Mail app compatible with Time Machine

Hi All,

Since Catalina, Time Machine no longer backs up Apple mail messages (at least it’s not possible to enter Time Machine while selecting an Mail folder to see old versions).

Does anyone know of a mail app for Mac OS Sonoma that will back up message and let you retrieve them in TimeMachine?

I like Time Machine (especially since it is both free and effective for everything except emails), but it’s a pain to retrieve mail messages with it. Any ideas?


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Local storage of email just isn’t a thing with most clients these days. You can still restore the ~/Library/Mail/ folder, but yeah, that is not terribly precise if you are just looking to restore a single message or two. Any other solution is really just more of the same: like Mail, Thunderbird supports local folders, but you’d be having to restore an entire version of your mail folder (the MBOX file or whatever.) Unless I’m missing one, all of the other clients are IMAP only and not seamlessly supported by Time Machine. Your best bet is probably to run something like Mail Archiver X.

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The mail is backed up in Time Machine (unless, you’ve excluded it), and you can search for messages using Spotlight. The trick is to do a Spotlight search in the Finder, but with the starting point already in Time Machine. Assuming you’re using APFS for Time Machine:

  1. Open a Finder window and navigate to Time Machine, so it shows the list of backup dates.
  2. Enter a search query in the Finder search box.
  3. Click the + on the right to add a search parameter: Kind is Other. A box will appear for the value; enter mail here.
  4. I used to have to also add a search parameter: System files are included, but doesn’t seem to be necessary now.

The search will show the matching email messages in Time Machine. You can use the QuickLook preview them or open them.

When you find the one you want, drag it to copy it out of Time Machine to your main drive, then you can import it into Mail. You should be able to just drag it to Mail, I think.

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The loss of that particular feature is really unfortunate, but it’s not the end of the world: restore the particular folder from Time Machine using the Finder by browsing in your Mail storage folders, import that mailbox, and get back your messages. Unless your email client stores one message per file like UNIX MUAs that support Maildir++ or MH, realistically that’s the best you can hope for. Time Machine integration with is a specialty of Apple, now defunct; just another tragic demise in the functionality of macOS.

Thanks to everyone who replied with alternative methods to retrieve messages from a particular Mail folder. I so miss the ability to just select a Mail folder and go back in time (as it were) to see old messages.

The main problem with the aforementioned methods is that one must know (at least approximately) what date the particular message existed. This method is cumbersome if one doesn’t know the date (and if the message only existed for a day or two, it will be even harder to find). Oh well…

Wow! This is VERY helpful! Thank you so much!

It’s not perfect, of course, but it’s pretty good!

Thanks again!