Rebuild Your Mailbox

This tip applies to Apple Mail users that find their Inbox isn’t displaying new email in a timely manner or has missing messages. Mail keeps an index file responsible for displaying the content of the inbox, which gets out of sync. Luckily, fixing it is easy. Select the Inbox icon of the account under “Mailboxes,” then go to the Mailbox menu and select “Rebuild.” If this doesn’t solve the problem the Envelope Index for Apple Mail could be at fault, which is beyond the scope of this tip. Contact us for help.


15 Responses to “Rebuild Your Mailbox”

  1. Milton Werner September 12, 2011 at 8:33 pm #

    I’m a fairly sophisticated mac user, but see something I can’t explain. I have multiple mail accounts and I my main corporate account stopped importing mail from the server on Sept 8. With the same settings, I don’t have this problem on my iPhone.

    The problem is that my inbox isn’t capturing mail on the host server past that date. On another account (gmail), I don’t have this problem. I moved the file to the desktop, to create, in essence, new accounts. When the set-up assistant finished, I had the exact sample problem with pulling mail from the server in question. There is no SSL certificate on the host domain on the server and I see the right ports being accessed for each account.

    The corruption must be in a related file that keeps me from fixing it. I can’t rebuild the inbox in question because the rebuild option is shaded for all mboxes associated with the account I’m speaking of. However, for another account (gmail), the rebuild function is available.

    Very puzzling–need interactive advice.

  2. Glenn September 12, 2011 at 8:43 pm #

    Have you tried deleting the Envelope index file? User > Library > Mail > Envelope Index. This will force your mailboxes to be imported again. It’s a heavier duty version of a rebuild.

    • Kees Stoute May 11, 2012 at 2:44 pm #

      I have exactly the same problem as Milton. Where can I find User > Library > Mail > Envelope Index. (In other words: how can I find the envelope index that I need to delete?)
      Thanks in advance.

  3. Glenn May 11, 2012 at 3:06 pm #

    Kees, are you running Lion?

    • Glenn May 11, 2012 at 3:27 pm #

      Note that if you are on Lion, the user library folder is invisible. You can get to it by holding down the option key and using the Go menu in the Finder, then selecting “Library.”

      Apple also moved the location of the Envelope index to User/Library/Mail/V2/MailData/

  4. Kees Stoute May 11, 2012 at 4:46 pm #

    Glenn, thanks. I did indeed found and deleted the Envelope Index. However, after rebuilding (importing) the mailbox, I still have the same inbox, which is the one that stopped receiving messages almost a week ago. Anything else I could do?
    Once again, thanks for your help.

    • Glenn May 11, 2012 at 4:51 pm #

      It could be an entirely different cause. Possibly mail is truly not coming in, or your IMAP account is disconnected from the server. You might want to contact your email provider for help or a local consultant.

  5. Kees Stoute May 11, 2012 at 4:56 pm #

    I will do that. However, it remains strange as it concerns a Yahoo-email address. I also have an iPhone and iPad and both continue to receive emails as per normal (same email address).

  6. Brent Blair June 27, 2012 at 2:07 pm #

    I have the same problem as Kees Stoute. I am abroad, in a country with slow internet; however, I have both my MacBook Pro (used at WiFi hotspot sites) and my iPad (micro-sim lets me access e-mail on that device). I can easily get all my mails from my iPad – but three or four days ago, I stopped being able to download any new mail from my MacBook. Frustrating – I keep my iPad separate, need access to e-mail when I’m on my lap top. I tried nearly everything suggested.

    All green lights for connectivity with Mail Doctor. I know my server is working, I am getting mail! But – like Kees – the Rebuild option is dimmed. Why? I am loathe to remove the Envelope Index, as it appears this does not fix the problem.

    Does anyone else have this issue? I am a Lion user, version 10.7.4. Mac Mail is new – Version 5.2. There is no problem with memory – it’s a new computer. No problem with my server or mail, as I have already mentioned.


    • Ruth June 16, 2013 at 1:05 am #

      Brent, what worked for you? This happens to me a couple of times a year, always when I accidentally try to send a large file (generally a powerpoint that a certain student has loaded with high-res images, like 20 MB). I can see my email on my iPhone, I can reply to it in Outlook, but I get way behind one messages that I can’t file in Mac Mail Mailboxes. One consistent symptom is that I can’t Quit. I can’t Rebuild. I once went to the Apple Store for help and that was a nightmare, they succeeded at starting me over from scratch but I had to refile the messages in all my mailboxes. Is the best solution to give up on Mail? I should be using gmail?

  7. Mary Anne July 3, 2012 at 7:40 am #

    I have a similar Mail problem but this time, I can’t launch Mail. This happened after I updated my software. An error message comes out when I click on the Mail icon and I chose Quit and Rebuild but nothing happens. I tried opening Mail via Applications still it won’t launch. What do I do?

    • Glenn July 5, 2012 at 2:35 pm #

      Try deleting your mail preferences file. /Users/glenn/Library/Preferences/

      Note you will need to re-enter your account settings after you do this.

      • levina July 17, 2012 at 4:32 am #

        i can’t find my /Users/Library/Preferences/

        can someone help me about this..


  8. Valerie February 2, 2013 at 3:33 am #

    GOD BLESS YOU! After a complete restore my email was totally shot. Rebuilds, etc., not working. I have a LOT of very organized files and most of the emails over a few months simply wouldn’t load. I had to run the import a few times after deleting the envelope file, but it worked and I’m doing the happy dance.


  9. Raja Naveed Khalid August 13, 2014 at 5:38 am #


    I am an iCloud user ause iCloud for all my emails (personal + professional) however I am having serious issues regarding composing a new message. Every time I click on ‘Compose’ or ‘New Email’ button on top right corner. The window seems to be loading for ages and eventually I have to close it.

    I use iCloud on PC and unable to find help or support online. I would really appreciate if you could please help me out ASAP as my business is getting seriously affected.


    Raja Naveed Khalid
    M: +92-3444482744