to choose another drive for storing backups, or asked if you wish to include applications in future backups (unless there is an option not to do so), but once this is done your backup will begin. Note that it can take a while before any older data appears, so don’t worry if it doesn’t look like your missing email is there right away.

What if my deleted messages are in one of the junk mail folders?

If you have selected to move some email messages into a junk mailbox then you can still recover them using these methods:

The same techniques for recovering messages from Trash apply equally here: simply drag and drop the folder onto your Desktop, launch Mail, select the Junk mailbox, and double click on an individual message or use “Select All” (Apple+A) before dragging. Just as with deleted emails held in Trash, during this process you will see an alert telling you that “Files can’t be moved to Junk because they’re being used by another application.” In fact, this is telling you that you are now sending a copy of these junk messages somewhere else – try not to panic!

If your “junk” emails have been moved into one or more separate Junk folders in Mail then the same methods should still work. Click on the Junk mailbox and select Preferences to show its contents, whereupon you’ll be able to drag an individual message onto your Desktop for recovery; just as with deleted emails held in Trash, during this process you will see an alert telling you that “Files can’t be moved to Junk because they’re being used by another application.” In fact, this is telling you that you are now sending a copy of these junk messages somewhere else – try not to panic!

Restore from Time Machine backup

If your Mac is set up with Time Machine then we recommend that you use this method to recover your junk emails. If you have turned on Time Machine backups then these snapshots of your Mac’s files are kept automatically and could contain the missing email(s). Select Go > Applications from the menu bar, open the utility folder and launch Time Machine. This will bring up a window into which you can browse to find the date when you sent/received the junk mail messages in question; select it and click “Continue”. You may be prompted to choose another drive for storing backups, or asked if you wish to include applications in future backups (unless there is an option not to do so), but once this is done your backup begins

What if I moved deleted messages to the Trash folder?

If you have emptied your trash can and removed the “Recycle Bin” or “Trash Can” from your Desktop then, sadly, there’s little chance of recovering the deleted messages. Note that this is not a recent change in OS X Lion; Apple simply never intended for users to permanently delete email messages at all on their Macs! If you have accidentally deleted an important mail message then we recommend that you recover it using Time Machine as soon as possible: start by connecting an external hard drive (or perhaps an AirPort Extreme/Time Capsule device) to your Mac and launching System Preferences. Click on “Time Machine”, select your storage device, set a backup schedule, and then click “Select Disk” to choose your backup drive. You should also check whether you have deleted mail messages from Mail’s Trash folder: simply click on the “Trash” icon at the bottom of Mail’s sidebar and select one or more messages in order to show their contents. Once this is done you can copy them back onto your computer by dragging them onto an external hard disk (or perhaps an AirPort Extreme/Time Capsule device), after which they can be re-imported into Mail via its Import mailbox feature – see Chapter 8 for details.

How do I recover a deleted email on my Mac?

To restore a deleted message, click “View” from the navbar followed by “Trash.” This will show you your messages that have been deleted. (NOTE: You should also be able to find them in Trash using Search). Click on the message you wish to restore and then return to Messages by clicking on its tab or checking it from the dropdown menu. Look for the Undelete button in the bottom left corner of your screen.

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