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Deleting Emails from IMAP Server While Keeping Them in Mail App on MacBook

If you need to remove emails from your IMAP server to save space but keep them accessible in the Mail app on your MacBook, you can follow these steps. This process will involve creating a local mailbox for your emails, removing them from the IMAP server, and configuring the Mail app to ensure that future emails are also stored locally.

Step 1:

Create a Local Mailbox in Mail App First, create a local mailbox in the Mail app to store your emails:

  • Open the Mail app on your MacBook
  • In the menu bar, click “Mailbox” and then “New Mailbox”
  • Choose “On My Mac” as the location for the new mailbox
  • Give the mailbox a descriptive name, such as “Local Archive”
  • Click “OK” to create the new mailbox

Step 2:

Move Emails from IMAP Folders to Local Mailbox Next, move your emails from the IMAP folders to the newly created local mailbox:

  • Select an IMAP folder (e.g., Inbox) in the Mail app’s sidebar
  • Press “Command+A” to select all emails in the folder
  • Click and drag the selected emails to the “Local Archive” mailbox
  • Repeat this process for all IMAP folders you want to archive locally

Step 3:

Delete Emails from IMAP Server After moving your emails to the local mailbox, delete them from the IMAP server:

  • Return to an IMAP folder in the Mail app’s sidebar
  • Press “Command+A” to select all emails in the folder
  • Press “Delete” to remove the selected emails
  • When prompted, choose “Delete” to confirm the action
  • Repeat this process for all IMAP folders you’ve archived locally

Step 4: (optional)

Configure Mail App to Store Future Emails Locally To ensure that future emails are stored locally and not on the IMAP server:

  • In the Mail app, click on “Mail” in the menu bar, then select “Preferences”
  • Click on the “Accounts” tab
  • Select your IMAP account from the list on the left
  • Uncheck the option “Store draft messages on the server”
  • Uncheck the option “Store sent messages on the server”
  • Close the Preferences window to save the changes

Step 5:

Verify Local Access to Emails Finally, confirm that you can access your archived emails locally in the Mail app:

  • Check the “Local Archive” mailbox in the Mail app’s sidebar
  • Open a few random emails to ensure that they’re readable and intact
  • Verify that new incoming emails are being stored in the local mailbox instead of the IMAP folders

Step 6 – (optional):

Move or Copy Emails Back to Server Folders (if needed) If you need to move or copy emails back to the IMAP server folders:

  • Select the emails you want to move or copy from the “Local Archive” mailbox
  • Right-click on the selected emails and choose “Move To” or “Copy To”
  • Select the destination IMAP folder (e.g., Inbox) from the list
  • Click “Move” or “Copy” to transfer the emails to the server folder

Step 7 – (important):

Backup Your Emails To protect your emails against data loss due to computer failure or loss:

  • Open Time Machine preferences by clicking on the Time Machine icon in the menu bar and selecting “Open Time Machine Preferences”
  • Click on “Select Backup Disk” and choose an external hard drive or Time Capsule
  • Ensure that the “Back Up Automatically” option is checked
  • Time Machine will automatically create periodic backups of your MacBook, including your locally stored emails


By following these steps, you can successfully delete emails from your IMAP server while keeping them accessible in the Mail app on your MacBook. This process involves creating a local mailbox, moving your emails from IMAP folders to the local mailbox, deleting the emails from the IMAP server, configuring the Mail app to store future emails locally, and backing up your emails using Time Machine. You can also move or copy emails back to the server folders if needed. Remember to verify that your archived emails are accessible locally, that new emails are being stored in the correct location, and that your backups are functioning properly. This method allows you to save space on your IMAP server, retain access to your important emails within the Mail app, and protect your data against potential loss.

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