Losing email in Apple Mail

Hope this is the right way to go about starting a new article. Please correct or move as necessary.

For probably the last year I’ve been “losing” emails that come into Mail. Like most folks, I get a ton of email—problem ~100 emails each and every day. So, long ago I created a 2-layer mail folder structure under my Inbox and added a dozen or so filters to redirect some emails right into folders. Many other emails I manually Move to a folder after reading them. But for the last year many emails sent to a folder have “gone missing.” Not entirely gone—I can still see an email’s subject and date, but when I try to open it I (eventually) get the response, “This email has not been downloaded from the server.” And very often I’ve just read that email 10 minutes earlier.
Anyone have an idea what’s happening to these emails? Does Mail somehow lose the “pointer” to an email that’s been Moved out of my Inbox? Does the full text of an email get left behind on various servers, or left on the AT&T/YAHOO! server (my Internet service)?
My devices: iPhone XR, MacBook, iMac

If the mailboxes to which you are moving your messages exist on the server, and AT&T/Yahoo! still offers a webmail interface, you could go to the web site and see if the messages are visible there or, alternatively, try another email client (like your phone) and see if you can view the messages.

If your filters move the messages to local (“On My Mac”) mailboxes, consider changing that to mailboxes on your AT&T/Yahoo! account. That will give you access to the mail from other clients or the web when Mail decides to be wonky – a too-frequent occurrence. If might help going forward, though I doubt it will help you with the already-lost messages.

If you haven’t already, you can try the Mailbox>Rebuild menu command in the mailbox with the affected messages, as well as the Mailbox>Synchronize command.

If those don’t work, you can try to force-rebuild your mail indexes:


You should be aware that Mail on Catalina has a known problem (or two) with losing mail.

Good luck!

1 Like

Ron, thanks for your reply. The “missing email” problem appears on my iPhone. I did take more time to check Mail on the MacBook and iMac and on the Yahoo web client. It looks like the problem is (mostly) just on iPhone Mail. Of course, that’s where I usually interact with emails.
If I change a mailbox’s name anywhere that box often shows on the iPhone as empty. If I force it, the box will “check for mail” and slowly refill. But then each email is empty and some of them will restore but many of those emails show only “has not been downloaded from the server.”
So, the problems on my phone. I’ll play around with your suggestions and otherwise just read these missing messages on one of the other devices.

One more question if you don’t mind: When I search OSX Mail for a particular email and get a result, I’m told the name of the mail folder where that email is stored. But darned if I can find that folder. How can I get Mail to show me where a particular email folder lives?

Thanks for your help.
= Mike =

Ooops, I had assumed you were talking about macOS Mail. Sorry. In general, I have found that working with mail folders on iOS Mail to be a sketchy proposition – so much so that I actually changed my mail sorting style to make sure that things I’m likely to need on mobile will be kept in the inbox. I have frequently seen the empty email/unable to download problem on my phone.

If I’m understanding your question, you should be able to get a hierarchical list of all mailboxes by clicking the “Mailboxes” icon in the mailbox bar image
or by choosing the View>Show Mailbox List menu item.