Going bananas trying to figure out why Mail attachments keep getting deleted

Catalina 10.15.7

I have about 12,000 gmail emails many of which contain very important attachments.

I bought and read the take control book about Apple Mail by Joe Kissel, and am following his recommendations which is to use Apple Mail to backup my gmail account.

My problem is that Apple Mail email attachements keep getting deleted after some period of time (few days or weeks) and I have no clue as to why.

what I tried

  • I tried deleting, then adding the account multiple times. The attachments are there first, but then disappear after a few days or a week.

  • My Apple Mail accounts are configured (Mail → Pref→ Accounts) as download ALL attachments.

  • I don’t have any other apps which deletes mail attachments. I sometimes use Clean My Mac but always check that the delete mail attachments is turned off.

  • In Apple → About this Mac → Storage → Manage, I don’t see any setting which would delete email attachments

thanks in advance for your time and help

Apple has never made Apple Mail compatible with gmail. You cannot trust it. Period. End of story. No matter what people say. No matter what percentage of the time it seems fine. It is not fine.

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Apple Mail is perfectly compatible with IMAP. I’d claim the problem is that gmail does not adhere to IMAP. That IMHO is the root cause of all these issues between Mail and gmail. IOW, something only Google could fix, if they wanted to. And they have stated they don’t.

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Well, I agree, but the fact remains that Apple claims to support it. People need to understand that in spite of everything Apple says, Mail can’t be trusted with gmail.

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thank you @jtbayly and @Simon for your comments
May I ask you how you backup gmail.

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I don’t. I use Google’s web interface and I delete most messages after reading them, or when I no longer need them (usually within a week or two after receipt).

For those few messages where I really want a local backup copy, I use Mozilla Thunderbird to connect. I then copy or move the message from GMail into the “Local Folders” mailbox (which is on my Mac and not on any remote server).

Due to the nature of how IMAP clients work (presenting you with a mirror of the remote server), you never have a backup unless you explicitly copy the message to a mailbox/folder not associated with the IMAP server. If you don’t, then the backup is an illusion because your client will delete/corrupt your local copy should the server’s copy get deleted/corrupted.

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I don’t have a decent backup. That is part of why I intend to move off Gmail this year.

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I don’t either actually. My work is all Google so we have some kind of fancy deal where we get to use as much storage (gmail, Google drive, Docs, etc.) as we please. I have something like 160k emails in my gmail archive worth about 100GB (with attachments obviously), but so far nobody has ever complained.

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@jtbayly @Simon

thank you both for your replies !

If you want a way to backup, you can use Google takeout. https://takeout.google.com

If I remember correctly, if you select only Gmail, it will download a zip file that will include all of your messages in mbox format, with one mbox file for each Gmail label.

I do this maybe once a year in part because I have absolutely no issues with Apple Mail and the several Google accounts I use, going back for as long as I have owned a Mac, for each macOS version I have tried (I’m currently running Catalina, but I suspect Big Sur will be the same.) But if Apple Mail is an issue, you can use another mail client; I recently tried Postbox again, and it works fine with Gmail accounts. If you don’t want to pay for a license, Thunderbird should be fine as well.

Google Takeout is just a snapshot in time and it won’t do incremental backups, but if it’s part of your backup strategy to periodically download the file and back that up, it should be a good way to get to access your messages in case of a disaster.


thank you !